A move to the warmer climes of New Orleans boosted the temperature of the 2019 Realscreen Summit, which marked a 21% increase in attendance over the previous, 20th anniversary edition in Washington DC.
All told, more than 1800 delegates from around the world came to enjoy both the carefree vibe of the Crescent City, and to gain valuable insight from, and face time with, the buyers, content producers and creators, distributors and agents converging upon the Sheraton New Orleans from January 28-31.
Approximately 300 international buyers were on hand during the conference. While many of these buyers and execs representing content platforms and production outfits were frequent Summit attendees, some, such as Jeffrey Katzenberg’s nascent mobile content platform Quibi and the newly launched full-service prodco Shopify Studios, were first-time attendees.
The pace of change in the mediasphere and how it’s impacting specific areas of the non-fiction and unscripted content community was a central focus of many of the sessions taking place, while others spotlighted emerging trends that are shaping the genres at present, and going forward.
Of the latter, a session exploring the increasing popularity of podcasts as both an IP source and inspiration for development brought together podcast creators (Donald Albright of Tenderfoot TV), TV prodcos mining the format for gold (Propagate Content’s Brett-Patrick Jenkins, Stuart Coxe of eOne subsidiary Antica Productions) and those who connect the two (WME digital media agent Marissa Hurwitz) to discuss the challenges and opportunities in adapting podcasts for unscripted and conversely, moving into the medium itself.
“A lot of the times a straight adaptation… in my opinion, is not enough to excite the market and get the sale,” Propagate’s Jenkins told moderator Joe Livecchi of prodco Noble Savages. “You need to find a way to excite the buyer, and hopefully for yourself, and your partners in the process.”
Other trends spotlighted in the panels included the resurgence of the documentary at both the box office and the TV schedule, and the enduring popularity of the true crime genre. The latter panel, moderated by AMPLE’s Ari Mark, spotlighted the need for producers and networks to attempt to evolve the approach to the content at a time when networks are in somewhat of a feeding frenzy for captivating crime programming.
“We let the material dictate the format,” said ID’s EVP of development and research, Jane Latman. “In terms of pitching, we’re open and flexible. Let’s talk about the idea. Let’s talk about, is it a series that has a different topic every week, or is it a six-part arc series?”
Elsewhere, a panel discussion exploring the rise of AVOD in the streaming landscape brought together execs from such services as Tubi, Pluto TV and YouTube Originals. While the big players in the SVOD space may have been stealing the headlines for the last few years, as that market approaches saturation, more content consumers may turn to AVOD as an alternative to paying for multiple SVOD services in order to get the range of content they want.
“Netflix has done such a good job of reversing the business model of television, and basically AVOD is just the future of linear television,” said Tubi chief content officer Lewinson during the session, moderated by Melissa Grego, CEO of the Hollywood Radio and Television Society.
“Two years from now, AVOD and SVOD are probably going to have parity,” he predicted, regarding both revenue numbers and audience reach.
Other highlights of the three-day event included the Realscreen Awards, which saw 495 Productions’ SallyAnn Salsano deliver an emotional and heartfelt thank you to the industry as she was inducted into the Realscreen Awards Hall of Fame; the Summit Showdown, which bestowed US$20,000 development funds to The Content Farm’s El Dorado Arkansas and Byron Williams’ Passion for the Truth from A&E and WE tv respectively; and a keynote conversation with Nancy Daniels, Discovery Inc.’s chief brand officer for Discovery Channel and factual, conducted by The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan.
The Realscreen Summit will return to New Orleans from January 27-30, 2020, but next on the event agenda is Realscreen West, returning to Santa Monica, California for its 11th edition from June 4-6.
(Photos by Yvette Ponthier)