Screen Convergence in the Festival Circuit

The Consumer Electronics Show, NATPE, Sundance, South by SouthWest and Tribeca have one thing in common: they gather the best and the brightest of the global audiovisual industry. What do they have in common this year? They all have their eyes set on screen convergence.

The winds are all favourable to the industry’s new players like Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. As true kings of the hill, they are now in a position to start dictating the rules of the game.

Globally, the sharp rise in the rate of audiovisual content viewing among all age groups (particularly among 18 to 35 year olds), consumers’ increasing demand for unbundling and IP distribution in replacement of cable and satellite services exert enormous pressure on the revenue models used in the content production sector.

Moreover, television does web and web does television, films can be viewed on all media supports and television series have become much more complex and sophisticated…

How is the industry reacting to the ascent of this “hybrid era” characterized by the convergence of screens? Here’s a brief overview of the industry’s reactions in the global festival circuit.

Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

A true Mecca for geeks, the CES launched it all last January by giving a high priority to the TV industry. Two very important launches were announced during the event, namely Sling TV and PlayStation Vue. Both monthly television service packages are distributed via the Internet.

This distribution offer is interesting for consumers because it is flexible and affordable (available for between $20 and $50 monthly). However, its future implementation in Canada raises an important question. How can Canadian content be funded using a business model that does not resort to cable or satellite distribution?

NATPE 2015

At the television industry’s annual summit, Netflix, Amazon and YouTube clearly made known their intention to continue producing original content.

These players are seeking to gain control over both the creative process and the totality of broadcasting rights. Moreover, it was the perfect opportunity for Netflix to unveil its new acquisition rules as it plans to have its services available in 200 countries by the end of next year.

“We don’t have regional buying teams anymore,” states Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer. There are no grey areas with this industry giant: effective immediately, it will demand to obtain global rights or “we’re not interested at all.”

This is a major earthquake hitting an industry partitioned along territorial lines! It now remains to be seen if content producers will give in to Netflix’s demand.

The VOD giant is thus seeking to profit from audiences’ evolving consumption habits. While the time spent watching traditional TV has levelled off, the hours spent watching audiovisual content over the Internet has skyrocketed.

This new approach also aims to encourage consumers to abandon virtual private networks(VPNs) that enable them to bypass geoblocking. Indeed, close to one third of Canadian Netflix subscribers use a VPN to view content exclusive to the US version of the platform.

When you have the upper hand, it’s in your advantage to dictate the rules of the game…

Sundance

Internet’s breakthrough in the film industry was felt at Sundance, where just about everyone claimed that the web offered real possibilities to young creators and filmmakers who are finding it increasingly difficult to have their work presented in movie theaters.

Moreover, most of the 123 films presented will be available to the public through video on demand rather than in movie theaters, in keeping with the increasing trend making television the main media for viewing films! In fact, data collected by Telefilm Canada indicate that 90% of Canadians watch Canadian films on TV.

“It’s harder and harder for an artist to find their way in the major film business, so television offers more opportunities.” – Robert Redford

SXSW

At South by SouthWest, festival-goers’ attention was focussed on Meerkat, an app used to live-stream videos on social media. Meerkat was a phenomenal success and its user base increased by 30 to 40% daily during the festival according to the Washington Post.

This made it the perfect target for Twitter, which was quick to block access to its social graph. Twitter replied by announcing its acquisition of Periscope—a similar app. Ladies and Gentlemen, the live broadcasting war is now being waged on the web.

A digital industry leader, SXSW insisted on the Internet’s scope by having AOL cofounder Steve Case give the opening address. He cited what he refers to as “the three waves”: the first (1985–2000) witnessed the birth of the Internet; builders built it during the second wave (2000–today); and the third that is beginning calls for an expansion into all industries that directly or indirectly concern daily life, namely health, education, transportation and the food sector.

Click here to download an e-book of everything you missed at SXSW.

MIPTV 2015

Let’s ignore all frontiers and envision our industry as the entertainment industry, i.e., a vast communicating vessel within which projects and stars move around with ease. That is the main trend that emerged from MIPTV 2015.

Decidedly focussed on the next generations of users (Generation Z and Millennials), the speakers attending the festival discretely or openly stated that television is dying or already dead.

“Traditional TV viewing for teens and tweens is dead – not dying, dead.” – Brian Robbins, CEO of AwesomenessTV

Agility, personalized content, interaction with audiences, changing content between platforms and total reactivity must be thought out from the onset of project design to meet the consumption habits of these users who form a very influential group.

Let’s also bet that advertising gurus have their eyes set on this generation of consumers and are searching for the most efficient ways of reaching them. This could be one of the new funding opportunities that content producers are avidly seeking…

Click here to view a series of addresses given at MIPTV 2015.

Tribeca

The film industry can difficultly ignore the crisis that it is living whereas several of its greatest creators including David Lynch, Steven Soderbergh and the Duplass brothers are resorting to television to earn a living! If this transfer of talent is going well, the same can be said of the transfer of supports.

Content adapted to a specific format will be replaced by adaptable content. When using the Internet—a democratic forum—to broadcast one’s films, why not also use it to distribute oneself and pick up a larger slice of the pie?

That was what was on the mind of several creators attending Trebeca this year, who said that they were ready to take on the giants that are occupying more and more space on the Internet. The aces up their sleeve? A well-defined niche and a direct access to their audience through social networks.

Click here to review the future of film at Tribeca.

The importance given to the issue of screen convergence at festivals is testimony to a production, distribution and broadcasting model that is evolving at lightning speed.

On the one part, people want to make a living with their art and have the industry evolve; on the other, people are trying to keep up and develop a financially stable model for an industry that is largely unpredictable.

VICE’s Alex Miller made the reminder at MIP: in this multiplatform world, the focus must be on content quality. As for the support, that choice is to be made by the user. It’s as simple as that.

Faced with this transformation, three reactions are possible: adapting, dominating or panicking.

AOL’s Steve Case spoke of the third Internet wave on which we are now surfing. As it approaches, the industry increasingly believes that it is being hit by a tsunami.

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