Dispatch From The Digital Media Front: Transforming Hollywood

on Friday, Apr. 4th

The future of TV on the Internet could look a lot like cable. That’s the take away from the first panel at the Transforming Hollywood conference held at UCLA today.

Outgoing Machinima CEO Allen DeBevoise, head of talent at Fullscreen Larry Shapiro and Geek & Sundry executive producer Sheri Bryant headlined a talk about the role of entrepreneurs have in the emerging television market.

Which means there was a lot of talk about YouTube.

Bryant, whose production company was one of the first funded channels on YouTube’s socially driven video platform.

“Geek & Sundry is at a little bit of a crossroads,” said Bryant. “Google washed their hands of the funded channels. We’ve been talking to a lot of people in the last few weeks about options of where to go.”

With Google no longer pumping money into YouTube content creators the executives of the Multi Channel Networks are viewing the current era as a kind of ramping up, similar to the early days of cable. Those networks started small, and relied upon pre-existing content–think syndicated television programs–to build their schedules.

The status of MCNs has strong parallels, only here the content begins as user generated programing that matures into the various forms: branded content, original scripted series, and promotional material for live performances are all options for creators with strong followings.

The scale of those followings is another big difference between the YouTube era and cable. A basic cable series with 100,000 viewers is a hit.

“100,000 people watch a show on Machinima, Fullscreen or Maker (Studios),” said Machinima’s DeBevoise, “and it’s a bust.”

Fullscreen’s Shapiro concurred, noting that one stumbling block he finds is that traditional television’s metric models still can’t make sense of YouTube’s metrics. TV centers on what are known as “L+3” and “L+7” ratings, which translates into “live plus three” and “live plus seven” days to account for DVR time shifting.

That’s a framework that has only rough analogues on YouTube, but Shapiro has taken to doing the translation work. For instance, he explains that filmmaker and Fullscreen client, Devin Graham aka Devin Super Tramp, is able to reach a million young people in a seven day window.

Shapiro quoted an executive he held a meeting with about the filmmaker: “That’s like a 1 share. Can I meet him?”

Building a bridge to other outlets is becoming a critical path for YouTubers. One reason is the limitations on revenue share: even though YouTube has changed the structure by which ad revenues are doled out to creators, those who work with an MCN find themselves splitting those funds. The MCNs play different roles for the creators in their stables: executive producer and talent manager are both hats that MCN employees wear.

It’s not only YouTube where the future talent is being farmed. During the panel Shapiro shared an inside baseball story about a major talent agency that was pitching him on teenage Vine stars they are now representing. The wildest part of that anecdote wasn’t the age of the talent–16–but that if you added up all of the footage the client had created on Vine you’d arrive at a robust 22 minutes.

Let’s face it: we’re all in the wrong business.

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