The New York Television Festival‘s annual Digital Day brought together network executives, creators and marketers to talk about the state of the industry and offer advice to new entrants. What did aspiring creators learn? Opportunities for distribution are growing, but success only comes to the lucky and innovative.
The good news is brands, the main financiers of serial content, are still disenchanted with traditional advertising (at least according to the messengers at NYTVF’s Digital Day, who have a stake in advancing this argument). “Brands are scared,” Kenton Langstroth, a producer with Interpublic Group’s Initiative, communications strategy firm that advises brands on digital buys. “Audiences are tuning out generic, traditional advertising.”
Langstroth said brands are today more aware they cannot expect the same production quality in underfunding digital spaces and know that authenticity matters online.
“Scale” still matters most. That’s what networks like Maker Studios offer with their 60,000 channels. Maker’s Head of Sales, Jason Krebs says the network plays “a dating game” with brands, asking what they need and choosing the creators who can execute it best to the right audience. Brand integration deals through their network range from $50,000 to 70,000 on the low end to $1 million on the high end. But getting a piece of the pie is a lot of work, both for Maker and creators.
“It’s brutal…We’re inundated with creative people all the time,” Krebs said. “These are unfortunate times where the blunt weapon of capitalism trumps art.”
Rob Barnett, CEO/Founder of comedy network My Damn Channel, which recently started to buy up lots of shows (including several from NYTVF), agreed. “It just gets harder by the second,” he said. YouTube’s exponential growth has made discovering shows difficult, and Google has not kept apace with curation. Barnett and My Damn Channel Head of Programming, Eric Mortensen have, like Maker, tried to keep up with innovation by accepting unsolicited pitches. Both executives said pitches are reviewed by human beings and given a fair assessment based on current and potential quality and audience size. Barnett offered the following advice to submitters: “It’s always best to pitch with some video.”
Indie producers hoping the Internet will become an incubator for traditional television might pin their hopes on the CW. Rick Haskins, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Digital Programs, said the broadcaster’s new online network, CW Seed, is just that.
“What we’re looking for is shows that are on brand for CW,” Haskins said.
He noted that the “bulk” of the CW’s hourlong programming is now watched on mobile phones, so the network is buying shows of varying lengths, though their standard for production quality is at least $3,000-$4,000 per minute and they prefer their partners have an agent. CW Seed does not offer a revenue share but licenses content from producers. “A screen is a screen…Convenience is becoming more important that the quality,” he said.
If you are lucky enough to become of the Seed’s programs (they are currently releasing seven), you stand a decent shot of getting on television. Haskins said Seed series will be on the CW during the holiday season – one, cartoon Gallery Mallory, as interstitials, the others re-cut as half-hour programs. Two shows are being considered for broadcast pick-ups as summer releases as well.
Though he didn’t say, I’d bet Brad “Cheeks” Bell and Jane Espenson‘s hit Husbands, now airing its third season on Seed (and embedded above), is one those candidates. Haskins said the show’s audience is mostly international and its social media activity is strong, much of it carried by Bell.
“Our biggest distribution platform is our social media platform,” he said.