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Banff: Canadian convergence

Fest Traveler: Banff World Media Film Festival 2012

The Banff World Media Festival may have more in common with retreats than conferences as the confab is a stunning natural setting for a convergence of content producers and marketers.

For more than 30 years, the fest has brought top media leaders together to exchange ideas and engage in business.

“You can take meetings that are carefully structured and curated through handlers, but at Banff creative and brand can have an open dialogue without intermediaries in place,” says CJ Yu, VP of Branded Entertainment and Integrated Media at Carat. “At Banff you can get a quick gut check during a coffee break. Instead of scheduled meetings, you can do an informal catch-up. Less than a handful of conferences allows this to happen.”

The festival attracts more than 150 development execs and a wide range of TV and digital media professionals from around the globe. The four-day fest that runs June 10-13 features keynote speakers, master classes, broadcaster briefings, awards ceremonies and sessions that cover kids, animation, nonfiction, comedy, scripted and digital content.

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In its infancy, the gathering was known as the World Television Festival but a few years ago the name was changed to reflect the emerging technology.

“We now know that content is shown on all screens, so it was important to note that,” says exec director Ferne Cohen. “We still stay true to our television roots, but now all those viewing screens are intertwined.”

New for this year are sessions on the co-production business market, the branded content exchange and the comedy stream.

“The comedy stream seemed like a natural extension, since we have always done the Sir Peter Ustinov Award (Chuck Lorre is being honored this year) and comedy has always been a part of the (TV) business,” Cohen says. “We always had a comedy element at the festival. This just brings it into the program.”

Co-production and co-venture opportunities will be explored in several panel sessions, including an intimate get-together with independent producers to meet with key development execs, including representatives from NBCUniversal, Disney Channel and Lifetime.

The new branded content sessions take over a large portion of this year’s festival.

Opening keynote speaker is Paul Chard, global head of content for MediaCom. Chard brokered the popular “Got Talent” format into China and works on bringing innovative branding to television.

“The perspective I’m going to give is from global media and how MediaCom and others are gearing up for a different style of communication with consumers, from pushing messages and clients throwing money to spots to moving to an age of engagement and dialogue,” Chard says.

The trick is to integrate the brand into quality productions without viewers feeling as if the brand is being shoved down their throats. Content producers can help monetize their shows while not compromising their own artistic vision.

“Now is the time to talk and understand each other. The reality is that brands want to be associated with quality and programming budgets are getting leaner,” Chard says. “We need to work together.”

By bringing together the creative minds with the marketing minds, ideas can be explored about how both can reach satisfying results.

“We realize that this is a lovely opportunity to come and breathe some good mountain air, but concrete business takes place here,” Cohen says. “It’s a place that invites serious conversation.”

A look at some of the more prominent panels during the fest:

June 10
10:15: Paul Chard, global head of content, MediaCom

June 11
9 a.m.: Paul Lee, president, ABC
10 a.m.: Conrad Riggs and Ira Kurgan, reality producers
11:30: Terence Winter, exec producer, “Board-walk Empire”

June 12
9 a.m.: Larry King
10 a.m.: Glenn Mazzara, exec producer, “The Walking Dead”
2 p.m.: Chuck Lorre, exec producer, “Two and a Half Men,” “Mike & Molly,” “The Big Bang Theory”

June 13
10 a.m.: Jeff Marsh, exec producer, “Phineas & Ferb”
10 a.m.: Mike Fleiss, exec producer, “The Bachelor”
10 a.m.: Albert Cheng, exec VP, ABC digital
11:30 a.m.: Danny Kallis, exec producer, “The Suite Life on Deck”

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