Mark Burnett Tells Stories

Mark Burnett has produced some incredible television in his day. Who can deny his TV supremacy given the TV franchises he created and the role he played in showing the entire entertainment marketplace that non-scripted-super-produced-TV-programming has a huge audience. You might have heard of shows such as SURVIVOR (10 years and running), THE APPRENTICE (6 years and running), ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 5th GRADER (three years and running) and many more TV credits.

He’s offers some great nuggets on the art of storytelling with social media guru Brian Solis. Awesome that he also acknowledges a “Hero Has With A Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell. It is indeed a must read to any storyteller that’s interested the journey of story in itself.

Lastly, Mark and Brian discuss the dynamic social experience that revolves around TV programming. In itself, TV is social media. The social-to-passive TV arena will be an interesting space to keep an eye on as our digital entertainment experience continues to evolve.


Sony’s Crackle Goes POP!

Sony’s Crackle Taps Google for Platform Expansion

In October, Sony’s Crackle the multiscreen video-on-demand (VOD) content network featuring Sony film and TV titles, and Crackle original productions, launched its first mobile application on the Android mobile platform and additionally. released an optimized version for Google TV. Crackle is conspicuously absent from Apple products though they claim a partnership is in the works.

Until now, you could only access Crackle on their home site, Playstation, and on Crackle’s branded channels syndicated on bigger VOD players such as Hulu and Youtube.

While Hulu, Youtube, Netflix, and the studios’ online homes have quickly captured users as the major destinations for online video, Crackle has had a relatively snail-like uptake since acquired by Sony in 2006 (known then as “Grouper”). In hindsight, it looks as though Crackle has been quietly watching and crafting a competitive platform strategy while these other destinations’ picked their dance partners and have enjoyed larger audiences.

Other competing content networks, such as Joost, have not had the luxury to wait and watch. Crackle owes its resilience to its plum position as the default new media extension of Sony Pictures- it was a long-term investment by Sony who could afford a few years of underperformance.

With these latest moves, Crackle is coming-out in a big way. They brokered a larger overall partnership with Google, beginning with the Android application. As the first subscription video application on the platform, Crackle has chosen the “freemium” model, like Hulu Plus, to attract subs: the basic download is free and allows for basic content access, hopefully enticing an upgrade to monthly subscription. This model has momentum- in fact, as Gigaom reports, one-third of top-grossing iPhone applications are Freemium.

Crackle position on Google’s Android allows for better positioning. On the Android, in contrast to the iPhone, Crackle does not have Hulu or Netflix to compete with- for now. This will lead to expected increased traffic and consumer awareness of Crackle- now that it is accessible on more screens and prominently, at least on Android phones.

From a consumer perspective, Crackle’s launch on mobile and Google TV is great news because it opens increased viewing options. It will be interesting to watch where we find Crackle next and how it fairs in competition with other VOD content options, considering increasing competitive coexistence on all platforms in the future.

-Russell Kummer

The Battle For The Living Room

Apple TV vs. Google TV:  The Battle For The Living Room

There’s been a lot of hype and discussion with the futurist and media folks on what the future holds for our living room entertainment experience.

Who can deny the sheer power behind the possibility of Apple TV syncing with all of your other Apple products.

On the other side what happens to the entertainment experience when we can search for content (any kind of type of content YouTube, premium, on-the-street) anything, anytime, anywhere via Google TV.

In the eye of the optimistic futurist –  there are endless possibilities.

Mark Suster wrote an excellent piece on the future of the TV and the living room experience. This is a must-read for anyone interested in what’s in store for the business of entertainment and content. He brings up so many relevant topics and developments to keep an eye on. TV, film, accessibility, gaming, online video, niche content providers, etc.

The bottom line is that premium content isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. What’s also interesting is that while our entertainment experience in the living room will change – maybe it won’t change all that much. Mark Cuban recently wrote a spot on posting on the value of time and how it impacts internet video/TV battle.

 Cuban is right on with his points – noting that while the youth of today will pirate video content, spend time on YouTube and illegally download music their behavior will change due to their timing constraints and needs. Will that same person invest this much time in tracking and finding their entertainment content once the job, house, wife and kids come along? Doubtful. Extremely doubtful – just ask your married friends.

The bottom line: the entertainment pie will continue to get cut up in more ways than it has in the past but there is no clear winner yet in the race to control the living room entertainment experience. Will there be a winner within this fragmented media marketplace? Most likely, and as Mark Suster’s piece pointed out – there will be multiple winners. Only time will tell.



