TV Execs Talk Mobile Content

I attended a morning panel yesterday held during a raging rain storm under a fake ivy-adorned tarp on the 24th floor penthouse of the hip Hudson Hotel. On the panel: 3 TV producers and a media agency exec. The topic: emerging platforms for television content. The event: The New York Television Festival.

The takeaway: Nobody told me there was an all-black dress code.

The other takeaway: TV execs are clueless about what content will and won’t work for mobile.

“No one knows anything. That’s what makes it interesting,” declared Fred Seibert, president and executive producer at Frederator Studios, and co-creator of what he called the ultimate content repurposing vehicle, Nick-at-Nite.

As they’re wont to do, the TV guys stressed it’s the storytelling that counts when it comes to successful content. There’s no template. The story is what’s important, said Howard Owens, SVP, creative affairs at Reveille, a production firm developing content for MSN, “rather than being bound by traditional TV strictures created for advertising purposes.” The challenge, he continued, is “developing content that’s ad supported without completely bastardizing the creative process.”

Most panelists agreed relatively short content lengths work best. In creating MSN content, noted Owens, “We’re trying to keep it somewhat short to make up for a fragmented media space and a smaller screen.”

Seibert asserted, however, that it’s not length that matters, but “what is appropriately engaging….There is no answer.”

As for ad support for mobile content, panelists were skeptical that there will be much money from mobile advertising any time soon. Unless there’s a show with a big interactive mobile component like voting (as in American Idol), commented Dan Suratt, EVP digital media and business development at Lifetime, mobile ads are “just added value for [advertisers] at this point.” In other words, it’s a value-add, meaning they’re paying little to nothing for any mobile extension of their broadcast ads.

Suratt added Lifetime’s audience is more interested in applications and games for their phones than they are video content at this point.

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