Pace of technology change expected to increase
You ain’t seen nothing yet.That was the refrain at Variety‘s inaugural entertainment and technology summit Monday at the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica. A roster of showbiz heavyweights marveled at the speed of technological change, and predicted the pace would increase in the months ahead as companies try to reshape old economic models, rethink megamergers like NBC U and Comcast — and, crucially, redefine their own goals and their relationship with audiences. “I think the competitive landscape one year from now is going to be nothing like we know it today because everybody’s going to buy something — and they are going to buy it cheap,” said Soleil-Media Metrics managing director Laura Martin during the summit’s global strategies session. The Wall Street maven also forecast doom for the Peacock if Comcast does not take control from its current owners. “It is our view with GE that they will destroy the NBC network if they hold onto it,” she flatly predicted. “Under Brian Roberts they will have a chance.” Mandalay Entertainment chair-CEO Peter Guber during the lunchtime sesh said that “the rate of change has changed.” Added Guber, who took his first studio job 41 years ago, “This is the beginning of the beginning.” The former Sony honcho pointed to the low-cost success “Paranormal Activity,” as evidence of the sea change in Hollywood. Smallscreen execs talked about the pressing need to monetize their content and overhaul the ratings tracking systems during the afternoon panel on the changing TV ecosystem. John Landgraf, president and g.m. for FX Networks, said it’s becoming increasingly difficult for networks and cable channels to sustain programming costs. The problem, he said, is certain viewers don’t want to pay in any way, either through subscriptions or by watching commercials. “We’ve made a lot of headway but I don’t think the end is in view yet,” Landgraf said. At the same sesh, NBC Entertainment chair Marc Graboff said: “The audience has become so fragmented. The big hits used to pay for the losers — now, not so much.” The democratization of distribution channels is not without its benefits, however. During her opening keynote conversation with Variety prexy Neil Stiles, Dick Clark Prods. prez Orly Adelson enthused about the ability to develop a closer connection with audiences online. “Before, we were delivering,” Adelson said. “Now we’re connecting.” Similarly, Stiles said he no longer considers Variety a content provider but a service provider. The company’s shift toward a pay-once cross-platform approach reflects that view, he said. Madison Avenue power broker Irwin Gotlieb, CEO of GroupM Global, conceded during the global strategy sesh, “Life really was simpler 25 years ago when you had three networks and you could get a 30 share.” But those days are over, he added. Now it’s incumbent upon brands to mobilize across a series of platforms. And a good way for content owners to keep control, he said, is through deals like Comcast’s NBC Universal play. “That kind of vertical integration is necessary to enable technology yet to come,” he said. Variety executive editor of features Steven Gaydos made introductory remarks at the summit, while VP-editorial director Peter Bart introduced the lunchtime session, which also included “Last Call With Carson Daly” host Carson Daly and Richard Rosenblatt, co-founder, chair and CEO of Demand Media. Ty Montague, chief creative officer and co-prexy of JWT, and Vince Messina, regional sales director, Western U.S. of Microsoft advertising also participated in the global strategies sesh, moderated by Michael Kassan, chair and CEO of Media Link. Other TV panelists included Dana Walden, chair of 20th TV, and Mark Koops, Reveille’s managing director and co-head of domestic TV; the panel was moderated by Variety‘s Stuart Levine. The Hollywood Finance panel featured Screen Capital’s David Molner; Sandy Climan, prexy of Entertainment Media Ventures; David G. Sanderson, partner and director of Bain & Co.; Jeff Sagansky, chair of RHIE; Clark Hallren, managing director of Clear Scope Partners; and moderator Derek Baine, senior analyst at SNL Kagan. A producer’s sesh concluded the festivities. It featured director Brett Ratner; producer-director David Zucker; and Bob Osher, prexy of digital production for Sony Pictures Entertainment; sesh was moderated by Variety‘s Peter Debruge.