The annual Digital Hollywood conference continues to grow, and the 2013 event offered an impressive lineup of speakers that included artists, producers, executives and techies. Event Producer Victor Harwood and his team assembled a comprehensive and, at times, overwhelming mix of panels to address a wide array of topics, such as the backend infrastructure of online data storage and the growing distribution of Web content as the successor to cable TV networks.
Held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey, Calif., the four-day event began with Variety’s annual Entertainment and Technology Summit, which ran alongside Digital Hollywood’s first day of activities and required separate admission (though many attendees sported dual badges). Summit highlights included “The State of Next-Generation Television,” where FX Networks’ Chuck Saftler, Syfy’s Mark Stern, Lionsgate Television Group’s Kevin Beggs and other executives spoke about how new content delivery technologies and the growing use of mobile devices affect traditional TV and lead to new business models. “The New Digital Marketer: Telling - Not Selling - the Story” panel was moderated by Tumblr’s David Hayes and 20th Century Fox’s Bettina Sherick, and featured Alicia Jones (American Honda), David Gibbons (Ustream) and other media marketing specialists who use story as a sales and communications tool rather than a hard-sell approach. The “Hollywood Breakthrough Elite” panel featured Producers Jay Duplass, Derek Waters and Dana Brunetti who explored how Hollywood creatives design properties from inception to incorporate multiple media and digital platforms. For example, a compelling game can generate awareness of and interest in a graphic novel, which can serve as a movie blueprint with a matching Web-exclusive series.
Down the hall, Digital Hollywood 2013 kicked off with “The Power of YouTube: Unlocking the Power of Programming, Premium Content and Advertising” (a panel with executives like YouTube’s Paul Snow, National Geographic’s Michelle Sullivan and Break Media’s Michael Chang) and “Broadcasting without Borders: Players in the New Guard of Broadcasting, Branding and Content Networks” (with a panel of executives that included UTA’s Erik Kuhn, Net2TV’s Thomas Morgan and Machinima’s Aaron DeBevoise).
In past years, Digital Hollywood has focused on content creation and optimizing that content for specific delivery platforms. In 2013, the event put a greater emphasis on business models, monetizing content, and effectively using digital platforms, like tablets, smartphones and over-the-top (OTT) devices as marketing tools. For example, several panels addressed the growing trend of “Second-Screen Experiences,” where people watch content in theaters and at home on TV while simultaneously watching supplemental content on tablets and smartphones to enhance the primary viewing experience. This dynamic has created a whole new sub-industry in the same way the use of bonus content on DVDs and Blu-rays did with packaged media a decade ago. Social issues also took center stage at Digital Hollywood, with multiple panels discussing topics like animal advocacy, women entrepreneurs, film and video for social change, and social activism. Rigler Creative hosted two extensive programs, the first focusing on content creation, the integration of Silicon Valley and Hollywood, and a case study on series development. The second program was dedicated to the growing use of crowd funding, offering success stories and tips on choosing the right platform and building the perfect campaign.
A couple of years ago, a popular theme at Digital Hollywood was the growth of Web-based entertainment, which mirrored the growing pains of the cable TV industry decades earlier. The emphasis on multiscreen platforms, crowd funding and monetization strategies at this year’s conference reinforces that perception with more informed views about the business of going digital in Hollywood.