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Multi-Channel Networks and Online Content Execs Mix It Up at Inaugural Stream Conference for Digital Creators

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by Zack Coffman
June 20, 2013 3:30 PM
1 Comment
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"Manage change by provoking it."  Alexander Manu , Keynote Speaker, Stream Conference 2013.  If there were one line I could repeat about the mood at the inaugural Stream Conference from Brunico, this would be it.  I have no illusions that the world of traditional "filmmaking" and the digital arena are converging so I try to attend as many new media and advertising conferences as I can.  The panels are interesting, but I most enjoy mixing with the other attendees to get a boots on the ground perspective from the digital trenches.

STREAM bills itself as the "world’s first marketplace and conference for Internet TV originals...bringing the independent production community together with the leading Internet TV development executives, media agencies and brands to network, do business and learn how to work together more effectively."

A very ambitious mission for a first-time event.  I have to give them credit though, the Brunico team (responsible for the venerable RealScreen and KidScreen conferences) had quite a line up of speakers and execs for the panels and speed pitch sessions offered to attendees. 

A few takeaways from STREAM:

"You can distribute your content if you believe you can." Alexander Manu, Keynote speaker, Stream.

Billed as a "provocative author, speaker and leading practitioner in the field of strategic foresight," in all honesty Alexander Manu provided one of the best keynote presentations I've heard in years; on the level of TED.  More than a couple times I shared a Mind=Blown moment with fellow attendee Will Keenan from Maker Studios as Manu discussed his research on behavioral space and the changing context of content delivery and creation.  Manu posits that "the transformation from linear to Internet TV is not a tactical challenge, but a strategic one." Hmm... See what I mean?  The audio is available free here.

Most of the following panels were excellent and featured high-level execs from the likes of Yahoo! Inc., Paramount Insurge, WME, Funny or Die, and others; with titles such as, "Agents and Managers for the Digital Age", "Meet the Newest Heavyweights to Enter Original Online Video", and "The Art of the Syndication Deal".

However as an active YouTube creator I was most interested in what the heavyweights from the MCN (Multi-Channel Network) panel had to say.

Moderated by Drew Buckley (COO Electus), the panel featured Barry Blumberg (EVP Alloy Digital/President Smosh), Brett Bouttier (COO Awesomeness TV), Sarah Penna (Co-founder Big Frame), Aaron DeBevoise (EVP Machinima), George Strompolos (CEO Fullscreen), and Chris Williams (CDO Maker Studios).

The debate rages over what these new entities "MCNs" really are and what they bring to the content table.  Some are essentially aggregators of similar YouTube channels that make it easier for audiences and advertisers to find similar content to enjoy or a particular demographic to target, and others have morphed into neo-traditional entertainment content production studios.  What I found most interesting about this panel was that while it was supposed to provide insight as to specifically how MCNs make money for their content partners, it morphed into a discussion of how these studios are working hard to actually move their content OFF YouTube, or at least develop content that lives in more traditional spaces than YouTube exclusively.  This was literally on the heels of a fascinating blog post by YouTube personality and entrepreneur Jason Calacanis decrying what he called the unfair business relationship between Google and it's content partners.  Read his post here and feel free to give your two cents' worth below! 

The MCNs understandably have to walk a fine line, but they all admitted to also be working on taking their content to other platforms and/or traditional TV, if not off YouTube altogether.  Lucas Shaw has his own thoughtful take on the MCN's discussion here.

I think a diversified strategy usually tends to be best anyhow, but in the end good content will always win.  If one platform or distributor doesn't want it, keep shopping it until you find the right home for it.  We use YouTube to study the market, create interest, and even make some money on the side.  Our Ouija movie I Am ZoZo was essentially incubated on YouTube and we made changes to the film's script based on the demographic and viewer interaction we were seeing on our viral video. 

Even while admitting that they are always trying to diversify, Barry Blumberg EVP of Alloy Digital and Smosh made a pretty simple argument in favor of staying with YouTube on some level, "Say what you want, but YouTube doesn't want to own your content like the TV networks do."  A powerful distinction!  With YouTube rolling out subscription channels and continuing to work on it's VOD service I wouldn't count them out as a viable long-form distribution platform.  When you factor in the cost of hosting and streaming your own video content and creating a massive user-friendly social network, YouTube's terms hold their own against any broadcast deal (last time I checked NBC wasn't handing out advertising rev-shares to indie producers. or letting them own 100% of their content.)

Random quote for thought: "DVDs are still the biggest moneymaker," Brett Bouttier COO, AwesomenessTV on their DVD release of the "All Around the World" concert film about boy-band phenoms Mindless Behavior.  It's true, DVDs are still hanging around so don't give up on them yet!

Interesting startup of the day:

 

There are a million new services popping up promising to help filmmakers get distribution or providing some automated service that is supposed to streamline the insanity of film production.  As a habit I make it a point to try out most of them if for no other purpose than to see what these services think I need.  As a "music licensing and technology company that provides creative music licensing solutions for all media"  music licensing service Audiosocket seems to have great potential for indie filmmakers and established producers alike.  I sat down with toppers Jenn Miller and Edward Averdiek and posed a couple of questions about their new service.

Zack Coffman: How can your services help producers and content creators deal with the conundrum of music licensing?

Jenn Miller: All music is pre-cleared for any media, so you can quickly and easily find and then license music to meet your needs at the click of a button using our technology. 

ZC: What kind of music do you have available?  There are stock libraries out there already.  What makes Audiosocket different?

JM: Our curation strategy is what differentiates us, we have a team that scouts emerging artists using blogs, venues and festivals to find great acts.  As well, we just partnered up with Cue Songs, a company founded by Peter Gabriel and Ed Averdieck, to bring their well known artists to our roster of great indie artists!  Their music will be available this fall. 

ZC: Is it affordable?

JM: Yes.  We strive to get our artists paid fairly while using a fresh perspective on what licensing rates should be based on where their media is being used. No one will pay even $100 for a track being used for a personal video of their kids playing soccer to share with friends and family. But they're very happy to pay $2. Likewise, a wedding videographer will not pay $100 a track for a single use when they may make $500-$2000. We understand that and have priced these licenses accordingly.

ZC: What about syndication, copyright notification systems and Content ID?

JM: Our licenses can cover all web media, just make sure you get the right license. We're also in early beta with a license identification technology which authenticates a license across the web. It will call back a license from anywhere on the web, validating its clearance rights so for those using the system, your work will not be claimed, taken down, contested, etc.

ZC: How did Audiosocket come into being?

JM: While running an extreme sports organization, I was clearing music for these films by famous artists when I discovered a much easier approach. Instead of trying to track down and get return calls from dozens of rights holders in a timely manner within a fixed budget, I started working with my now business partner, licensing music from touring bands he'd booked for shows at one of his venues. My clients got affordable music from the freshest emerging artists and their movies helped propel these bands careers. And my job of clearing content was simplified. Win-win-win. So my business partner and I, on a whim one night over margaritas decided to start Audiosocket.

Written by Zack Coffman, Head of Content, Distribution, & Strategy at One World Studios Ltd.  He is an award-winning producer specializing in online strategy and monetization, live streaming, and YouTube channel development.  Connect with Zack on LinkedIn, Google+, and @choppertown.

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1 Comment

  • Suzanne | June 24, 2013 7:56 PMReply

    Re: Audiosocket: I would love to be able to license audio in my work without having to worry about it any further...can't wait to see it! The fingerprinting is okay, but leaves a lot of to be desired as music licensing becomes increasingly automated.

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