Miramax CEO Mike Lang, Fox Broadcasting Company’s president of entertainment Kevin Reilly and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos have been talking innovation amid fragmentation at this year’s MIPCOM.
Miramax CEO Mike Lang has brought his company a long way since its relaunch over a year ago.
The company has continued to distribute and invest in production but Lang has shown determination to embrace the digital potential of his company’s infamous 700-film Miramax library.
“We believed in the power of the library,” Lang told a packed auditorium during his MIPCOM keynote in Cannes. Going forward, digital distribution will be increasingly important for the storied company. “In a way I’d like to believe our company is a bit more Silicon Valley than Hollywood,” he said.
The company has long-term deals with Hulu and Netflix, as well as launching a Miramax-eXperience branded app, which lets people watch films across Facebook, iPad and Google TV. “We believe that cross-platform is key to growing the digital transactions business,” said Lang.
Miramax is also considering its own Miramax Network cable network, and talking to potential partners around the world.
“We believe that all these different platforms can be complementary and co-exist together,” he added. “We think everything starts with the consumer. They’re not focused on windows or on what schedule they can watch something or on which device.”
Lang discussed his expansion strategy going forward: “We’re starting to build the building blocks that ultimately could be more than the library itself.”
He also expressed the view that piracy wasn’t the most pressing issue for Miramax: “Piracy really is not the bigger issue for our company or for our library. It’s been lack of exploitation, just not getting it out there. Most consumers at some point in their life don’t want to pirate. The way to then react to that is to offer legitimate, great service for them to access it. We’re going to see a lot more demand because of that. Our driver is more market-based versus piracy.”
Price-points are also a major concern: “There has to be some serious discussions about pricing. Currently the DVD business is probably priced too high,” Lang said. “You’re going to have to be more aggressive, especially for library product.”
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos also spoke during the same MIPCOM keynote, shedding light on the importance of TV series to Netflix and why the company is pursuing its own original content: “50% and sometimes 60% of viewing is TV episodes now” on the streaming service, he said. He cited Mad Men and Breaking Bad as particularly popular on Netflix.
“That can be mis-perceived as Netflix giving up on movies, which it’s not. It’s just consumers saying what they want,”
“The economics of these very highly serialised TV shows are very challenged,” he said. “Those shows are getting tougher to sell. So for us, I’m looking at will there be fewer of them produced?”
Hence Netflix’s own content acquisition deal for David Fincher’s House Of Cards and its deal for new series Lilyhammer, announced at MIPCOM.
“I don’t think any of us have the answers. It’s really about trying and innovating and testing things out. And being willing in some cases to fail, but learning from that,” concluded Lang.
Fox Broadcasting Company’s president of entertainment Kevin Reilly struck a similarly optimistic note at Tuesday’s keynote, explaining his philosophy that risk and innovation were the key’s to successful content.
But he also discussed the current fragmented media landscape:
“Our business is changing and more challenging than it’s ever been,” he said. “The marketplace is fragmented. Consumer behaviour is evolving amidst an explosion of new technologies…People want choice, mobility and free. We’re no longer just competing against other channels.”
“Potent TV franchises can migrate across all technologies and behaviours… they need us and we need them… The future isn’t either traditional or digital: it’s a feedback loop between the two.”
Reilly also stressed the importance of engaging fans via multiple platforms and keeping them connected via social media.
Fox’s new comedy New Girl was pre-released for free on iTunes and video-on-demand services two weeks before the official premiere: “We had over two million downloads for the two weeks prior to air,” he said, noting the positive reaction on social networks. “We spiked in both viewer awareness and intent to view… The show opened with the biggest comedy ratings Fox has had in over 10 years.”
Reilly was joined by Heroes creator Tim Kring and 24 star Kiefer Sutherland to discuss the new Fox series Touch, which sees the three talents combine on a 13-episode drama about a mute boy with genius powers. The series is based on notions of interconnectivity and synchronous experiences as Kring explained: “We talked a lot about interconnectivity in Heroes. Touch takes that theme and really crystallises it. It’s the emerging story of our time: we are more connected than we ever dreamed, both biologically and spiritually.”
And the theme could well be reflected in a novel distribution strategy: “We’re trying to release this globally at the same time… at least close enough so that audience members… let’s say we create an area for all of our audience to congregate too. Someone in Africa or Australia can be talking to someone in Europe… and sharing specific interest,” he continued.
Reilly did say that no release strategy had been set yet, though.