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Media Watch: Industry Heavyweights Talk 'The New Disruptors: Content, Devices and Distribution'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 28, 2012 at 4:29PM

"We are in the future and the future is now," said producer Paula Wagner in her intro to Loyola Marymount University School of Film & Television's annual Steed Symposium, which mounted a heavyweight industry panel to talk "The New Disruptors: Content, Devices and Distribution."
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The New Disruptors
Michael Fuchs, Lance Weiler, Rick Allen, Ross Levinsohn, Warren Lieberfarb, Sara Pollack, Paula Wagner

"We are in the future and the future is now," said producer Paula Wagner in her intro to Loyola Marymount University School of Film & Television's annual Steed Symposium, which mounted a heavyweight industry panel to talk "The New Disruptors: Content, Devices and Distribution." The symposium moved to CAA this year for its seventh go-round moderated by the ex-CAA agent who once ran Cruise/Wagner Productions and UA.

Loyola assembled a volatile mix of old disruptors--both wily former HBO chief Michael Fuchs and brilliant ex-Warner Bros. Homevideo czar Warren Lieberfarb, "the father of the DVD," were disruptive enough to be ousted from power--and new: Snagfilms' Rick Allen, Yahoo's Ross Levinsohn (who once worked for Fuchs), YouTube's Sara Pollack and new media filmmaker/marketer Lance Weiler.

While we've all attended plenty of panels addressing these issues, this mix proved enlightening. For one thing, Fuchs and Lieberfarb provided historical context: we tend to forget that it took maverick innovators with multidisciplinary skills like RCA's Robert Sarnoff (TV color, tubes, cameras) and Bill Paley (the long-playing record, recording, mono and stereo LP)  to build NBC and CBS and network broadcasting, or the folks who to laid the coaxial cables that allowed cable television to disrupt the hegemony of the three networks, or invented the DVD business that fueled the studios for decades. Now Snagfilms is reinventing multiple platform distribution for indie filmmakers, and Yahoo and YouTube are presenting as well as creating content for millions--in concert with Hollywood. The big issue, everyone agreed: How to curate the plethora of choices out there for viewers.

"Big old media companies don't innovate," reminded Levinsohn. "News Corp. buys MySpace and it dies. None of these companies has ever been at the forefront...Many leaders are fearful, not willing to take the chances that Silicon Valley is taking." Google and Apple are the dominant forces changing the entertainment world today, he suggested, partly because they don't hang their business strategies on how they will play on Wall Street. In ten years Apple disrupted the music, telephone, film and television industries and "how we all consume," he said.

On the other hand while Silicon Valley may be fearless, they aren't creative in the way Hollywood can be--and right now never the twain shall meet. The two sides don't understand each other's language. And the players who bridge those worlds will win.

(More on the panel is here.)

This article is related to: Web/Tech, New Media & Technology, Interviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.