Edinburgh ’17: Key insights from Jon Snow, Snapchat and CDN

Will Facebook threaten democracy? Jon Snow, British journalist and longtime presenter of Channel 4 News, took the stage at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre Wednesday evening for the festival’s annual MacTaggart ...
August 24, 2017

Will Facebook threaten democracy?

Jon Snow, British journalist and longtime presenter of Channel 4 News, took the stage at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre Wednesday evening for the festival’s annual MacTaggart Memorial Lecture.

Snow used the devastating Grenfell Tower fire that occurred in June as a springboard to talk about how digital tools including Google, Facebook and Twitter are disconnecting society rather than bringing it together.

Snow acquiesced that Facebook allows Channel 4 to broaden its reach, but chastised the organization for perpetuating fake news.

“We have four million Facebook fans,” said Snow. “They are hard earned, but our reach is vulnerable to the whims of one man — Mark Zuckerberg. He says he cares about news, but does he really? Or does he care about keeping people on Facebook? Many news organizations, including my own, have asked too few questions about the apparent miracle of Facebook’s reach.”

Snapchat is not out to kill TV

Nick Bell, VP of content with Snapchat, took some time on Wednesday to outline the company’s content strategy. And while the social media app has recently tried its hand with original content, partnering with the likes of A+E Networks and Vice, Bell was quick to say that he doesn’t see traditional television disappearing.

“Mobile is not a TV killer,” said the exec. Instead, Bell suggested mobile is the most complementary thing to TV yet, and opportunity lies in the ability to connect the dots between the two devices.

“Snapchat shows drive tune-in to TV,” said Bell, noting that shows such as The Bachelor and The Voice, which have accompanying Snapchat content, see about 16% higher audience tune-in than those that don’t.

Bell said mobile content must look different from traditional TV, and asserted that there is “no better way” to watch a 44-minute show than on a television set.

He expects Snapchat to break into the scripted space within the year, and said that he would love to try his hand at a long-running soap, sitcom or animated show.

China opts for creativity over crime

An afternoon panel session offered delegates tips about making TV for the massive Chinse market, including commissions, targeting and deal-making advice.

While the panel admitted that breaking into the market is especially challenging now, given the restrictions that have been imposed on overseas acquisitions and content, broadcasters are still on the search for high-quality programming, particularly when it comes to series and docs that are socially conscious.

Jean Dong, chief executive officer with Zespa Media Group, noted that China’s restrictions on overseas spending were created as a way to nurture local talent, and the country doesn’t tend to have much gore or crime on TV because its government wants to promote harmonious living. Wholesome programming with a heart is at the center of Chinese broadcasters’ search.

Lei Ying, senior advisor, strategy and development with Hunan TV, pointed to the success of My Future — a series that highlights state-of-the-art technology such as AI and VR in a shiny-floor studio. Ying said the series, which took three years to develop, is about helping audiences understand technology as well as helping them not be fearful of the future.

UK broadcasters make diversity a priority

The Creative Diversity Network, an organization supported by UK broadcasters, presented the findings from an inaugural report dedicated to giving an overview of diversity and representation in the UK’s TV production industry.

Diamond (diversity analysis monitoring data) is an online system used by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky to obtain consistent diversity data on programs that they commission.

The report, Diamond – First Cut found that citizens over the age of 50, who make up 35% of the UK population, were represented by only 24% of onscreen contributors. Individuals with disabilities, an estimated 18% of the population, were represented by just over 6% on screen.

The report includes data that has been collected and made available to the Creative Diversity Network since Diamond went live last August.

“Diamond was never intended to provide a ‘snapshot’ in time, but was built to provide long-term monitoring of the industry,” reads the report, adding that while it would be premature to draw definite conclusions from the data that has been collected so far, the report proves that the initiative is live and growing.

Viewer behavior is changing

Many sessions on the first day of the festival touched upon audience viewing habits and adapting to a changing television landscape. The oft-repeated “content is king” mantra seemed to be the recurring message throughout the sessions. David Wilding, director of planning, Twitter UK noted that if the content is good, the majority of viewers will want to watch it on the “biggest screen possible.” Snapchat’s Bell noted that a mobile phone is simply not conducive to watching long-form television, and Snapchat’s success has been entirely based around the expert creation and curation of short-form content.

Wilding also noted a curious trend on Twitter, where viewers are increasingly using the “mute” button in an effort to avoid spoilers before they’re able to watch the latest episode of their favorite series. While social media encourages a shared viewing experience, he assessed, viewers watching shows at their leisure as opposed to a set schedule could potentially create a more disjointed experience.




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