As the television industry continues to change, and digital becomes a higher priority, industry leaders at Realscreen West on Wednesday (June 7) said it’s important for producers to remember to keep storytelling at the heart of their work.
“Our core DNA is that we are storytellers [at Bunim/Murray]. Because we are storytellers, let’s stick to that. You can tell a story in long-form, short-form, in a lot of types of mediums and platforms. We are diversifying in that sense. It’s not just about the traditional players — we are open to new models and players in the digital space,” said Gil Goldschein, Bunim/Murray Productions CEO and chairman.
During the panel “Diversifying Your Portfolio”, panelists touched on their approach to diversification, the digital market and what small prodcos can do to diversify.
Those sharing their insights with moderator Patrick Jager, CEO, CORE Innovation Group, were Gary R. Benz, president and CEO, GRB Entertainment; Jenny Daly, president, T Group Productions; Gil Goldschein, chairman and CEO, Bunim/Murray Productions; Shawn Moffatt, managing partner and COO, Go To Team; and Jared Heinke, head of digital, Whalerock Industries.
Here are five takeaways from the session:
Create the content and then position where to sell it
With the shift from linear to digital, Daly said you have review your core business and figure out how to ensure it succeeds. Daly boils it down to what she does: create content.
She said with her company, T Group Productions, she has shifted where the content lives and how it is driven.
With brands driving much of this, branded content has become a way to put concepts together and place them in areas where the content can thrive.
As digital and linear converge, so do the market opportunities
At Whalerock Industries, Heinke said their original digital content has moved into the linear market. The company has used those platforms to incubate ideas, while giving their partners more control over their own content.
They are getting interest from networks who want to take and expand their content and create series that would sit in the network’s portfolio. An example of this he said, was Viceland approaching them about their work with Tyler the Creator.
“I think one of the liberating parts of digital and some of the changes that are happening in linear is that you can talk to a much more specific audience. I know as someone who has developed unscripted shows for linear, network and cable, you are developing shows for such a broad audience that sometimes you can’t always say what you want to say,” he said.
With this shift, companies can identify and speak to that audience. If there isn’t enough of a market for that content to live linearly, it can sit on a digital channel where they can drive revenue with a more targeted audience.
However, Heinke said digital content doesn’t necessarily need to scale to linear. Some successful short-form franchises don’t always translate to long-form in that space.
“Not having mediated content is what creates freedom in the digital space. The minute you go with a linear network or a brand, you introduce mediation and I think that limits some of the creativity talent can have.”
Diversify beyond borders
Diversification is not just about formats or content — it’s about looking beyond the borders to the global marketplace, Goldschein noted.
“The Real World aired in numerous territories around the world, so if other countries and cultures were watching our show, why not see if we could do something a little bit more direct?” he said, which led the company to join the international conglomerate Banijay.
At Bunim/Murray, Goldschein said they think both locally and globally. When they are trying to sell a format, the company will have simultaneous conversations with key colleagues s in other territories who they have built those connections with over the years or through sister companies.
He said sometimes a concept doesn’t make sense to launch in the U.S., but with their global reach, if they are turned down by a network they can take a format to broadcasters in Canada, Israel or other territories who might be interested.
For small companies looking to diversify, relationships are key
A simple way for a small or specialized company to diversify internationally is to identify an indie company in that space who knows that market that could be a partner, Daly recommended.
It doesn’t have to be a large company in order to be capable of selling content to a network, as long as they have good relationships and the capability of launching something that is advantageous.
There are so many diverse partnerships that can be formed these days, unlike years past when there were only a few networks, said Benz.
“First, you want to find an idea you are passionate about and develop it. If you develop it well, even if it’s for smaller audience, with diversification and digital, you will find an audience for it.
Whether you go to a big company, small company or private investor you don’t need networks these days, he said.
What the future may bring
For Daly, alternative reality and VR is the future. That type of interface is the type of direction ripe for new opportunities from gaming, storytelling, and brand engagement. She said there are so many ways this technology can be positioned.
Goldschein echoed Daly, saying Bunim wants to create a show — whether linear or digital — where the audience is part of the program: A full interactive experience where viewers can stay in the comfort of their own home but still feel like they are the contestants on stage.
“How can you be part of that actual experience without having to go through that process? For me that is where technology and content are going,” said Goldschein.