Apr 052006

The conference presentations have from my perspective, been the usual mix of ‘heard-it-all-before’, occassional cool bit of a service demo, global convergence and very entertaining philosophical gazes into the future – emerging media.

The Internet and the future of TV plus The New Reality

Mark Burnett, Jonathan MillerThe last presentation I was at at the end of Tuesday, was the keynote from Mark Burnett and Jonathan Miller (CEO of AOL). The Esterel hall was jammed with around 900 people in a 800 seater I reckon. Jonathan gave an OK look at the future punctuated by a look at the success of Live8 and a sneek preview of In2TV (the latest archive on-demand offering). He came across as still immersed in technology (showing off the latest ‘q’ codec that showed DVD type quality live over the internet – rather than content or services and not as inspirational as Mark Burnett who followed.

Mark struck me as one of the lads down the local pub in the east end of London. Very practical, bit of a del-boy, all about reaching audiences through engaging stories that they care about, making money and getting to the audience wherever they are – peppered with his primary driver in all he does in terms of really integrating advertising and driving ad dollar. The most interesting aspect of his talk though was his cross-media approach and his delving into the broad area of alternate reality games. I asked him about that in the q&a session and he agreed that his new “Gold Rush” (see below) proposition is in that domain but also that producers need to really make stuff the viewer cares about otherwise they will turn away. Specifically when I asked about the differences between play (game/tv/reality combinations) and tightly scripted content he replied:

“It’s a free for all. It is not anyone or the other, its a bunch of different stuff, what the internet really stands for. Its like America, its a free market economy, a global free market economy, not a country anymore, its the internet. All things to all people, only those who will make it are those who will create content that you care about, that moves you”

The Gold Rush service to be released in Sept is a “massive undertaking” from Mark’s perspective when talking about the production tensions between his 1000 strong TV team with the AOL internet operation. Here is a transcript about the cross-over production from my audio notes:

” Goldrush which is an online treasure hunt created and produced solely for the internet. But to make it really work you still need to have the giant scale and razzamataz of the way you launch the big television special. So just to take it into story this is how gold rush starts. The sun is going down. Were at Fort Knox, the greatest bastion of where gold is stored in the USA. The music goes upbeat, a Jerry Brockheimer movie. Trucks start to leave Fort Knox, helicopters excort them, the military, police blocking off roads. 13 trucks are leaving Fort Knox as the sun is going down. Inside each of these trucks solid gold. 12 of these trucks contain $100 000 in gold and the 13th (they are not numbered) contains $1 million in solid gold. They head out under the cover of darkness to be buried in plain sight all over the continental united states. Here is a reality show that not just 16 people can play and win, everybody, and not only in America. The world can come and go to america online, decipher the clues that are very pop culture, and find out and dig up the gold. We are creating content that is in 3 minute to 5 minute segments on AOL. The content will be clues, the content will be when someone digs up the first set of gold, we will interview them and unravel how they worked the clues out. Also funny content a little old lady from Arkansas who is up in Wisconsin digging holes all over a national park, 3000 miles in the wrong direction. The guy from england who left his fiance, left his job, got on a plane to america, to find the gold in gold rush. The reality show that anybody can play and is created for AOL but we are not turning our back in this endeavour on mainstream TV networks or on publishing empires, we will use magazines and televison to support and work together to create cross-platform media. That is the latest thing I have been working on.”

He was very tight lipped when Ferhan (sat next to me) asked about how cross-media was going to be used to promote gold rush – hinting that it was going to be very viral and probably already begun – nuff said mate! The key thing in this presentation was that Mark came across as passionate about what he did. He wasn’t an interloper at these type of events – like many who shall remain nameless. His transmedia approach like many producers is simple – you deliver in the most entertaining way to where the people are, while keeping a strong eye on advertising dollar.

“We are not there making TV shows for pleasure, we are making TV shows so that the big networks and the giant portals can sell ads…” –

On demand tvhe later said that ad growth on TV networks will flatten and drop over the next year, so that leaves the portals as the next big thing then. I suspect Gold Rush may be the first global participatory TV event, although heavily borrowing from alternate reality games (this is ART, alternate reality tv, of course) it blends interactive tv, with gameshow, with puzzles, with reality tv, with location based programming. This will indeed break the mould finally – shame in retrospect it may all be about greed, but that and porn is how most break-throughs begin in media of course 😉

Further sessions I attended, conference blogs to follow when I get a few moments: Mobile video on demand, mobile Tv content showcase 1, internet tv comes of age, on-demand tv super panel, Gary Carter keynote and tv without frontiers. May do quick single paras of those to catch-up as there is some good 360 stuff on the way.
Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006