Discussing the digital domain at Banff

From PBS president Paula A. Kerger's opening keynote to digital-specific panels, the message emerging from the Banff World Television Festival is that 'fear of the unknown' shouldn't keep content creators out of the digital space.
June 16, 2010

From PBS president Paula A. Kerger’s opening keynote to digital-specific panels, the message emerging from the Banff World Television Festival is that ‘fear of the unknown’ shouldn’t keep content creators out of the digital space.

Public broadcasters have an advantage over their commercially-minded brethren when it comes to exploring new media, said the PBS topper during her keynote session on Monday.

‘We don’t have to figure out exactly how [new media content] will make money first. The challenge is thinking about how to get the resources to do it,’ said told delegates and interviewer Kirstine Stewart of the CBC.

President of the U.S. public broadcaster since 2006, Kerger talked up opportunities in the digital space for content creators, noting that it’s easier to take risks in new media than on the traditional TV platform where programs aren’t given the option to fail.

‘If it does not work [in new media], you can try something different,’ she noted.

Kerger says PBS has aggressively been exploring the new media space especially where kids content is concerned. Last year, the pubcaster test-launched an educational preschool player for kids that received 87 million streams in the first month alone with no marketing whatsoever.

‘For us it was a great example of what we can do in another space… the fear of the unknown shouldn’t deter us,’ she said.

Currently, less than 10% of PBS’ budget is devoted to new media, something Kerger would like to see changed as the broadcaster strives to develop partnerships with ‘different players.’ She acknowledges that the money would have to be taken away from other areas to fund new media projects.

Said Kerger: ‘We try to look at the overall media landscape, and [new media] is the future.’

Meanwhile, the present state of digital media as it pertained to the Canadian mediascape and beyond was the focus of a Tuesday session led by Bryan Segal, VP of global Internet research company comScore. In ‘The State of the Digital Media Universe in Canada,’ Segal told delegates that social media as a compliment to traditional television will become the most effective way for content creators to reach audiences, emphasizing there is no platform war between online and TV.

‘You have to look at them in synergy. The type of content viewed on TV is not the same as on online… the worlds are complimenting each other,’ Segal said, as he unveiled the top trends in digital media according to data compiled by comScore.

While Segal said viewers will always prefer watching sports and drama on their traditional TV screens for better sound and picture quality, he maintained that the growth and impact of social networking in Canada cannot be ignored when strategizing new ways to reach audiences.

‘Content doesn’t stand on its own anymore… social media is driving traffic to traditional media sites,’ he said, citing data that shows that Facebook is directing 1.4 million viewers per month to CTVglobemedia sites such as TSN.

Segal noted that 89% of Canadians online use a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter, and that high-profile companies like Microsoft and eBay are taking notice by spending their advertising dollars on these sites.

‘[Social media] is not a fad,’ he reiterated, as he also discussed how people are using videos online and on mobile phones as a form of networking and communicating. Indeed, voice is no longer the ‘killer application’ on phones, Segal explained, referring to texting, e-mail and videos, adding that social networking accounts for 36% of browser use and 47% of time spent on mobile devices in the U.K.

‘If people like your content, they will keep coming to it,’ he told delegates, insisting they should also be ready to create content for touch screens like Apple’s iPad, which are changing the mobile world.

Added Segal: ‘Mobile screens will surpass desktop monitors in 2015.’

Another panel focusing on non-fiction content in the digital space takes place today, the closing day of the Banff World Television Festival. Look for a report tomorrow on

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.