SXSW Tackles Future of Television with Panels and Premieres

As part of its “Future of TV” series, the South by Southwest Festival is hosting a number of panels featuring filmmakers who recently produced content for online media. Morgan Spurlock is promoting a new show he created for AOL, and Dan Harmon will discuss “Community” and its move to Yahoo, while CNN and Hulu execs will tackle the evolving landscape of traditional TV and Internet video. Tech companies are investing in more original content while the shift in live TV is forcing media giants to offer more of their content online.

AOL is using the festival as a launch pad for Spurlock’s “Connected” series, which is AOL’s first foray into traditional TV-length episodes.

“There is so much interest in how we are watching shows, where we are watching and who is making interesting content for different screens,” said Janet Pierson, head of SXSW film.

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“Viewing habits are changing in ways that should benefit online companies,” reports Bloomberg. “According to a Nielsen study released [last] week, 41 percent of U.S. homes had access to a streaming video service like Netflix Inc. at the end of 2014, an increase from 36 percent a year earlier. Able to connect on TVs, tablets and smartphones, people also spend more time staring at their Web-enabled devices, almost three hours a day, compared with about two hours for the average TV household, according to Nielsen.”

Vimeo is promoting its first series, “High Maintenance,” about a marijuana deliveryman. The show’s creators will host a screening and related panel.

“It’s a natural intersection of audiences,” said Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor. “Whereas Sundance is more of a film festival, South by is the place where the boundaries between television, episodic, feature film, short film and documentary really break down.”

SXSW will also host cable TV premieres, including USA Network’s “Mr. Robot” with Christian Slater, and FX’s “The Comedians” with Billy Crystal.

“The audience is media-savvy, they respect clever promotion and they are incredibly influential,” said Guy Slattery, a senior marketing exec at A&E. “We first decided to go down there for that very reason, to get our show in front of a tastemaking crowd.”