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NATPE: Ross Levinsohn and Jonathan Miller on the changing media landscape

Yahoo! exec Ross Levinsohn and News Corp’s digital CEO Jonathan Miller are old buddies, and they were comfortable enough during today’s NATPE conversation to handicap the current state of digital video. It was a fun panel – the pair started off with a bet (egged on by the moderator) on who would win the Super Bowl. Miller (a Pats fan) and Levinsohn (who backs the correct team) each agreed to fly the other to Miami for stone crab if his team lost. “Premium content” was the buzzphrase of the day – the pair agreed that the industry has more or less stopped kidding itself about monetizing user-generated content in the same way it monetizes professionally created material. Some quick hits from the back-and-forth:

[DISCLAIMER: I took notes on this session, rather than recording it. Quotes are as close to verbatim as I can get ’em.]

Miller on the bottom line: “Consumers want video and you have to give it to ’em. It’s a simple statement but it opens up all kinds of conversations about rights, about screens, about different kinds of product.” (and piracy and SOPA, but the pair mostly avoided that discussion)

Levinsohn backhanding YouTube without actually saying its name: “I like watching the cat on the skateboard chasing the laser pointer like everyone else, abut it’s impossible to monetize and if I was a big premium advertiser I’m not sure I’d want my name next to that.”

Miller on why advertising and the internet are made for each other: “You now have these global platforms that never existed before. They’re going to be in the billions (of users) soon. You could go to Ross and make a deal that could literally reach 700 million people, and that’s never been possible before.”

Levinsohn on why they’re not, really, unless you’re controlling every way someone watches your content: “You can tell your boss that you’ve bought an ad on the internet, but good luck trying to find it.”

Miller on the bottom line, again. Also, STRATEGY GIVEAWAY!: “Be in the video business. We’re pushing brands like the WSJ to be more in the video business.”

Levinsohn on why Facebook’s going to have a Myspace problem at some point: “After the second or third cycle where the ads aren’t returning, ad buyers start to question you, and that’ll start to happen at Facebook. The difference is that Facebook has controlled the data so well that it’s all very, very predicatable. The problem with that is my Facebook page is mine. I do it on their platform, but its mine and I don’t want to be associated with some big-ticket advertiser unless I want to. But they’re going to have to do that if they’re going to go on to the next level.”

Miller on Netflix: “They had a tough 2011 but they still got 20 million subs. They used to be a film library company and now they’re competing for near-first-run television. The battleground in the industry has shifted from film library product to television product, which is Hulu’s value. Companies are going as close to current as they can and trying to cherry-pick the series they need – because you can’t buy it all – for their business model.”

Miller on why television has supplanted film as the medium of choice for distributors: “I’m catching up on ‘The Wire,’ which is five seasons long. If you get me hooked, you’ve got me for a LOT of time.”

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