Dana Brunetti, a prominent Hollywood producer with a first-look deal at HBO, said Tuesday that web video will “destroy networks and conglomerates as we know it.”
Brunetti (pictured left), producer of “The Social Network” and president of Kevin Spacey’s Trigger Street Productions, is co-producing the upcoming film version of the bestseller "Fifty Shades of Grey" and producing David Fincher’s “House of Cards” for Netflix.
He took no pains to hide that he has enjoyed shifting from working with a TV network or film studio to the red envelope.
“What I find most exciting about online video is that it’s the future,” Brunetti said during a panel at TechCrunch’s Disrupt Conference in San Francisco that included HBO’s Allison Moore. “Look at HBO and how they started, or AMC or Showtime – any of the places you watch the best original content now.”
“They started with movies, and Netflix started with movies. Now it’s going the traditional route of creating original content.”
Brunetti described how Netflix committed to making two full seasons of “House of Cards,” which stars Spacey as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. In contrast, most networks commit to a pilot, using it as a test to see if the idea is worth a series.
“It was almost impossible to say no to,” Brunetti said of the Netflix deal. “They gave us creative control, which you never get at a traditional network.”
Moore, who is HBO’s SVP of digital platforms, objected to Brunetti’s forecast of the future, though she diplomatically described it as a difference of opinion. She did note that one key to HBO’s success is that it offers artists greater creative freedom while also playing a role in the development process.
Brunetti acknowledged that the likes of Netflix or Machinima, whose CEO Allen DeBevoise shared the stage with Brunetti, Moore and YouTube executive Malik Ducard, need to upgrade their development teams.
Yet Brunetti persisted in forecasting the fall of TV, castigating one of the industry's more successful digital initiatives – HBO Go.
Brunetti voiced a complaint felt by many – consumers who don’t subscribe to HBO should still be able to pay for HBO Go as a separate service. The crowd, though shrinking as people ate in advance of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's session, offered vociferous approval.
It appeared Moore (right) had had enough when Brunetti accused HBO of leaving money on the table by not simply charging $8 for an HBO Go account.
“It’s a little presumptuous to say $8 will make the business whole,” Moore said.
When one considers production values, distribution and marketing, the math doesn’t add up, she noted. For now, TV Everywhere and an authenticated version of HBO Go remain the best approach for HBOd.
“The best thing a company like us can do is keep making amazing content, Moore said.
About that amazing content. Everyone on stage -- even those in the web video space -- acknowledged that the quality of online content needs to improve.
“The production value of YouTube videos is not there,” Brunetti said.
Still, DeBevoise insisted it is easy to identify the impact web video is having by the big entertainment players entering the space, citing Legendary Entertainment’s recent acquisition of Nerdist Industries.
“Players at the very highest end, spending $200 million for a movie, are looking around the platforms saying, ‘Hey, I can change the dynamics of development,'” DeBevoise said.
DeBevoise also said TV was now approaching his company for help, hoping Machinima can drive its massive fan base to watch a show like "The Walking Dead" by creating video campaigns.
"One of the great ironies of the last conversation was our fastest growing customer base is TV," DeBevoise said. "One thing you can do on YouTube is drive numbers to a demo. If you make something that fits our demo, we can drive a lot of people to it."