CASBAA: Pay-TV urged to innovate, collaborate

At the opening morning of the CASBAA Convention 2011 at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, panelists spoke of the increasing importance of OTT services and ways to monetise content without cannibalising existing audiences or revenues.

Blair Westlake, corporate vice president, media and entertainment group at Microsoft, pointed to the success of content via its Xbox 360 gaming console which doubles as a set top box. “If Netflix were a game, it would be our second most successful via that device,” he said of the movies on demand service, without mentioning its troubles of late. With ESPN3 and YouTube also embracing delivery via Xbox, Westlake also talked of smart glass‚ devices: “If you think TV will be the primary screen for content consumption I‚d advise you to read round that a bit more,” he said. The tipping point moment‚, he said was at CES when Comcast, Time Warner and Samsung announced collaboration on Smart TV technology that negates the need for set top boxes.

Westlake added that the days of huge payments for exclusive rights, such as DirecTV’s $1 billion payment for NFL Sunday Night, will become a thing of the past as rights windows continue to shorten.

BBC’s Jana Bennett, meanwhile, said that linear TV was by no means dead ˆ with appointment to view still very strong for strong blue-chip content like BBC Earth. “This creates work for our advertising and promotion departments, but there is still very strong demand for event programming.” Given the global success of Top Gear, for example, she said the BBC is looking to increase its same day and date‚ debuts of new seasons. That said, the BBC is also busy in the non-linear space, with its iPlayer service rolling out globally.

And in a panel comprising of representatives of Google, Hulu, Facebook and NetBiscuits, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Marcel Fenez joked about “big, bad companies” looking to steal pay-TV’s lunch. All the panelists were keen to describe their services as complementary rather than cannibalistic, “There are many incremental revenues to be made from OTT,” said Hulu’s Johannes Larcher.  “You can’t stop the OTT revolution.” The panel echoed a point made earlier by the BBC’s Bennett that if viewers can’t access the content legally, they will find other means.

Google’s Michelle Guthrie said that YouTube’s 100 new channels are all about advertising revenues to fund and create new content, while Facebook’s Jayne Leung said company policy was to build stuff, break stuff and fix it after. “Hope you’re not going to break our industry,” quipped Fenez.

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