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Turner Broadcasting: Striving for third-screen content partnerships

From its recent partnership with L.M. Ericsson to develop and deliver its suite of news and entertainment content to the handheld to a variety of other collaborative efforts that reflect the company’s forward-thinking strategies in the arena, it’s clear that Turner Broadcasting System Inc. isn’t taking its opportunities in mobile lightly. Turner wants to do more than simply deliver its content to the mobile screen, it wants to distribute its largesse of media to its viewers in a context that makes sense and enhances their experience with Turner brands. And Dennis Quinn, executive vice president of business development at Time Warner, is charged with distributing its many brands across any and all non-linear platforms imaginable. While Quinn is quick to point out that he doesn’t have a crystal ball that tells him exactly what Turner’s viewers expect from mobile offerings, he’s determined to explore every avenue available to him, while looking for opportunities that each brand presents in this forum. As is the case in most conversations in the industry today, Quinn spoke briefly about the highly anticipated arrival of Apple Inc.’s iPhone and the many forthcoming technologies that may bring mobile content to the next level. But all in all, he’s equally excited about what’s still to come and confident about the position Turner is already in today.

Q: Where do you see wireless fitting in to the future of television?
A: I think for each network, and I’m speaking as kind of the conduit from my network groups to the space, this is an extremity if you will, or an adjunct to ongoing strategies. So for news, when I look at our news product, our brand promise is breaking news, it’s the immediacy and the authority of having something like news, you know like CNN. So this is an extension of a brand promise and it is the ability to use technology to deliver on a brand promise being the most trusted source of news out there. . You know, one of the reasons why CNN has always been a leader in all the media spaces is just for that, it gives it intimacy and it gives it immediacy. So, that’s their strategy-to continue to deliver on brand promise. Other brands look at this as a means to extend just out of home. . So if you’re a mom with kids and you’re out and about shopping during the day, you know one of the things we want to be able to do is be able to provide you with a robust Cartoon Network offering to be able to keep the kids at hand and stay in tune with mobile kids. We know that Adult Swim is a destination on television that is in kind of a day part that is a little bit later and really opportunistic for the audience that we’re going after, primarily young males. But during the day when you look at the usage on the wireless handset it peaks during lunch hour. So you know, we want to show up and extend and reach out to where those folks are and take advantage of the destination of the community that they’re a part of.

Q: What is your overall philosophy or approach to mobile entertainment?
A: The philosophy is that it’s a new technology with a lot of promise. We do not anticipate it’s going to be digested in the same way someone does in front of their television or in front of their broadband screen. You can look to Adult Swim or Cartoon Network or PGA or NASCAR or CNN for that matter, one of the things that I think is consistent to our company’s philosophy, and you’ll find it when you look at the different brands and the different products across those platforms I just mentioned, all of them look at what does the technology offer and how do you make the experience better within the limits of your brand. It’s a different product on a different platform with the anticipation that it’s a different and unique user experience. Now I know the technologies are out there, and we’re all talking and negotiating across different platforms and different technologies for the handheld and for wireless. Will people sit down around the water cooler and watch long-form episodes broadcast over a handset in the future? I don’t know about that. We’re looking at consumption patterns right now and we’re looking how people interact and we’re putting up product that works for that. Those of us in the space are frenetically looking to our counterparts in Asia and Europe. . We look at what’s working over there, what apps are doing real well and what applications are doing very, very well and what consumer offerings are excelling, mindful though of the anthropological differences, right? Where in the United States we’re a little bit unique, we have more homes with multiple television screens, we have a greater penetration of broadband, more computer screens in households than anywhere else. I guess we’re spoiled in a sense, right? Whereas we look at the commute and the mass transit prevalence in Europe and certain parts of Asia, where their second screen happens to be what we refer to today as the third screen. So I think each market is kind of unique, but we’re learning a lot from our international teammates.

Q: What types of new programming do you plan to develop for mobile? Will it all be short-form content?
A: No, we’ll make some announcements in the next couple weeks about our mobile products. If you’re expecting up-to-the-minute news on an ongoing basis, we’re going to differentiate and create that type of thing. If that’s what you expect from CNN, well then that’s what we’re going to deliver to you. We’re going to deliver it to you though in the context of the platform so that if you want to access something in the middle of a news stream you can access that and it will take you to a longer form example of that kind of thing. If you still have favorites and you want to catch favorites from a television network, and if we think that certain aspects of that product in television can port over onto the handset, you’ll see that as well. But I think where people are getting more sophisticated in the United States is how to marry an application as an ingredient into the content to make it a better service. This kind of goes back to the television notion. So part of it is delivering your brand and keeping a loyal customer and creating a more in-depth and personal relationship with that individual. But part of it needs to be, OK, you know I’m with a cable operator or someone else who has multiple services, how can I use this handheld to drive, promote, actuate or activate another service to store and forward or be able to cache stuff, to be able to activate DVRs, all those kind of things? Again if you go and look over what Sky and what some of those other folks are doing in Europe-very exciting stuff. And in a world over here where there’s consolidation amongst the providers of multiple services, you can see where those folks very quickly are going to want to have content providers integrate applications that really give credence for having multiple product offerings. They need to communicate with each other. There’s no reason why you can’t outline your entertainment evening as your sitting in your office or better yet, on the train on the way into work.

Q: Do you see more value in content created exclusively for the mobile environment or a re-packaging of your already well-established content?
A: I don’t know that it’s an either or. On our sports content you’ll see whether it’s PGA or it’s NASCAR, it’s kind of hard for me to take it and say I’m not going to provide the drama and the excitement and all of that adrenaline pump of a race or at least highlight some of those kind of things. But how do I then get you a really good picture where you can follow on the smaller screen? So in those situations we look and say, OK, how do we capture that emotion and do we use an application, do we build an app, how do we transport that data and telemetry and make it an experience that is one, complementary to the television experience in this case; two, that delivers on what that consumer expects of a NASCAR experience; and then three, enables us to deliver something we’re willing to stand behind-the quality and the charact
er of what we’re used to delivering? . We have an audience around Anderson Cooper that is young, savvy, very educated, articulate and happens to be very pro-technology. So this gives me a perfect opportunity to take those types of users who index very high on early adopters of all kinds of technology, so they’re prone to be people that are downloading and watching stuff on their handhelds. Well, I want to be able to capture what’s the best about him and bring them there, not necessarily show an entire Anderson Cooper show. So how do you do that in a way that delivers for that audience with the character and the content they want? And so it could be short-form clip or it can be done in a way that you can watch it in a condensed period of time. I’m not saying that we condense things, I’m saying in an appropriate period of time.

Q: What kind of response have you received from wireless carriers and content owners?
A: The interesting thing from our company is that we have an awareness that supplying a platform partner with content is part of the game. Being a partner is more than supplying the content. Being a good partner is to marshal your sources and your promotional platforms and drive either new acquisitions of subscribers on a new platform or driving usage. And I think at the end of the day, what we in the content side have to remain focused on is that our platform partners, whether our cable operators on the television side or the video-on-demand side or on the broadband side or our telecommunications partners, whoever they might be, that the reason they’re using us is to drive ARPU at the end of the day and increase lifetime value of a subscriber. So our brands are a big part of driving acquisition of subscribers, but to be able to retain those subscribers and to drive usage it’s as much about compelling content as integrated promotions about jointly marketing across all of our platforms and presenting real targeted content that we know is going to play across multiple platforms.

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