Archive for the ‘ Industry ’ Category

Thoughts on the IAWTV and Streamy Awards

I may have to change the name of this blog since I spend so much time talking about things that are out of the sphere of an editor.  However, being that I am also a producer, production manager, and anything else that I pick up along the way, I do spend a decent amount of time thinking about the rest of the web television industry as well.  This is going to be one heck of an entry everyone.  My apologies.

As some of you may know, the 2010 inductees into the IAWTV have been chosen (though not officially announced), as have the crop of shows that are up for the 2010 Streamy Awards.  After watching everything play out over the week so far, I’ve been able to form an opinion of the proceeds, and I must admit that I’m not entirely happy with them. Continue reading

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Thoughts on Web Video and Monetization

So, in submitting a somewhat fictitious version of what I intend my production company to be today in class, I apparently submitted a plan that was completely useless, just another normal business with a website, that was completely un-scaleable and would never attract a Venture Capitalist at all.  We’ll never mind for the moment that I’m not interested in VC funding anyway.  What I pitched was a company to create and distribute web video.

I, and I’m sure countless others in web video, have a problem with this assessment.  I personally believe web video to be monetize-able.  I proposed several ways in which it was:

  • Subscriptions to long-form content and sales of content through DVDs and channels such as iTunes – much the way The Guild has done
  • Distribution through paid model platforms, such as the rumored soon-to-be paid models of Hulu and Boxee once one is forthcoming
  • The sale of merchandise related to the show – DVDs, posters, t-shirts, and anything else relevant to the show
  • Recommendations on the website that monetize on a cost per conversion basis
  • Choice of ad options in the video: pre-roll, pop-up bar, contextual ad surrounding the player itself, or something I haven’t yet thought of (studies at Hulu have shown that customers tolerate ads much better when they have a choice in how they interact with them)

Also, all of these means of monetization can be pursued with one show.  Produced once, distributed to as many or as few consumers care.  If that isn’t scaleable, I don’t know what is.

Let’s also imagine for a second, as is true, that I really don’t need multiple infusions of VC money.  What is the point of VC money?  Why, to inflate the value of a company so it can have a successful IPO and make all of the investors, as well as the actual owner, filthy, stinking rich.  (Well, in the case of investors, more filthy, stinking rich than they already are.) Except that most production companies have no intention to ever have an IPO.  They know, rightly, that the minute the shareholder’s bottom line matters more than their ambitions, you can say goodbye to your artistic freedom.  Which is why most movie studios and television stations (with the exception of CBS) are owned by parent companies and are not publicly traded.

I’m frankly shocked at the shortsightedness of my professor.  He is so quick to trumpet the imminent demise of the newspaper industry, but when someone presents him with an actual new media plan – for a MEDIA ECONOMICS course – he denounces it as uns-caleable and unsellable to VCs.  I guess my central question for him is: who says VCs are the only way to start a business?  Maybe in Old Media this is how you did it?  But you know the guy who said “The medium is the message?”  Well, this medium’s message is to leave your old models at the door.

Thoughts on Must-Carry

It appears I do these updates in batches.  I’ve been settling into my new semester, which has left me quiet of late, but I saw some news today I simply couldn’t ignore.

Cablevision, a cable provider serving the NY metro area, is seeking a Supreme Court hearing over must-carry laws.  If you’re unfamiliar with them, must-carry laws mandate that cable providers must carry local television channels.  The laws were created so cable wouldn’t destroy local network television.  Cablevision is arguing that competition is now significant enough that the networks should be able to survive on their own.  The case concerns a network trying to expand it’s coverage into new areas – which Cablevision opposes.  I’m not even sure I agree with it, but I do see the potential havoc that can be unleashed by a Supreme Court decision in favor of Cablevision.

Cable providers still enjoy de fact monopolies in some areas.  For example, here in Somerville, you can’t get Time Warner, Verizon or Comcast.  You’re choices for television are Cablevision or DirectTV for satellite.  My apartment building isn’t friendly towards satellite dishes, so my choices are Cablevision.  That’s it.  So if Cablevision doesn’t have to carry my local stations, where am I supposed to get them from?  Likewise, if you live in some parts of Manhattan, you have Time Warner, because they have control of that area.  So a supreme court decision that would drop must-carry laws could put local networks in jeopardy.

