Avenues for the distribution of creative work are no longer limited to just movie theaters, network television or even cable. Opportunities for creators, their crew collaborators, and the technologists who provide new infrastructure to reach audiences, were apparent at this fall’s Digital Hollywood confab held in the Marina del Rey Ritz Carlton.
Top-tier talent and other veterans of the industry, such as composer Stewart Copeland (The Police, Digital Filmmaker), producer Bill Schultz (The Simpsons) and actor Corbin Bernsen (Scorpion, Major League) delivered keynotes or participated in panels. A variety of tracks – including Big Hollywood; Hollywood Brand Power; The Women’s Entertainment and Technology Summit; Finance Hollywood; Artists in Hollywood and Global Change – presented the latest advancements in the arena of digital media.
Arlene Zeichner (principal of Selavy Associates) moderated the panel, Monetizing Entertainment Programming – Exploring Business Models: Branding, Advertising, Subscription, Syndication – Video Across Platforms. Zeichner, along with panelist Jonathan Tavss (president of Scarlet Strategic) are currently working with Ownzones – a content aggregation service that partners with iconic news agencies like Reuters and The Guardian while simultaneously tapping into niche providers like CineSport and CelebTV.
Both Zeichner and Tavss are involved with the platform’s content acquisition and strategic planning. A major selling point of the platform is that it delivers ad-free, “no interference” viewing that is categorized into twenty different areas including entertainment, news and informational content on topics such as health and food.
Unlike many of the younger skewing online sites, Ownzones is geared towards an older demographic – Millennials through younger Boomers. Zeichner explained their programing philosophy, “We are trying to find content that people haven’t discovered, to surface it for them, put it into categories that they can be really passionate about, and let people know that there are no ads, that there is no inference with the content, and that they can enjoy content in particular areas that they might not be able to find elsewhere.”
The other difference between Ownzones and other streaming sites is that the content includes video, audio and print. “It’s called a triple threat of content,” said Tavss. For instance, Ownzones can run a web series, but can also post the script for the series, and run an audio narrative of how and why the series was made, adding value for the viewer.
Monetization is achieved though a combination of monthly subscriptions – either to individual channels or channel bundles for specific areas, such as small business – as well as VOD purchases of individual programs. “The subscriptions are reasonable and we feel people are willing to do it even with content that is free on the internet, because you pay for your time with advertising,” shared Zeichner. Creators are paid through a revenue share split.
Tavss continued, “The truth is there is no such thing as a free internet. You’re paying somehow. You’re spending your time watching a 30-second pre-roll no matter how long the clip is afterwards, or your data is being taken and being sold to a third party and aggregated that way.” Ownzones only tracks the viewer’s history so that they can create more content that the individual viewer might be interested in.
Another big area is original production. Zeichner and Tavss are working with creators – both big and small names – to create exclusive content that resonates with their audience that can later be distributed to other sites with the view of expanding their world. “It’s about getting some strong content on our site that’s exclusive, that we can beat our drum about,” shared Tavss.
Tavss heads the production arm. His company is exploring co-financing deals, hiring creators and crews for full production, or providing finishing funds, all at production prices that make sense for the medium.
“You are constantly optimizing to make sure the viewer has the best experience possible,” said Tavss. “It’s a constant evolution.”