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Verizon, UCP and CBS News Digital Bosses Discuss the Pros and Cons of Streamer Expansion

As the amount of streaming platforms entering the market multiplies, the risk of consumers getting lost in the rush increases, according to Universal Content Productions and Wilshire Studios president Dawn Olmstead.

At Variety‘s TV Summit, Olmstead spoke on a panel about how streamers are taking over the business and the impacts they are having on content creation. She cited the fact her 71-year-old, not entirely tech savvy father had discovered that he could watch “Ozark” anytime he wanted on Netflix as an example of how things have changed.

“The content for streaming has become broader, it was a little more youth focused, more niche,” she said. “Some of the content has become more four-quadrant, reaching more diverse audiences.”

Olmstead also revealed that actors and creatives are now coming to studios like UCP with lists of platforms they would like their prospective show to air on.

“We do ‘Homecoming’ at Amazon with Julia Roberts and when we brought her onto the project before we knew where it was going to go, she gave us a list of places that she would appear on and none of them had commercials. Hulu was on the list, but that’s because there’s an opt-out, in Julia Roberts’ house there’s no commercials on her Hulu,” she said.

Erin McPherson, head of content strategy and acquisitions at Verizon, brought up concerns about how the proliferation of SVOD services will affect consumers from a cost and availability standpoint.

“Are we going through a teenage phase where it’s a little awkward because we’re gonna have individual shows that consumers want but they’re all gonna be on separate SVODS? Are we re-creating a situation for a consumers where they’re gonna spend $200 a month to watch what they want to watch?” McPherson asked. “Are we creating a worse world than we’re coming from with the cable bundle?”

Weighing in from a news perspective, CBS News Digital EVP and GM Christy Tanner said that research shows consumers will likely only commit to a limited amount of services, meaning that “being a trusted brand” and “providing a quality service” is the key for CBS News to keep its head above water.

“News, which is really important to our society right now and is a really important category, has to fight for itself with the teach platforms and to not let what happened with the portals and social happen with our new streaming platforms,” Tanner said.

Jason Flick, who founded You.i TV to help media and entertainment brands with the challenge of fragmentation across the plethora of consumer electronics devices, commented on the difficulty that content companies are facing when entering the streaming game.

“The biggest change is almost the reverse of what Netflix had to do, they were a tech company and they had to become a media company and now I think all the media companies have to do the same and become tech companies,” he said. “That’s not a small thing to build up world class tech and scalable streaming technology.”

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