The 8th annual Grill conference in Beverly Hills brought together an impressive range of executives to discuss the current climate in media, entertainment and technology. The disruption in the industry continues unabated, and the forum allowed an airing of topics across a variety of headlines: Facebook’s $1 billion investment in content, Disney’s go-it-alone OTT strategy, Netflix’s Wall Street valuation of $78 billion on par with Time Warner’s.
Indeed, there was no dearth of topics to discuss.
Weather Channel CEO Dave Shull made a timely appearance, given the recent hurricane and eclipse events. He said that one of his key roles was to ensure the reporters being sent into the field were equipped with cash; when the power goes down, when paying for hotel rooms cash is king. He also addressed the ongoing conundrum of simultaneously advising viewers to evacuate the hurricane area and putting reporters on the air in the storm. He also pointed out that changing minds in the climate change discussion seems impossible. But making ‘bad TV’ with that discussion does no one any good. But trying to weave the topic into how the military or agribusiness grapples with climate change results in ‘good TV.’
Cord cutting represents an existential threat to channels such as Shull’s, and Local Now is a response by providing neighborhood news on demand. “Waiting for the old school local news at 6 or 11pm is increasingly unsatisfying for many people. Adoption of Local Now is trending well,” confirms Shull. The data analytics is immediate and far better than that which is offered by Nielsen.
The growing swell about day and date release of feature films was discussed by Darren Throop, President and CEO of eOne. He pointed out that every other entertainment product is available day and date, but that is more of an historical observation than an acknowledgement of the seemingly intractable (albeit diminishing) windows of film distribution. Throop did point out that day and date would be best for independent films, likely because the marketing budget can’t support recreating buzz across the traditional release windows. His panel partner Nina Jacobson (Executive Producer, Color Force) echoes the sentiment of many when she pointed out the experience of seeing a film in a dark room with strangers is still thrilling.
Sharon Waxman, CEO of TheWrap and producer of TheGrill kept things lively with sharp interviews and observations. Breakout sessions included insights into data analytics (Cinelytic) and bitcoin / block chain strategies (YouNow). The latter is an especially intoxicating business model, which we will explore in a future installment.
TheGrill 2017 again assembled a diverse array of senior executives, both onstage and off, making it a valuable gathering.