Banff: Media disruption brews

MediaCom's Robin Hassan shares what she learned on how the digital shake-up is changing the business model for content producers and media players alike.

Robin Hassan is SVP digital strategy at MediaCom. You can follow Robin at her blog or on Twitter @Robinkayh.

In the midst of a stunning landscape, the Banff World Media Festival has traditionally been a broadcast-focused conference for content creators, distributors and media professionals from around the world. Increasingly, this 30-year-old festival has brought forward top leaders from the digital space, and contrary to a kick-off session that focused on protectionism of traditional media and the threat from new players, this year featured a day dedicated to discussing digital’s continued impact on the media business.

Discussions throughout the rest of the conference showed that we are at a time where there is deep interest in how to evolve our current business models to embrace new media – the world is changing regardless of whether we want it to or not. I quote: “The only constant in our world is change.”

That said, there were two key themes that emerged during the sessions I partook in at the conference last week.

1) Audience driven Storytelling

With a plethora of the top content creators from across the globe, it was interesting to see the level of engagement that producers had in looking at how to crowd source stories, augment TV experiences through transmedia strategies and further engage the distracted audiences who watch TV today.

The majority of the attendees were traditional TV producers, looking to learn how interactive producers have created successful businesses from YouTube channels or other purely digital experiences. Lots of discussion focused on the need to think beyond creating incredible stories on film by creating holistic storytelling experiences that centre on the audience, listening to their interests, creating something that considers how audiences can participate, and then handing it back to the “fans” to help spread the word organically.

Cinecoup’s Film accelerator program was certainly a unique example of this. Five indie film makers pitched executives for a chance at $1 million in funding and guaranteed distribution in Cineplex. The winner, WolfCop, certainly leveraged consumer insights and social media to prove its concept.

2) Distribution beyond broadcast

Thinking beyond the film was front and centre for content creators at the conference. There were many conversations on distribution opportunities that could be incremental to traditional broadcast media. This was certainly driven by the extent of secondary device usage and Shaw’s recent announcements around augmenting broadcast content (with added content clips) via Twitter’s Amplify product.

Several workshops examined the successes that dozens of YouTube producers like Canadian Epic Meal Time, Awesome TV (recently acquired by Dreamworks) and Michelle Phan (product integration & creation). The resounding key success factors included: audience engagement, consistency, promotion (deep linking, paid or collaboration with other producers) and thinking about authentic brand tie ins.

So, what does this all mean for us in the media and advertising space?  From the very first session on Sunday, through to my final meeting on Wednesday afternoon, discussions around business model change were central. Players like Netflix have forced the issue further due to the consumer friendly offering that has honed in on their desire to control the viewing experience (be it binge viewing or the flexibility of library access). Even YouTube has launched a beta subscription service globally for 30 channels (6 of which are Canadian), yet we are still only scratching the surface.

Audiences have been slowly but steadily been shifting their content choices from mass to niche for almost a decade. Yet our business models have not really evolved to mirror this. To my mind, the road forward needs to be one where media owners (traditional & pure play digital), content creators, agencies and advertisers work together to build on the innovative solutions that our quickly evolving consumers are reacting positively to. All aboard, exciting times ahead.