See, television is in trouble.  Their audience is leaving for the internet, and they’re having a hard time pulling in to ad dollars they used to.  Subscription models like HBO don’t use ads, but customers need to have a cable service hooked up to get them.  Cable providers and networks alike are looking for ways to cut costs.  That led to the retrans battles we saw between Time Warner and Fox as well as between Cablevision and Scripps Networks at the start of the year.  NBC and whoever exactly owns them at this point in time are facing pressure from local affiliate stations to get their act together and start delivering the ratings, and add dollars that follow them – which is what lead to the disaster that got Leno back in the Tonight Show and caused Conan to leave NBC.  Les Moonves at CBS has said that he would explore the idea of dropping affiliates and turning CBS into a cable channel instead.  All of these moves are efforts to bring in money, because the amount of money television is making is going down.

In Somerville, we’ve never really had local news.  Cablevision operates News12, which is unique to northern NJ, but that’s as local as we get, and if you don’t have Cablevision, you don’t have News12.  Most of the time local here means NYC local stations.  But if cable providers don’t have to carry local networks, would it keep News12 around or keep sending NYC news to Somerville?  And if they didn’t, how would a station start meeting that need for us?  We’re stuck with Cablevision’s service since there are no competitors here.

What about areas of the country that aren’t packed like sardines onto land like we are hear in the NY Metro area?  For them, local news may be based out of the next big city, or if they’re in that middle point, they may get networks from the nearest 2 major cities.  While I went to college in Ewing, NJ  I got both NYC and Philadelphia local stations.  It was wonderful.  But if cable providers don’t have to carry local television stations, will those areas keep getting local stations?  Or will cable providers instead seeek to reduce their costs by dropping the networks altogether?  It may not now, but I double television profits are going to drastically improve any time soon.  We may see brief spikes, but I’m convinced the trend is heading clearly down.  So once things get desperate, you can kiss your local stations goodbye.  They’d be the first things to go since they appeal to the smallest group of people.

So this ruling could fundamentally change the face of television.  I’m frankly worried, because this court seems far to friendly to large business considerations, and not friendly at all towards smaller interests, especially in the wake of last week’s campaign finance decision.  Let’s hope the Supreme Court gets this one right and makes sure our local stations are safe.

Thoughts on Graduate Study

I’m in the midst of some very serious life decisions. As I’ve alluded to a few times on this blog, I currently attend graduate school. The serious life decision I’m debating is that of leaving my current school, and resuming study at a different facility after a healthy amount of time I need to get my personal and professional lives more on track. I’m lucky enough to work for the coolest company I can think of, and they were good enought to give me a promotion recently. Because of that promotion, I now work in Manhattan, which is looking like it will prompt a move to Queens or the Bronx in the spring. I have a great boyfriend and some wonderful friends who share my passion for producing content for the web. And we have a bunch of ideas developing.

And what I’m realizing now is that the graduate program I’m currently in doesn’t really contribute to those areas of my professional life. Which makes paying $10,000 a semester to attend said program feel slightly ridiculous. And while there is an MFA program at NYU I am very interested in, I don’t feel like I’m at the point, professionally, where that MFA makes sense. An MFA for me is a way to work on some projects with people who are just as passionate at me, and to gain the credentials to teach at the college/university level. I already have some passionate people to work on projects with, and I’m not ready to teach.

Graduate school is a big question for an editor or any other filmmaker. It’s an enormous investment to make, and you need to be sure that it will really benefit you. I entered my program thinking I could make it something it wasn’t. I’m realizing that now. I’m also learning that there is such a thing as having too much going on in life. And I’m accepting that adding to my student debt is not in line with the rest of my priorities right now. I’d rather work at bringing some of the truly fun projects I have the priviledge to work on to fruition. I’m petitioning for a leave of absence from my current program to really give myself time to make up my mind. More as it unfolds.

Eisner is Betting on New Media

I’ve been watching the business pages for entertainment news more often since I started my Media Industry Perspectives on Digital Media class this September.  While my prof. found the NYT write-up today on Twitter most interesting, I was drawn to a different story, given my background in web video.

Seems that Michael Eisner, formerly of Disney, has been wading into the new media pool.  Now he seems ready to try a different approach and spring from the diving board.  As Brian Stelter reported in todays New York Times, Eisner’s new media company will be spinning off into an independent entity with major backing from Rogers Communications of Canada.

Eisner is being very forthcoming with his goals.  The studio, which currently produces less than a dozen series, is aiming to produce 30 in the next few years.  Some of that content will be exclusive to Rogers customers, as part of the agreement.  Eisner also claims that the company is profitable, although no public records were cited to prove this claim.

