Digital Hollywood Panelists Discuss Challenges and Opportunities of Content Delivery on Eve of CES Show

LAS VEGAS — The challenges and opportunities of content programming in an increasingly online world were the subject of a Digital Hollywood panel Jan. 7 in Las Vegas on the eve of the CES show.

Three important challenges to an online content provider are facilitating “access, discovery and community,” said Soumya Sriraman, president of the subscription on demand service Britbox, which offers British programming. While access is getting easier for consumers, content discovery is a challenge and building an online community is even more of a challenge, she said, speaking on the panel “The Future of TV: From Primetime to Multi-Platforms.” One strategy Britbox has used to build its community is offering programming concurrent with its debut in the United Kingdom, she said.

PBS, too, is building its community of local station supporters through PBS Passport, said Ira Rubenstein, chief digital and marketing officer, PBS Digital. Those who donate at least $5 a month to their local station get online access to an expanded library of content not available on the PBS OTT platform. Meanwhile, another challenge for PBS is accommodating both an older audience that likes traditional linear TV and a younger audience that wants greater online access.

Finding an audience is aided by a platform, such as Twitter, which facilitates communities, noted Laura Froelich, senior director, partner management, global content partnerships at the social media company. Twitter helps its partners find and serve their audiences. The company is helping the PGA service its audience by uncovering the golf fans’ desire to see more than what is broadcast.

“Golf fans on Twitter were very, very vocal,” she said.

Different kinds of programming will begin to evolve, several panelists noted.

The PBS program “Frontline,” for instance, through its “Transparency Project” gives online viewers access to the entire interview of subjects in its documentaries.

Stefanie Schwartz, EVP, media networks digital partnerships and digital studios strategy and operations, Viacom, said her company is reimagining its program for mobile. For instance, for “The Daily Show,” the company created a segment called “Between the Scenes,” in which host Trevor Noah speaks to the audience in the commercial break only on social media.

Colby Smith, SVP, content and partnerships, ABC News, said through its 24/7 ABC News Live online platform, which launched in May, the network is deconstructing traditional TV elements to make them more dynamic. The breaking news and live events channel is found on various streaming services and social platforms. Referencing Netflix’s experimentation with a choose-your-own-adventure, multiple storyline strategy with “Black Mirror,” he envisioned online news content where the platform asks viewers where they want reporters to take a news story.

“That’s where it get’s really exciting,” he said.

“I think content is going to drastically change,” said PBS’s Rubenstein. “What is defined as content is going to drastically change.”

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