Lionsgate topper says new media will grow TV auds

Creating “a patchwork quilt” of deals across a range of platforms is one way to unlock that elusive digital dollar, according to Lions-gate topper Jon Feltheimer — backed up by Facebook’s European head Joanna Shields.

Both execs were speaking at the Mipcom sales market on Tuesday.

Delivering the personality of the year address, Feltheimer urged content owners and distributors to embrace change and form partnerships with new-media players like Microsoft and Amazon, in addition to retaining links with traditional players.

“We need to create relationships with people who install phone lines and build mobile networks, relationships with people like (Facebook founder) Mark Zuckerberg, 26 years old, who connects millions of people through bits and bytes.

“And, when we speak to them, we need to monetize these new relationships,” insisted Feltheimer.

Citing the example of “Mad Men,” the Lionsgate boss outlined how his company “cobbled together a new business model built on a patchwork quilt of basic cable, DVD sales, iTunes downloads, international sales and a half dozen other digital delivery platforms.”

Programmers and execs, however, should remember that time-honored creative skills like storytelling are still crucial.

Despite market fragmentation, people are watching more TV than ever before and, even in bad times, are willing to pay for premium content. In fact, Feltheimer predicted that fragmentation would be good for showbiz — provided execs enable their creatives and diversify.

A hands-off approach and a culture of enablement has paid dividends for Lionsgate, which in addition to its content biz had moved into pay TV via Epix, with Viacom, Paramount and MGM. Epix has turned a profit after only 10 months, said Feltheimer.

“Get it right the first time and (the audience) will come for years,” he advised.

Speaking elsewhere at the mart, Shields urged TV types to use Facebook to reinforce the power of their program brands. Shields, VP for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the social network’s popularity in Euro markets makes it “an incredible marketing tool” that connects content owners to audiences and enhances their shows’ popularity. She cited Disney’s use of Facebook in the U.K. to help launch “Toy Story 3.”

And Shields dismissed the notion that Facebook is only for young people, saying that 49% of baby boomers had their own Facebook site. On average, users spent six hours a month on the site. “Facebook is transforming the brand marketing of TV shows,” she added.

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