The Talent Owns The Building



Seacrest, CAA and AEG are possibly partnering to start AXS cable channel.  What’s crazy is in this same article there are murmurs of Comcast purchasing AEG due to their portfolio of the some best arenas/stadiums in the world, in order to compete with Live Nation/Ticketmaster.   At this rate, we’ll have one music-live-event-tv-cable-premium content-set-top-box-ticket distributor to go to and we’ll just call it the ministry of live entertainment come 2015. 


All joking aside – what’s in it for Mr. Seacrest?


It’s no secret that Ryan has had a consummate show biz resume starting from his youth.  Idol and E! Entertainment exposure lead to overall deals, tv, radio, producer credits, first-looks, back-end participation – you name it – Ryan’s done it and has a reputation as one of the hardest working men in show business.  What is Seacrest’s rationale behind this latest strategic move?


The little known fact about the what makes the cable business go round are extreme affiliate fees.  It’s a $32B dollar a year business.  It’s why Oprah Winfrey is opting to hang up her hosting shoes and go into retirement off of Oprah Premium Programming.  Click on this link to learn more about the cable biz from the awesome VC, Bill Gurley.


When you are an Agent in Hollywood – you yearn to put together mega-deals like this CAA/Seacrest with AEG. These type of deals are headliners and they make both you and your client a lot of money – something CAA’s been good at for quite some time.  This is why Seacrest’s former agent, Adam Sher left to become President of Seacrest Productions in 2008.   It’s what a good agent should always be trying to accomplish.  Take a brand name  talent and connect to the proper business model.  See Oprah, Ashton, Ellen, Lady Gaga, Diddy, Paris Hilton, Kardashian and Lebron.  Vertically integrate the talent and those revenue streams!


Another example are the Jonas Bros (who are already a multi-million dollar a year biz) partnership with AOL in Cambio, which gives the talent from their label The Jonas Group a platform to control their message and brand to their core demographic.   Cambio is a web-site/platform that aims to be MTV-meets-online programming. 


For AOL, Cambio (Spanish for “change”) represents a move to more premium content as opposed to the creation of lower-cost niche sites aimed at various slices of tech aficionados, sports fans and women. The focus on “premium” content is also an extension of the plans AOL has been working on for its advertising business.’ 


Major talent partnering up with major companies is nothing new – been happening for years (See United Artists and Charlie Chaplin.)  Major talent partnering up with big media for ownership stake in the property is all about equity.   


As talent needs to sustain traction/exposure in the marketplace to demand a strong dollar so do major media brands. Its a safer bet for both teams – big media gives up some ownership but keeps talent happy and committed and talent becomes an owner instead of a hired gun.   As the battle for the consumer’s attention grows even more intense – entertainment brands – people and businesses will push hard to remind you who is the best at the premium entertainment experience. 


Mitchell Kapler

Storytelling Innovation


Ron Howard and Brian Glazer are shepherding a new unprecedented storytelling project. The uber producers will use Universal Pictures infrastructure to tell Stephen’s King’s trilogy, The Dark Tower as a combination of films, television and even comic books.

By alternating the story between film and television – the storytellers can use different methods to engage the audience. Imagine using the television series to work in the incredible character development and the film to create incredible visuals.  They can change pace without being disjointed.  The key is that the material can support such an audacious move.  These incredible hefty literary properties will be the backbone of more innovative forms because of their depth and richness.

Of course, there are hurdles – the deal took months to complete and the actors are gonna be locked up for extended amounts of time but similar to Lord of the Rings – the overlaying production cycles will keep costs down and bring huge opportunity for financial success.

Adam Neuhaus

Books Ain’t Dead!


Whoever says publishing is dead hasn’t been watching enough TV. Good old fashioned books are alive and well these days…thanks to television. Book source material has always been major fodder for the big screen, (and is regularly Oscar-worthy at that, some of us have always maintained that adaptations are the last bastion of intellectualism in Hollywood, but that’s another story…) but now TV producers and networks are getting in on the word, literally.


Teenage girls aren’t the only ones getting their pages turned, major literary royalty has been seeing deals, including Pat Conroy, and a host of young, acclaimed authors. The commercial potential of multiple platforms for author’s stories are a huge driver of the book market.


Books publishing rights are often sold simultaneously with film or TV rights, and the latter’s potential can be a boon to an author’s chances of making their work a big seller.