Since we’re all trying to figure out how to make money in the new media landscape, the future of Vuguru, as it is called, is of great interest to me, and I’d bet several others as well.  Eisner brings a big name and big money to the new media game, and the ultimate fate of Vuguru will see if it takes money to make money right now in this medium.  Eisner’s statements indicate that he thinks advertisers will embrace new media, and that Vuguru’s ultimate success depends on their willingness to do so.  I and the rest of the new media upstarts are interested to see if Eisner is right in his hope, or wither Vuguru will fall to the same trap that so many other production companies face when considering new media.

Why Networking is Worth It

Sorry for my unexplained absence. Kids and video cameras, a truly exhausting combination. I’ve got another 2 weeks with them, but hopefully I’ll be more functional now that I know what to expect. Thank you to everyone who’s stopped by to read in my absence. I was expecting to find my stats flatlined, and while they are much lower than when I was writing regularly a couple weeks ago, there have been visitors every day.

So, here I am today to give you a reason why networking (especially social networking) is really worth your time. I just got work on a second series because of my contact with the creator. I’ll publish details when things are more finalized, but it’s refreshing to know that barring serious unforeseen problems, I’ll have something new to work on. How did I meet the creator of this show? Her show started following my show on Twitter. I followed her show and her show followed me back. We then hooked up on Massify, which is a wonderful site for anyone looking to build a nice little portfolio of their video work.  So far we’ve solidified my interest and arranged a meeting through direct message on Twitter.

Know why it worked?  I’ve been talking to this creator over the span of a few months.  I am also quite a fan of her show, so the idea of editing it makes me very happy.  But the point is, even though we spent a lot of time talking about 80s music, we were still talking.  Good things happen from talking.

If you still haven’t jumped on the social networking bandwagon, I say to go for it.  Start small.  I think Twitter is a great place to start because it helps you really focus on your message: after all, only 140 characters to get it across.  There are tons of sites that create ways to introduce you to people.  I’m a fan of Mr. Tweet, myself.  There are also lots of sites that will help you monitor how you use Twitter and how you can be more effective.  As you get used to the idea, definitely expand out.  LinkedIn is a good professional social networking site, so it’s best used to connect with colleagues and friends working in other companies in your industry.  Facebook can be useful too, just be very careful with it.  It’s very easy to let your Facebook account sort of get away from you.  I sat down not too long ago and retamed it, taking out content that didn’t work for me anymore, and being a bit more critical of all my connections.

So yes, all the talk about social networking being good is true.  It just takes some effort on your part.  Although as you get the hang of using them, they don’t feel so much like work.  In fact, I have plenty of fun with my Twitter account.  And Facebook.  And it’s fun meeting people in my field on LinkedIn.  So go for it!  Good things can happen from social networking.

Using Job Postings to Inform Your Training

(A recap of last night’s BigScreen, LittleScreen is coming tomorrow.  Felt this was more important to post tonight.)

I’ll admit that I’m frustrated that it seems like video editors aren’t advertised in most of the places I’m looking for a job.  However, I’m still making sure that I’m moving in the direction I need to in order to be a valuable editor for any team I work with.

I’m reading job postings for top jobs in post-production – not to apply for the jobs (which I am in no way qualified for without a wealth more experience), but to see what they’re demanding of their applicants.  Why?

Because in today’s economic climate of higher unemployment and more job seekers, employers can be more demanding.  They’re out looking for the perfect applicant for the role, and they’re describing these roles in detail.  Even though I know exactly 1 person at NBC and no one at HBO, I can tell you that NBC uses Final Cut Pro for their editing, while HBO uses Avid, but is also interested in Final Cut, as an example.  I know what kinds of experiences their looking for, which will influence the kind of work and projects I will seek out.  In short, I’m using these extremely demanding job postings to make myself the top person.

I’ve recently completed my quest to create a monster of a computer by ordering the last piece of software necessary – AfterEffects.  My notebook now runs Final Cut Studio 2, Avid Media Composer 3.5, Adobe CS4 Design Premium, and Adobe CS4 AfterEffects.  I can train myself to be a very talented editor now, and can prioritize in the way that meets my needs most immediately, because I have all the software at my fingertips.  Avid and AfterEffects are the two big programs I’m learning to master now.  I’m also working on Soundtrack Pro to improve my audio editing.  Although, I must say, I’m a bit disappointed by what Adobe deems to be advanced editing in AE – I learned about particle emitters and replicators in my second lesson in Motion over 2 years ago.

In short, if you’re an editor looking for work and the jobs you’re seeing are beyond your reach, don’t just ignore them.  Use them to figure out what employers are looking for and run with it.