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The Future of Entertainment Programming at the Variety Entertainment & Technology Summit

Photo of Zack Coffman By Zack Coffman | SydneysBuzz May 24, 2014 at 12:26PM

Occurring twice a year in conjunction with the densely packed four-day Digital Hollywood, Variety's most recent one-day conference was an interesting amalgam of top entertainment marketing honchos, digital producers, and technology wizards.
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Occurring twice a year in conjunction with the densely packed four-day Digital Hollywood, Variety's most recent one-day conference was an interesting amalgam of top entertainment marketing honchos, digital producers, and technology wizards. The studios and majors have really begun to get their heads around "digital" and are making big moves to maintain their place at the top of the entertainment food chain. In fact the big boys are taking a lot of notes from the indie players as they put together their digital strategies. What's exciting for indies is that the 'net is still largely democratic and savvy filmmakers and marketers can still work within their niches to create massive audiences on their own. Here's some takeaways and points for discussion:

 MARINA DEL REY, CA - MAY 05: (L-R) Variety Editor-in-chief for digital Andrew Wallenstein, Chief Operating Officer and President of International Sales and Distribution for The Weinstein Company David Glasser, A&E President for Brand Strategy and Business Development Robert DeBitetto, Viacom Entertainment Group EVP of Multi-Platform Strategy and Development Erik Flannigan, Warner Bros. Television Group President for Business and Strategy Craig Hunegs and AT&T President of Content and Advertising Sales Aaron Slator attend Variety's Spring 2014 Entertainment and Technology Summit at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey on May 5, 2014 in Marina del Rey, California.
Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Variety MARINA DEL REY, CA - MAY 05: (L-R) Variety Editor-in-chief for digital Andrew Wallenstein, Chief Operating Officer and President of International Sales and Distribution for The Weinstein Company David Glasser, A&E President for Brand Strategy and Business Development Robert DeBitetto, Viacom Entertainment Group EVP of Multi-Platform Strategy and Development Erik Flannigan, Warner Bros. Television Group President for Business and Strategy Craig Hunegs and AT&T President of Content and Advertising Sales Aaron Slator attend Variety's Spring 2014 Entertainment and Technology Summit at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey on May 5, 2014 in Marina del Rey, California.

Social remains a key (if not nebulous) indicator:

"Listen to your social audience." ~David Glasser, COO The Weinstein Company

In fact, Social has become such an important measure of success that Erik Flannigan, EVP Multi-Platform Strategy and Development, Viacom Entertainment Group pointed out that, "When re-ordering shows it's about the engagement levels, not purely the ratings numbers." This is a big deal because it means the networks are finally openly admitting that social networking is a valuable indicator when assessing properties.

MARINA DEL REY, CA - MAY 05: Relativity EVP of digital marketing Liz Jones attends Variety's Spring 2014 Entertainment and Technology Summit at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey on May 5, 2014 in Marina del Rey, California.
Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Variety MARINA DEL REY, CA - MAY 05: Relativity EVP of digital marketing Liz Jones attends Variety's Spring 2014 Entertainment and Technology Summit at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey on May 5, 2014 in Marina del Rey, California.

Liz Jones, EVP Digital Marketing, Relativity commented that she does a ton of social listening of her own content as well as the competition. This is so important! Keeping track of other properties in your space has never been easier since you can follow all of them through social and set up alerts to email you whenever someone posts something about you or them online.

Pernille Bruun-Jensen, Chief Marketing Officer, Netbase made a compelling case for her enterprise social listening dashboard that proves social analytics services to studios/networks, as did Brian Dutt of conference sponsor FreeWheel. Interestingly enough I've still not heard anyone offer a mathematical case for proving that big social numbers directly influence the amount of viewers of a particular show or film. I'm sure we're getting closer to being able to quantify this, would love to hear from someone that has this data. Here's a blog post featuring some affordable social listening services.

Best PR spin of the day:

Amy Curtis-McIntyre, Chief Marketing Officer, AirBNB was adamant that customer service is key and her team constantly monitors social in an effort to address issues immediately. This actually turned a potential PR disaster into a major win when an AirBnB user was inadvertently locked inside a house in France. According to Curtis-McIntyre the renter posted her predicament on Reddit and the customer service team was able to help her get out!

Other observations:

Bob DeBitetto President of Brand Strategy, Business Development and A+E Studios, A&E Networks stated that they are "launching the FYI Network based largely on YT lifestyle fan bases". This is another page from the indie marketing handbook, stay within your niche and keep your content focused on your demographic.

MARINA DEL REY, CA - MAY 05: Variety Editor-in-chief for digital Andrew Wallenstein (L) and Chief Operating Officer and President of International Sales and Distribution for The Weinstein Company David Glasser attend Variety's Spring 2014 Entertainment and Technology Summit at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey on May 5, 2014 in Marina del Rey, California.
Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Variety MARINA DEL REY, CA - MAY 05: Variety Editor-in-chief for digital Andrew Wallenstein (L) and Chief Operating Officer and President of International Sales and Distribution for The Weinstein Company David Glasser attend Variety's Spring 2014 Entertainment and Technology Summit at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey on May 5, 2014 in Marina del Rey, California.

"Radius will day and date release 12 films this year" ~David Glasser, COO The Weinstein Company. The previously rogue concept of releasing a film over the internet VOD, and in theaters continues to gain more and more traction. We have been releasing DVDs and downloads together on our direct-to-consumer site and it has actually increased DVD sales, new customer acquisitions, and overall revenue by 58% over last year.

In future installments I'd really like to see a few more scrappy indie innovators mixed in with each of the panels, but it's great to hear from the leaders in the industry and from a networking perspective the Variety conferences never disappoint on this level.

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

This article is related to: Variety Entertainment & Technology Summit , Digital Hollywood,, International Film Market, International Film Festival, International Sales Agent, International, International Film Business, Film Market, distribution, Distribution, Internet Film Distribution, Digital Film Distribution, Film Distribution Company

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