As it stands now, there is no Emmy category for adapted material, but that could easily change.


Maybe the way to get more people to enjoy reading…is to get more people to enjoy their television.

-Katherine Myers

Social Media & Television

Maybe Television isn’t dead.

Maybe Liz Murdoch was 110% spot on when she said at NATPE at the top of the year that social media is the key to TV’s success.

There are so many examples reflecting how these two mediums are converging and quite frankly – I LOVE IT!!!

There’s MTV’s first ever TJ – Twitter Jockey which was a show on MTV were @gabifresh won the new job and $100,000.00 salary. $100,000 to Tweet?   Anyways.

Then there’s Comedy Central’s success of Tosh 2.0 where comedian Daniel Tosh stands in front of a green screen and deconstructs the latest nuttiness videos on the Internet. This is a hit for Comedy Central because it’s uber cheap to shoot (I mean – uber cheap) and is perfectly suited for the male 18-34 demo.  The show is most watched program on Wednesday nights within that age group.

The online media-tv hybrid model has been such a success for Comedy Central that they are going to take a crack at it with Dwyanebook – a show that is entirely about social media and adopts the same programming model as Tosh 2.0.

What I find the most fascinating is how computer usage goes up during certain TV programs – especially major hit shows and tentpole specials such as the Super Bowl and Academy AwardsData shows people are going on to their computers to chat and engage with other content while watching these programs. There was an increase in computer usage from 2009 in 2010 during both the Super Bowl and Academy Awards.  Thus, this is creating a different type of water cooler effect – one that doesn’t have to wait until the next day at the office but happens live – on the moment – as the program is happening.

This presents such an interesting opportunity for marketers.  As this 360i blog posting mentioned:

This means marketers can reach consumers through two separate media simultaneously, creating a richer and deeper single brand experience.  Brands like MTV, Bravo and MLB are leading the way in this new era of television – and you can be sure others will soon follow suit should the opportunities be right for their programming.

Interesting times indeed.  Endless opportunities to change the TV format model and make the television experience that more engaging, creative and quite frankly – new.


Turner’s Steve Koonin – Executive Bad Ass

Turner’s Steve Koonin is a bad ass.
I recently saw an article how TNT and TBS boost the most profits for Time Warner.

I remember reading an article in 2007 about how Turner took on a crazy marketing executive who wanted to put Coke’s logo on the moon!! That crazy marketer is Steve Koonin who came into Turner and has re-branded TNT, TBS and CourtTV to have distinctive brands amongst the cable television landscape.

The latest coop in getting Conan O’Brien to join the late night block with George Lopez.

Talk about an executive who gets branding and tailoring programming to the American marketplace!

TNT and TBS, once known for playing syndicated television shows, old films and some sports programming are some of the highest rated cable channels on the dial.


TNT and TBS have reaped the success for producing critically acclaimed original series with great characters.  Focusing on character and stories that resonate with an American audience, they find great actors to drive their original programs.  Sure enough – not only are did Koonin manage to re-brand Turner Networks cable channels but he increased ratings and profit margins as well.

Pay attention to your product.  Pay attention to your audience.  Be clearly distinctive.  Discover results.


Characters Very Welcome


I am a big fan of USA Network’s marketing department.  Not only do they have one of the best taglines in the business – Characters Welcome – and not only does that tagline perfectly summarize their programming but they are constantly moving beyond the TV to bring consumers to their channel.   They took their tagline and created a roving art show – The Character Project – – and now they have turned a social media friendly war between two of their shows into extra content.  By treating shows as connective fabric of the network instead of individual  properties they drive interest in both programs.  Its smart business and opportunistic marketing.

Teeball Economics


Why do our online players mimic our TV screens?  It makes no sense.  It’s a totally different experience and should reflect that.  Why not tap into the plethora of information conveyed on screen by supping up the video player?  Oh wait, someone else thought of that!

Media/And’s Smart Bar is just another tool in helping monetize online behavior and encourage consumers to purchase items they see in shows.  They key to any of these technologies is ease.  If I am watching a program online and see a piece of clothing I like – I am most likely not going to go through the trouble of tracking it down and purchasing it.  But if that information popped up next to my online viewer and I could buy it right there?  Well, that might be an impulse buy.  And maybe I will buy that wok in the kitchen scene.

The key is ‘Teeball Economics’ – where buying decisions are made based on how easy and set up the interaction is.