The Realscreen Summit kicked off in fine, thought-provoking form Monday morning with a keynote address from David Haslingden, CEO, National Geographic Channels International, National Geographic Channel US and Fox International Channels.
Haslingden’s address focused on how broadcasters and producers can partner to effectively provide value in a changing environment. Even though cable broadcasters pull in two major revenue streams – advertising and affiliate license fees – while paying out four groups of costs – programming, marketing, staffing and tech – Haslingden said they still have an edge over broadcast networks who rely on the singular stream of ad revenue, especially with that stream drying up.
The former EVP of STAR TV also said that the advent of technology that reduces production and broadcast costs enables penetration into immature international markets that can grow exponentially. As a result, in an increasingly global industry, versioning is practically ‘an art form’, he said. ‘Content that travels is key, and the producers who can do that very well will prosper, and those who don’t, won’t.’
Haslingden also told the packed ballroom at the Renaissance Washington Hotel that the industry needs to find a way to deal effectively with Free on Demand. While he cited the News Corp.-backed Hulu as a signpost that advertising can work on an Internet TV platform, ‘People won’t pay for something that they can get for free, and that’s the biggest threat affecting our business model now.’
Still, keeping in mind the growth potential inherent in the web, mobile and yes, good old television, particularly in a growing global market, Haslingden said producers and broadcasters should look at the near future with a mix of innovation and inspiration. He pointed to the airing of live events as a way for factual entertainment to break out of the box, citing programs such as Safari Live and Jetman Live as proof that live events aren’t just for sports and news anymore.
Still, he emphasized that the great challenge will be in avoiding the pitfall of ‘costs exceeding the value of what you bring to the business.’ So in embracing new cost-reducing technologies and new ways of thinking about programming, producers and cablecasters alike can become more and more valuable to their own sectors, and to each other.