TV auds want instant access, panel says

HBO, Fox execs talk multiple platforms at Summit

The central challenge facing the TV biz is managing the audience’s growing appetite for instantaneous access to programming with the need to maintain the economic viability of costly scripted programming.

That was the consensus among panelists Tuesday at the TV Summit hosted by Variety and the TV Academy at the Renaissance Hotel.

“The challenge we’re facing going forward is that consumers want to watch (TV) however they want to get it, and that’s great but somebody has to pay for it,” said Jay Sures, partner at United Talent Agency.

Sures took part in the kickoff panel, moderated by Variety’s Stuart Levine, along with HBO programming topper Michael Lombardo and Fox TV Studios prexy David Madden.

Lombardo said the migration of viewing to broadband platforms is definitely happening, putting the onus on networks to “make sure you find a way to monetize your programming.”

Beyond the economics of online video, the proliferation of distribution options for shows is has made marketing new programming much tougher.

“People are not going to sit in front of the TV and watch shows just because you program it behind a hit,” Lombardo said. “How do you get programming out there and sampled when viewers are not watching your air?”

Sures noted that because of the way shows are dispersed, younger viewers are losing their brand associations of shows and networks. Lombardo said brand association with shows is hugely important to HBO because subscribers have to make a conscious choice each month to retain the pay service.

“Every month (subscribers) are making a decision about whether they’re getting value from us,” he said. To which Sures quipped: “You guys have more billboards around town than anyone.”

Madden argued that online vid sites like Hulu “are the smallest part of the problem” of aud fragmentation. He pointed to the issue of ad skipping on DVRs as the larger threat.

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