How to spend a rainy few days in Santa Monica! Digital Hollywood Fall 2010
Digital Hollywood is a long running event in Santa Monica that always seems to be worthwhile, especially when you pick up on a few interesting industry nuggets. I could make the easy observation that the event tracks and themes are hopelessly blurred, that the printed and web program information is a navigation and formatting train wreck and that good panel moderation often seems like a lost art. But when you get to hear some apparently “non-company line” remarks from senior speakers at broadcasting organizations, content providers and consumer electronics giants some of the grind just seems to pay-off. Here are a few: Nugget #1: Studios and other content creators seem still all at sea about licensing rules for over-the-top (OTT) content. All the rules seem continuously in flux and any sense of strategy really fails to make its presence felt. Perhaps the digital mavens live in a different office block to those folks who grind out the day to day legal agreements bringing in the bucks? An especially telling question was asked at one point - what kind of a video platform is an iPad from a licensing standpoint? Everyone hedged on the answer, leaving the crowd wondering about devices seemingly sported by about 50% of the attendees. Nugget #2: The frequent assumption of past years’ discussions was that the video industry has to avoid the death spiral that music entered when broadband penetration started to accelerate. This year it seems that music industry insiders wanted to trumpet that reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. Several speakers observed sincerely that the world of music has entered a golden age, has never been so healthy and that innovation abounds. Let’s hope that this sentiment is echoed elsewhere, because, apart from continuing to enjoy new music, discrediting the music industry myth would be a source of some satisfaction. It would be good to come across other validation that demonstrates music is truly in a golden age. I think we should continue to question the health of the music industry based on facts and not simply positive repetition. Nugget #3: From the attendee’s perspective, the show seems to reinforce the perception that Hollywood is the center of L.A., L.A. is the center of the U.S. and the U.S. is the center of the world.
This comes across most strongly when everyone tries to identify and jump on the newest and definitively revolutionary “big thing.” You would think this smart bunch of folks would be a teeny bit suspect of the undiluted Kool-Aid by now, but scarcely a critical word is heard from the audience, for instance, as a new service or a new cool box rolls into town. It would be great to see the discussion diversified a little to recognize the continuing importance to the industry of Middle America (where I was reminded by one attendee that an iPhone is still somewhat of a novelty). Never mind the billion or so avid TV consuming households that lie beyond the shores of the US. In most places in the world content is also digital, Hollywood still rules and making a buck or two from information and entertainment is still a compelling issue - even though pervasive wireless broadband supporting the latest gadgets seems like it might be technology from a different galaxy. Would it be so hard to ground the debate by representing some of these interests? Nugget #4: Digital Hollywood’s new unsponsored “rubber chicken” dinners do seem to attract some great panelists with something to say. I attended the Video Dinner, which was rather dominated by the theme of Google TV – with an early demonstration from Sony and a string reinforcing cast of execs from more or less involved companies – YouTube, NBC, DISH network, LG and Akamai. But there is a feeling from more than one corner that OTT and Connected TVs are like Columbus’s voyage into the unknown – half cheering on progress and half wondering if the intrepid will simply sail off the edge of the edge of the world. We’d love to hear why you attend Digital Hollywood events and what nuggets you found at the Fall event last week. I am looking forward to speaking at Digital Hollywood New York event in November. See you there!