MIPTV ’18: Facebook’s Henick touts “social entertainment”

Despite the glare of media attention bearing down on global social networking platform Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica revelations, if a packed auditorium at the Palais during a MIPTV keynote ...
April 9, 2018

Despite the glare of media attention bearing down on global social networking platform Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica revelations, if a packed auditorium at the Palais during a MIPTV keynote is anything to go by, the international television industry is still quite keen on hearing what it has to say.

Just weeks after leaving his post as head of Buzzfeed’s Entertainment Studios and moving to Facebook as head of content strategy and planning, Matthew Henick┬ácame to Cannes with an overview of the “art and science of making entertainment.” Here are some of the key takeaways from Henick’s presentation:

The Holy Trinity of Content

According to Henick, there are three factors that need to be considered in content creation: creative, technology and distribution. When two of those factors are working in tandem, you have a “good enough” pairing that can lead to a “golden age” of an art form (creativity paired with technology can enable the creation of content, for example). But once you have all three engines firing, you can potentially change viewing habits themselves. A prime example: Netflix, developing a streaming platform that delivers a commendable content library to its users, and propels the binge watching trend in the process.

The Golden Age of TV and movie franchises is shutting creators out
Much has been said and written about “peak TV” and a current golden age for content, and top movie franchises are still quite bankable – see Amazon paying an astronomical amount for the rights to adapt Lord of the Rings. But Henick says the scale of investment excludes new formats, new audiences for content, and new creators. With technology opening up the means and platforms for content creation and distribution of some kind, “there is more creation happening than ever,” says Henick. But while it’s not making its way to TV or film, it is readily accessible via mobile. Which leads us to the next point…

Smartphones are not TVs
Henick calls TV a “closed creative system,” while “mobile is social.” With 2.4 billion smartphones currently on the market – a number expected to double in the near future – Henick maintains that “the next leap is social entertainment.” Social content, he says, prioritizes connection with the user, and in many cases, via feedback and interaction with the content across myriad platforms, “the audience tells half the story.”

Producers will need to be agile
Producers of social entertainment will need to be able to “course-correct” and prep content – and pitches – according to the specifics of the platforms they are working with. With different platforms folding content offerings into their existing frameworks, there is no “one size fits all” treatment. And the global nature of social platforms requires a different way of thinking about rights and markets. Henick says it’s time to think about “funnels, not windows,” with monetization strategies beginning at AVOD, moving to SVOD, and ultimately funneling down to personal fan interaction.

Unscripted rules the roost… for now
In a short Q&A following the presentation, Henick told the audience that, for Facebook Watch’s platform at present, “unscripted feels right, right now… It’s having a moment.” But with Facebook set to make a U.S. version of Norwegian teen drama SKAM, look for more scripted projects on the way.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.