Israel’s INTV Conference Dissects Social Media, Trump, News Bias and Global TV Currents

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Courtesy of INTV

JERUSALEM — Two major disrupters — the presence of social media, and the protests of a social media-obsessed president — were the topics of discussion at this year’s INTV, a Jerusalem confab sponsored by Israeli media giant Keshet and devoted to discussing all that is new and innovative in the world of television.

The conference, which wrapped Tuesday evening, marked INTV’s fourth installment and its most impressive roster of guests to date: CNN president Jeff Zucker, actor Hugh Laurie and China investment mogul Li Ruigang were just a handful of the panelists and speakers who took the stage at Jerusalem’s historic YMCA building over the course of a jam-packed 48 hours.

The conference opened Monday morning with a friendly back and forth between Fox Television Group CEO Dana Walden and Keshet CEO Avi Nir, in which the two discussed the creative process behind hit Fox programs like “Glee” and “Empire,” and Walden told the audience that if she was granted one wish in Jerusalem, it would be to be able to speak once again with her Grandma Rose.

But she got more serious when discussing the cosmic shift that has affected television viewership, explaining to Nir that she no longer reads overnight ratings because they have become largely irrelevant.

“We are trying to orient our company to the fact that viewers are watching shows in a much different way … the tail of our content is very long and advertisers pay us for a seven-day window … Just like we’re trying to be contemporary in how we platform our shows to our viewers, we have to be contemporary about how we evaluate the ratings and the research.”

The same streaming services that are changing the ratings game are also presenting new opportunities for networks like Fox, Walden said, which is why reboot shows like “Prison Break” suddenly have a captive audience — audiences are connecting to older programs via services like Netflix and then remain hungry for new versions with the same theme.

That same morning, Cheddar CEO Jon Steinberg ripped even further into disruptions occurring across the television industry, explaining that the traditional model for television viewership is all but dead to anyone under the age of 60, people 18-24 have decreased TV viewership by 45 percent over past 10 years, and anyone currently under the age of 10 will never watch TV the “old way” at all.

“This is the biggest short of all time,” said Steinberg, formerly the president of Buzzfeed. “This is the biggest trade ever.”

Later in the day, China Media Capital chairman Li Ruigang spoke to ContentAsia’s Janine Stein about the role of Chinese investing in Hollywood, and how he and his peers from the world’s largest economy are looking to make smart choices with their investment dollars and to build local relationships in tandem with their financing projects.

China was also the topic on hand for the following panel, dubbed “How China Moderates the Worldwide Media Revolution” and moderated by Firstime VC managing partner Jonathan Benartzi.

On that panel, Chris Rice, a partner at WME, explained that satellite has changed the way that China invests by circumventing traditional censorship in their country, thus opening a door for new financing opportunities for television.

“The television business is talked about less [than film] because it’s at the beginning of its curve upwards, but we’re staring to see particular digital buyers in China buy a lot of what would be American or political programming that didn’t really happen before the satellite channels in China and the broadcast networks that were heavily restricted in showing foreign programming.”

The new broad reach of content, said veteran showrunner Frank Spotnitz later in the afternoon, will help cultures gain a better mutual understanding.

“There’s an explosion of content and the distribution of content has changed and many platforms cannot afford to pay $3 million or $4 million an hour for a television series, so they are looking overseas, to Europe or to Israel or wherever they can, to subsidize the costs of these shows,” Spotnitz said. “I’m excited about this as an American and as a citizen of the world because I think for the first time cultures have the chance to talk to each other.”

On Tuesday, Zucker gave what was the conference’s most widely anticipated event — a keynote entitled “The War on Truth,” moderated by Israeli star news anchor Yonit Levi.

In a frank and friendly discussion, Zucker explained that his news organization has been invigorated in its mission thanks to relentless attacks from President Donald Trump, and he also told Levi a bit about his long relationship with the Commander in Chief — not only was Zucker the man that greenlit “The Apprentice” and launched Trump’s reality-TV career, but Trump himself once put in a good word with Time Warner execs when Zucker was still auditioning for the role of top executive.

Later in the day, McCann Worldgroup’s Harris Diamond discussed Trump’s influence from a marketing perspective, saying that while some of Trump’s social media outbursts did affect businesses like Boeing, other posts — such as a tweet attacking Nordstrom’s after they announced they would stop carrying Ivanka Trump’s clothing line — were in fact lacking any teeth.

“The truth of the matter is we see very little impact on business, so what we generally tell corporations is don’t overreact,” he said when asked how he advises major clients on political outbursts. “News has the tendency to move on the next day.”

Other notable events on Day 2 were a conversation between NBC’s Jennifer Salke and WME’s Rick Rosen; a look at digital media trends with KDC Media Fund Managing Partner Danny Peled, and a zoom in on Generation Z’s social media habits with Facebook’s Adi Soffer Teeni and Fullscreen’s Scott Reich. The younger generation, Soffer Teeni said, are masters of multitasking, a phenomenon that has to be taken into account when businesses and media groups consider outreach.

“For this generation it’s not a 24 hour day anymore, it’s a 32-hour day,” she said, “because they basically do more things in any given hour.”

The conference wrapped with a panel on “The Night Manager” featuring Laurie, Character Seven’s Stephen Garrett and director Susanne Bier. The group put to rest reports that a second season of the program is in the works — it’s not yet, they insist — and an animated Laurie offered a few colorful observations on the difference between Americans and the British.

“Americans tend to think their life can change dramatically in 90 minutes. The British psyche is a glacier. No British life has ever changed in 90 minutes,” he said.

In a comment that nicely summed up the conference’s ethos of radical change, Laurie also took stock of the state of the changing world, both inside and outside of media.

“I think the frightening thing about the world is that everything is precisely as it seems. It’s f—ing mayhem,” he said.