By Lin Yang, Content Editor
Under bright spotlights and a flame-colored backdrop in Korn Hall, speakers and panelists at UCLA Anderson’s 2015 Pulse Conference for Entertainment, Sports, and Technology painted an industry landscape filled with challenges and strategic inflections. The opportunity lies in making the right bets on creating good video content, and choosing the right mix of technologies and distribution channels for that content.
Content and technology were common themes that emerged from panels on film, sports, advertising, and music, as well as one-on-one discussions with Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins and AT&T Vice President of Digital Content Andrew Goodman. Only time will tell how disruptive tech will be for the entertainment sector, but the impact has already been felt, especially in the film industry.
“Film is dead,” said Andrew Walter, Managing Director at EMC, who was referring to movies distributed using traditional film and chemical processing. “Film as a concept now means video, long or short-form, that is consumed everywhere, all the time, with massive variety of content and devices.”
Panelists said studios need to start thinking differently about their business in order to revive stagnating revenues and reduce the considerable downside risks for film financing. This year, more studios will release content direct-to-consumer through video-on-demand (VOD) and streaming services. This should be encouraged, said Todd Steiner, a vice president at Comerica Bank, because the industry can collect extensive data on their customers to make better production, distribution, and marketing decisions.
“The more you have director-to-consumer contact, the more you can build a direct relationship with the consumer,” Steiner said.
One new area for growth could be virtual reality (VR) goggles as a new medium for viewing films. Walter recalled his experience viewing a short film called Clouds Over Sidra, which was shot at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. The film was created using Samsung’s Gear VR 360-degree platform and viewed through an Oculus headset. Walter described watching Syrian children walk around him in the camp, and looking up and seeing the air conditioning vent humming. Eventually, he believes whole theaters will be converted to using virtual reality goggles to deliver immersive viewing experiences.
As technology expands the number the platforms and mediums, both the advertising and sports industries have been trying to get in on the action. Today, brands can now tell their stories without having to pay top dollar for television ads. Instead, they can use online and social media channels that have better customer data and can target more effectively.
Videos can now be posted on sites such as YouTube and Facebook, allowing companies to show longer forms of branded content at cheaper prices. However, today’s consumers, especially millennials, respond better to subtle brand insertions, not hard sells, said Alex Angeledes, Google’s Industry Director for Entertainment and Media. The tricky balance is to create captivating content, and avoid the temptation of putting the brand in the customer’s face.
American Express did this well by sponsoring a 40-minute documentary, Spend: Looking for Change, that examined the lives of the 70 million low-income people in the US who have limited access to financial services. Only a small company logo appears in the corner of the screen.
“It’s not he who yells the loudest wins,” said David Lang, Chief Content Officer at Mindshare, a firm that produces marketing content. “It’s he who respects the audience and what they like.”
Members of the sports panel also echoed similar sentiments, with brands from Beats to the LA Clippers finding unique ways to humanize their athletes. Daryl Butler, Beats’ Global Director of Brand Marketing, said his company tries to capture content no one else captures. That was the inspiration behind The Game Before the Game, a 5-minute branded video that followed Niemar as he mentally prepared for a World Cup match, listening to music using Beats headphones. Meanwhile, the LA Clippers last year rolled out the My Locker, a series of web videos in which players opened up their lockers for curious viewers.
“Content, distribution, and technology,” said Lang of Mindshare. “Those would be the three pillars I would look at in the future to create a great campaign.”