Summit ’16: Making a mark in digital

During "Platform Power Players," a group of original innovators in online content discussed the ways in which digital content can be monetized and how linear executives can get a slice of the action.
February 2, 2016

The topic of monetizing content in a digital marketplace is one that has concerned and confused seasoned media executives for years as younger audiences flock in droves to platforms specializing in programming for the online world.

During “Platform Power Players,” a panel session moderated by Conde Nast Entertainment exec VP of programming and content strategy for digital channels Michael Klein, a group of original innovators in online video discussed the ways in which digital content can be monetized and how linear executives can get a slice of the action.

The multi-channel network (MCN) Studio 71, which was recently rebranded from Collective Digital Studio, contains more than 900 channels that deliver 1.7 billion views a month, and was one of the first MCNs to take its digital stars to linear TV.

“We’re focused on super premium creators. To us, super premium means that creator has evolved to a point where his or her audience is hyper engaged,” said Gary Binkow, founding partner and CCO of Studio 71. “They may only have 30,000 subscribers, but they get 15,000 comments per video or they have an ability to move their audience to buy $9 million worth of products – that’s super premium to us and we think that’s really valuable.”

The London-headquartered Barcroft Media manages Barcroft TV, the number one news channel in the world, and also produces viral content for such domains as MSN and Yahoo, as well as documentaries for traditional broadcasters like Nat Geo, Discovery and Channel 4.

Company CEO and creative director Sam Barcroft noted that the independent producer-distributor often works with third party users by taking video content and monetizing it by taking it to a magazine show that may want to run it, to various TV or internet hubs for premium licensing, or by incorporating it onto Barcroft-made series on TLC or Discovery.

“Content does have to be exceptional, it does have to cater to under 40s, it does have to be exclusive and it has to be something people are going to want to share,” Barcroft added. “Making content that’s shareable is what is ideal, and that’s what everyone has to think about if they want to be successful in digital – why is somebody going to want to take my clip and send it to their mom?”

“What digital platforms have done is help interesting personalities emerge, our job is to help them figure out a format that will work for a different platform like TV which is a much older audience,” added Binkow.

Meanwhile, Fullscreen, which looks to develop online content creators while producing multi-platform viewing experiences, will launch its latest growth initiative in the form of a forthcoming SVOD platform – aimed at 13- to 30-year-olds – slated to launch this year. Ashley Kaplan, head of content at the youth media company, explained that it hopes to tackle a mobile market that has grown from 7% in 2011 to more than 80% in the U.S. at current.

“We think about that when we’re developing our concepts and our series, and when we’re acquiring and licensing content as an SVOD platform,” Kaplan told a room full of delegates. “We are producing 30 to 40% in-house, the rest of that will be produced by 3rd party users.”

Meanwhile, Sam Toles, VP of content acquisitions and business development at Vimeo, argued that the easiest way for digital-focused producers to monetize their assets is by generating content that has already amassed a built-in audience.

“You really need to have a direct connection between the creator, the audience and the platform as the coming together point,” he explained.

Vimeo, for example, chased after RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Bianca Del Rio as she began to sell organically across Vimeo on Demand for an indie film. The company saw “tremendous success” around the drag queen, which prompted the video sharing website to acquire Del Rio’s stand-up comedy special Bianca Del Rio’s Rolodex of Hate.

“We look inward at our creators at the success they’re having on the platform and lean into that heavily,” Toles said. “The mistake that YouTube made… is that when they first started to monetize their platform they reached out to Hollywood instead of inward to their own community.

“We are dedicated to not making that mistake.”

(Photo: Rahoul Ghose)

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.