Networks Calculating Next Moves With Multiplatform TV

TUNE IN: Variety's TV Summit
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

When it comes to navigating the television industry’s transition into a multimedia sphere, TV execs are rewriting the rules for their networks.

ABC Family Channel president Tom Ascheim, USA Network president Chris McCumber and AwesomenessTV Founder and CEO Brian Robbins were among the panelists who discussed making a digital connection with audiences while monetizing their content at Variety‘s annual “Tune In: TV Summit” at the Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills.

The term “three-dimensional” chess was repeated several times to describe the new calculations networks are using to optimize viewership at a panel on the state of the multiplatform television industry, moderated by Variety’s managing editor Cynthia Littleton.

“When I look at it now, schedules are three-dimensional,” said McCumber. His own network masterminded a show, “Mr. Robot,” and leaked it online before its television premiere date.

“We decided let’s put it out everywhere humanly possible, but except for on television, and let’s do it five weeks before the premiere,” McCumber said. “Of course we debated, ‘Is it going to hurt that first linear rating?’ We’re looking at how we can utilize all the tools in our arsenal right now in order to get as many people as possible.”

With a new digital window open as far as marketing strategies are concerned, panelists agreed that there are no ground rules.

OWNZONES founder and CEO Dan Goman noted that there is simply a competition for human eyes in this new era, where present-day networks are up against every show that has ever aired.

“Now in this multiplatform world, we have to embrace it, we have to be innovative, we have to take risks,” he said. “We’re competing against countless competitors out there, and we’re competing for a share of mind for that audience. So you have to go out and find that audience now. You can’t wait for them to come to you.”

In another loss for the old world of linear programming, television schedules have become almost obsolete. Robbins said that he experienced this change of television experience first-hand with his children.

“In my own house that bigscreen was not being turned on, and my kids were in this little screen … they have shows that they watch,” Robbins shared: “The Big Bang Theory” and “Family Guy” as favorites. “If I went up to them and said, ‘What network is the ‘Big Bang Theory’ on and what time does it come on?’ They would have looked at me like I was an idiot because they had no idea about the clock.”

The panel also discussed strategies for online syndication of content.

“The irony is that there are more places to show television than ever before, but it’s harder to monetize this,” said CAA’s co-head of television Adam Berkowitz.

Despite digitization, McCumber said networks must own as much of their content as possible.

“Whether it’s a part of it or a piece of it, you do it to monetize it on many different levels with that ownership,” he said. “It is absolutely important and imperative for us moving forward.”

The panel also included ICM Partners’ Ted Chervin.

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