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Battle for eyeballs shaping television’s future

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.-Hollywood is battling for consumers’ eyeballs on more fronts than ever before. As people spend more time on their cellphones and computers, television studios find themselves pursuing viewers on at least three screens. Many agree the industry is still three to five years away from mobile television really gaining scale in the market.
Old rules remain intact, however, most agree content is still king.
In the meantime, there is no downside in getting their content out to all these platforms, said Ian Blane, CEO of thePlatform and an executive at Comcast Interactive Media, during last week’s Digital Media Summit. The exploration will benefit content creators regardless in the end, he added.
“I think that behind the scenes though, there will be some big changes” in programming and discovery, Blane said.
“Video is the next killer app,” said Martijn Lopes Cardozo, an executive at Tandberg Television. “If you look at the emerging models, content becomes more ubiquitous. From a content provider’s perspective you want your content everywhere so long as you can monetize it.”
All these aggregators, creators and distributors are meeting in this growing pool of ideas and yet few agree on which way the tide is flowing. It’s all about exploring new opportunities right now, they say.
“I think five years from now it’s still going to look a lot like it looks today,” said Bill Binford, director of programming at Verizon Fios TV. “It all begins with developing quality programming that captures a viewer’s attention.”
From a programming perspective, everyone thought reality television was going to take over and now user-generated content has filled its place as the topic du jour. “It all mellows out in the end,” he said.
The mobility factor in user-generated content is important because it can be captured on the spot and shared directly with others. “User-generated content is perfect for the mobile world,” Handheld Entertainment CEO Jeff Oscodar said.
Although, Facebook’s Dan Rose added “it’s not something you’re going to want to watch on television until you have some production quality to it.”
While people are directing their eyes on more screens than ever before, it doesn’t mean they’re watching less television, they’re just multi-tasking, he said. TV viewership has remained relatively flat, he added. Indeed, Rose said there’s a consistent lull in Facebook traffic during the weekly broadcast of Grey’s Anatomy-so noticeable to the point that usage even comes up a few times during commercial breaks then spikes again immediately after the show concludes.
Still, although mobile television doesn’t yet have the same consumer draw as the Internet, the industry is experiencing the biggest growth in video content that is developed, produced and created specifically for the mobile environment, Blane said.
And more handheld TV-capable devices and service offerings are coming to market each month. “The days of passive television will change generationally,” G4 TV executive Josh Krane said. “How the average person watches doesn’t change. I don’t think five years from now you’ll see too much of a shift, but you’ll see those early adopters.”
Krane wants to believe mobile will be the next big revenue generator for television, but said he’s not yet convinced. “I want to see mobile become a much richer platform,” he said.
Despite all the recent hype, International Creative Management Inc. executive Michael Tenzer said he’s yet to see one hit that’s crossed all the boundaries or one studio-created mobile series that’s become viral video. He believes the industry’s success will depend on the marriage of fully integrated online and mobile television offerings.
Linear, long-form content is not in danger, it’s just that the demand for short highlights is increasingly each day, AOL Video executive Fred McIntyre said.
Tenzer concluded: “It’s not the end of television, it’s another necessary tool.”

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