What’s the future of content in Hollywood?
Several leading decision makers joined TheWrap editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman and Ross Gerber, President and CEO of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment, at TheGrill: Special Event at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica on Thursday for an in-depth look at where the entertainment industry is headed.
In a nutshell: short-form, digital, and mobile-friendly content is where distributors are placing their bets.
New Form CEO Kathleen Grace said it’s now imperative to make mobile viewing the priority for new programming. “It’s really about mobile, and really understanding that this year, 60 percent of online video views on the internet are on mobile,” she said. “By 2023, that’s 75 percent,” said Grace.
She pointed to Netflix’s upcoming 15-minute standup specials as content that’s tailor-made for a phone-first experience.
Short-form shows are essential, but crafting quality content matters more than simply focusing on run time. “Think about more than just length, think about pacing and discovery,” she said. “That’s how we really think about it. We all have a tiny TV in our pocket.”
Changing viewing habits have forced even the heavyweights to reconsider their strategies. Sam Register, president of animation and digital series at Warner Bros., said his studio is, for the first time ever, looking at taking its biggest brands like “Batman” and “Tom & Jerry” and tackling short-form content.
Register said Warner Bros. doesn’t just think about 22-minute episodes now, but in terms of having 1,000 minutes of content, and how to best chop it up. And it’s becoming a symbiotic relationship; by making engaging shorts, Register said it can drive viewers back to the longer episodes.
“The fact that someone has been in TV as long as I have, and now I’m looking at just completely wrecking that whole format on some of our biggest properties, may sound a little desperate, but it seems like we need to be in-front of that, because the habits are changing completely,” said Register.
Another key factor in reaching audiences today: social platforms. As Gerber put it, “The value of social as a distribution network and as a connector to the fan, it’s never been this way before. There was always a distance between the fans and the viewers.”
Charlotte Koh, head of digital programming at Hello Sunshine, noted that the head of her company — Reese Witherspoon — has “direct access” to her nearly 13 million Instagram followers in a way that wasn’t possible a decade ago. Digital content or any content that you’ll “incorporate into your daily routine,” is therefore at a premium, she said.
“Whether it’s a podcast you’re listening to on the way to work, or at the gym, or a piece of video you’ve decided to put in front of your 5-year-old to keep them quiet for a few minutes. It’s about a tool and a routine in your life,” explained Koh.
Waxman and Gerber both questioned whether the new landscape has shifted the balance of power too much from creators to distributors. Do these brief — and often niche — projects provide enough of an incentive for creative people to keep coming up with fresh ideas?
Grace felt it wasn’t a major concern, arguing short-form video is the “path of least resistance” to building an audience. And once that audience is established, bigger projects can be pursued.
No matter where the content is available or how long it is, Register said quality is what mattered most: “Make the greatest content, and people will find it.”