Of the nearly 300 events comprising Internet Week NY this June 2011, yours truly only stepped into four. That's far fewer than last year, and I'll share more on Internet Week's PR missteps later in this report. First we'll highlight two of those four events for some clues on TV's future.
When it comes to the Internet, video programming is on two side-by-side tracks. There's the track of proliferation, showing up all over the Web, and the track of testbeds for possible TV series, with such examples as Adventure Time on Cartoon Network, Children's Hospital on Adult Swim and the upcoming Webtherapy on Showtime. Four years ago, Digitas created its annual unorthodox "Newfront" event in New York to match up promising online video projects with advertisers. Now a must-catch Internet Week event for hundreds of attendees, Newfront offers valuable advance notice about online ventures with solid TV potential.
One unorthodox way Newfront accomplishes this is having notables introduce new projects in between panels on the state of online activity. Ashton Kutcher, the That 70s Show co-star turned Punkedmestier and media entrepreneur, assumed the role by concluding a "digital rant" with news he's forming Thrash, an ongoing "global social media storytelling factory," where content creators from all over gather, brainstorm and ultimately produce series with Facebook, Twitter or other social functionality. Kutcher invited the Newfront audience to get deeply involved. "We'll teach these creators how to create good (programs) and how they can work with brands like yours," he said. "If you can be part of the entertainment (they create), even the star of the show, and you have great people telling your story, audiences will seek you out...and they might pay for it."
Kutcher didn't stick around to answer questions from journalists on when and how soon Thrash will come together. If and when he does, stay tuned to see how many of the programs Thrash generates adapt for global TV.
Another way Newfront ignites advertiser/content partnerships is through "live idea" pitches, where notables demo content already available online or soon will be. In actress/producer Demi Moore's case, the case is The Conversation, an interview series featuring photographer Amanda de Cadenet (with accompanying website) that Lifetime will premiere next January. "We wanted to put out in the world what women feel about (body image, financial matters, women's rights)," de Cadenet said, joining Moore on stage. "By hearing these people, other women can get insights on a variety of situations. You're speaking to every woman through the universal language of women." (Moore has a drama series development contract at Lifetime, and she's at work on two pilots there.)
Then there's "Big Screen, Little Screen," mini-presentations of online series pilots looking for advertiser investment. My favorites: The Blame Game, a comedy/mystery taking place in a family's household; Little Women, Big Cars, mommydrama from Kate & Allie creator Sherry Cohen; Tilt-A-World, another family-oriented scripted effort, and Unleashed, featuring mishaps at a doggy daycare store. There's at least one promising TV venture in this group.
Also at Newfront, VEVO CEO Rio Caraeff shared insights on a Newfront panel--he heads a tremendous Web music video service, scoring points with both audiences and critics in just under two years. Video-on-demand on the TV set would be a great extension for VEVO, with studies showing music videos are among the most popular VOD programming genres. You've got 50 million on-demand households in place, now viewing VOD more than 10 billion times a year. How about taking the plunge, VEVO?
Throughout the multi-hour Newfront, advertisers and program producers can connect in a van parked outside the auditorium to discuss participation in these and other shows. If you missed Newfront this year, find a way to be in Digitas' sights for an invite in 2012. This event is only going to get bigger and more impactful.
An IRTS Foundation breakfast less than a day after Newfront served up some morsels about where TV's headed, specifically connected TVs giving viewers access to any network they want, any Web site they want and any interactive service they want. Between 70 and 80 percent of all U.S. households will have connected TVs five years from now, concluded Simulmedia chief executive officer Dave Morgan. Former Google and Associated Content executive Patrick Keane trumped Morgan's forecast, suggesting 50 million connected TVs will be in use within two years. "Everyone will feel the metaphor for (TV) consumption will be an app," Keane said. Bedrocket Properties, Keane's new venture, wants to fuel the connected jump by developing original non-fiction series for YouTube, Netflix and other likely Web-connected attractions.
Other Internet Week-inspired observations from the passing parade:
*Internet Week NY didn't appear to get as much media coverage last week compared to last year, and for that, credit goes to a huge crowd of journalists (yours truly included) being denied credentials. PKPR, the public relations agency serving Internet Week, notified that bunch on late notice (the Thursday before last week) that "due to an overwhelming demand," not only would they be passed over for press access, but they would have to pay to attend all events at IW's Metropolitan Pavilion/Altman Building nerve center. I was able to attend Newfront and the IRTS Foundation events through separate press pass requests, independent of IW. Not only that, my denial came more than a month after filing an initial credentials request, and filing a second request early Thursday afternoon. What PKPR should understand is that, to their credit, they generated that overwhelming demand for IW coverage. Instead of rising to the occasion, PKPR went south and IW suffered. Here's the coaching to avoid a replay in 2012: do what's necessary to meet the demand, or turn the accountability over to another company who can.
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!
Simon Applebaum is host/producer of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the Internet radio/podcast-distributed program about the TV scene. The program runs live Mondays/Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific time, on BlogTalk Radio. Replays available at www.blogtalkradio.com/simonapple04 and on podcast (details at www.sonibyte.com). Have a question or reaction? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org
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