MIPTV was originally all about television content back before digital made its own inexorable entry into the entertainment market. This year, and especially on Day 2 in Cannes, online content stole the show at MIPTV, further proof (if it was needed) that it is emerging from the shadow of its older but perhaps still more glamourous cousin, TV.
In this particular, digital branch of the family tree, YouTube is undeniably the big brother; it is easy to use and has become a privileged and accessible platform for both newcomers in the business and the well-established TV shows. Alex Carloss, head of entertainment at YouTube, said late-night talk-shows “turned to YouTube” to find younger viewers in their own new habitat: online.
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Carloss explained how the digital audience differs from that of television, making a distinction between what he calls “an audience” and “a fanbase”: “an audience changes the channel when their show is over. A fanbase shares, it comments, it curates, it creates.”
He insists that giving that fanbase scope to create was a winning element. Everyone has in mind the success of Psy’s Gangnam Style video and its nearly two billion views. Neither Psy nor his record company sued any fan who produced a parody video, a fan video or any derived video using the song which contributed to the initial success. Quite clearly this is a very different approach to the more traditional stand taken by many entertainment companies on copyright issues.
Videos can then also travel more freely around the world. Carloss noted that on average, 60% of views for YouTube creators’ channels come from outside their home countries. For Carloss “fans blur borders”.
These borders are not only geographic. By commenting, by creating derivative fan videos and by creating original content, online viewers can easily cross the border between watching and acting. Damon Berger from successful YouTube channel ‘What’s Trending’ said during a chat on New Media Moguls: “our audience can chat with our host and influencers, and be part of the show. That’s something unique to online audiences.”
These migratory audiences – and the fact they can access content from different devices – push every online content publisher to adapt constantly, something explained by Ben Huh Cheezburger CEO during the same talk: “You have to go out there and make content native to the device of your audience. [A smartphone] is not a shrunk-down television.”
“You have to […] make content native to the device of your audience. [A smartphone] is not a shrunk-down television.”
Ben Huh, Cheezburger
Anna Stuart, moderator of the Alternative Digital Distribution talk, explained how it makes things much more complex: “how will your content get to [your audience]” and on which device? It must take multiple paths, she says, whether it’s Netflix reaching a PC, Apple reaching a tablet or Xbox reaching a TV set.
Television as a reference to build upon
However, if the buzz around linear television and online has favoured the latter over the last few years, television is still a reference for many of the newcomers. Metodi Filipov from Flipps said during a talk on Alternative Digital Distribution: “All digital systems are an add-on to traditional systems.”
Many content providers – if not exactly all – confess to having started with the desire to “make a broadcast-quality format,” as Damon Berger put it.
The video-platform Vimeo was launched on such a promise. Kerry Trainor, CEO of Vimeo, talking after Cheezburger’s Ben Huh, reminded those present: “Vimeo was the first site to offer true HD streaming over the net” attracting “professional high-quality creators”.
Business models are not set in stone and this flexibility allows them to co-exist; Cheezburger is 100% ad-funded while Vimeo’s CEO explained that the platform added a paid-Vimeo-on-demand service a year ago where pro accounts can offer content at any price and format. Vimeo only keeps 10% of the money earned. In the US, subscription-based services such as Netflix are strong but that has not proven the case in other countries. Money and advertising have become an issue for both online and television content. It will probably remain a fuel for debate for a few years yet.