Digital Entertainment World Conference Debuts in Los Angeles

The first Digital Entertainment World conference proved to be an excellent opportunity for a quick dive into current key topics of interest to the entertainment industry. DEW was held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles February 18-20. Topics included the states of all major media verticals, issues related to reaching millennials, alternative revenue streams and payment options, current developments related to metadata and content discovery, and the technologies and costs associated with using cloud-based tools and resources.

During the opening “View From The Top: The State of the Digital Union” panel, the importance of context was a recurring theme. Former Guggenheim Digital Media EVP Zander Lurie said that premium content value is driven by social media, fantasy experiences (e.g., sports), and context (e.g., Twitter).

The Content Collective’s Chief Content Officer Claudia Cahill spoke about how Pepsi used a very successful Grammy broadcast Halftime Show commercial as a contextualized lead-in to their Super Bowl marketing campaign. The best contextual ads, she noted, are ads positioned as entertainment, such as Facebook’s Look Back personalized photo montage application.

CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone added that things that flair up on the Web are not predictable, so advertisers cannot plan on them. (Side note: Lanzone said that CBS Interactive is the largest technology, automobile, and fashion news site in China.)

In his keynote conversation, David Lawenda, Head of U.S. Global Marketing Solutions for Facebook, said that his job is “to help the studios see what’s possible.” Fans are a small part of the potential customer base. Massively targeted reach with metered results, which Facebook can do using their consumer data, will greatly increase the customer base, he pitched.

Metadata was the core topic of the “Discovery and Recommendation for Digital Content” panel. Structured Data Intelligence CEO Xavier Kochhar said to let the crowd create the metadata for clips and frames. They will error-check, and “people create metadata on things that they value.” Yidio’s COO Adam Eatros noted the crucial importance of quality control. Without consistent spelling and labeling, DVRs won’t record as expected and searches won’t return complete results.

“The State of the Publishing Industry” appears to be ongoing efforts to become print plus video plus social media, in direct competition with the other media verticals, if the panelists are to be taken at their word.

Phil Wiser, CTO of Hearst, said he has “a dream of a high definition interactive media experience.” Hearst has built an infrastructure to push targeted ads based on consumer profiles. He eliminated Hearst’s internal IT groups and placed their staffs in positions that “touch customers” directly so they are building to serve their markets.

Michela Abrams, President of Dwell Media, said that her industry “has spent so much time protecting journalists and editorial against advertising that we’ve fallen behind. We need to give in and adapt to the new environment. We also need to define quality in the new journalism.”

During the “How Data Analytics is Changing the Entertainment Industry” panel, CBS Interactive Senior Director Stan Kwon reported that their research and business intelligence groups work together to build context around their trend data and analytics.

John Sierotko, Chief Revenue Officer of The Echo Nest, commented that sometimes clients don’t like what the data shows. One retail store client of theirs thought that their customers enjoyed “Ramones” music while shopping, but the data determined that customer would enjoy the shopping experience more if they played soft country.

Richard Maraschi with IBM’s Big Data, Media and Entertainment group has worked with studios on the predictive modeling of Twitter feeds to predict opening week movie box office up to either weeks in advance. Dr. Vandana Mangal of UCLA Anderson School of Management mentioned that some companies are monitoring and responding to viewer behavior down to the millisecond level in real time. The goal is to provide individualized changes to applications so fast that the user is not aware that it is happening.

“Distribution/Mobile: TV Platforms and Experience Shift to the Cloud” was a discussion of both the technical and business aspects of enabling new distribution options that consumers want. Disney/ABC SVP of Digital Media Skarpi Hedinsson pointed out that broad industry agreement on authentication is needed to make controlled acess systems for paid premium content on mobile devices easy. He added that authentication is much more of a marketing and education problem than a technical problem. Like Netflix, people need to learn that logging in gives them capabilities they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Anvato CEO Alper Turgut, whose company had the rights to stream the Super Bowl, said that websites were the #1 means of viewing his streams, Apple iOS was #2, and Android was a distant #3. The streams had different ads than the over-the-air broadcast.

The “Understanding Metadata” panel focused on the importance of metadata accuracy and standardization. Ian Greenblatt, VP of Strategy and Business Development at ARRIS, summarized the panel well by saying that it is much more important to have an authoritative source than a standard.

Greenblatt noted that FYI, TMS, and Rovi each have unique identifiers. IDER was an effort to combine these three identifiers. ARRIS has engineered around this problem, so a standard is not as important as the quality of the associated metadata itself. Peter Siciliano, SVP of Music Technology, Beatport, amplified the idea that quality control is critical for metadata functionality. He starts “with the word, sentence, paragraph, and document.  If you have the wrong word, you get the wrong search results.”

This report covers a small sample of the many panels that took place concurrently at DEW. Ned Sherman, CEO of Digital Media Wire, and Mary Dolaher, CEO of IDG World Expo, co-produced an excellent conference whose session titles accurately describe what the speakers spoke about, and whose scope encompassed key current trends and topics of the broad entertainment industry.