Panels on Indie Content and AVOD, Digital Supply Chain Slated for Feb. 7 EnTech Fest

Panels on indie content on AVOD platforms and the future of the digital supply chain are on tap at the upcoming EnTech Fest, to be presented Feb. 7 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

The “Role of Indie Content on Major AVOD Platforms” panel (10:05-10:40 a.m.) will discuss programming AVOD platforms, how certain content attracts advertisers, viewership versus SVOD, licensing, collaboration between platforms and rights holders, promotion, and growth. Speakers include Sam Harowitz, VP, content acquisitions and partnerships, at Tubi; Vicki Liao, director, content acquisition, at Roku; Julie Dansker, SVP, streaming and content strategy, at Shout! Studios; Will Gurman, VP, global partnerships and content strategy, at Paramount Streaming; and Madhu Somasundaram, director of programming and operations, at Vizio.

The “10 Principles of 2030 Vision for Distribution” panel (3:45-4:30 p.m.) will discuss use cases and practical applications of the 2030 vision for digital entertainment distribution supply chain strategy and operations. Panelists will discuss the opportunities and challenges from the content owners’, distribution partners’ and service providers’ perspectives. Speakers include Eric Iverson, director of product strategy at Amazon MGM Studios; Scott Levine, senior product manager at Skywalker Sound; Greg Geier, SPV, digital media supply chain strategy and operations, at Sony Pictures Entertainment; Craig Seidel, CTO at Pixelogic; and Mark Turner, project director, production technology, at MovieLabs.

Also among the planned presentations are research sessions from Circana, Bango and Omdia and keynotes from Matt Strauss, NBCUniversal chairman, direct-to-consumer and international, and Keith LeGoy, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman, worldwide distribution and networks.

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EnTech Fest is an event for content distribution and marketing executives, platform partners, technology enablers, trend trackers, connected device and display developers, and all innovators across the digital entertainment ecosystem, including DEG member studios and platforms. The one-day event includes exhibits, conference programming, and the DEG’s annual reception.

Focus exhibit categories include Emerging Technology, Consumer Experience, Immersive Storytelling, Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Content Delivery.

EnTech Fest 2024 is free for DEG members. Register here.

Peacock’s Matt Strauss and Sony Pictures’ Keith LeGoy to Keynote DEG’s EnTech Fest Feb. 7

Matt Strauss, NBCUniversal chairman, direct-to-consumer and international, and Keith LeGoy, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman, worldwide distribution and networks, will keynote EnTech Fest, taking place Feb. 7 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. 

The event is presented by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Strauss oversees NBCUniversal’s direct-to-consumer and international portfolio, which includes streaming service Peacock, online movie ticketing service Fandango, movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, and the International Networks division that services 176 territories across the world. Strauss will cover the state of the streaming industry as it enters a new era and reflect on lessons learned from launching and growing Peacock.

LeGoy co-leads the studio’s combined television and home entertainment distribution and marketing businesses. Le Goy also oversees Sony Pictures Television’s international networks operations, programming and strategy group, as well as the Crunchyroll anime business. LeGoy will discuss Sony Pictures’ approach to the distribution of film and television content and the innovative ways it connects with consumers.

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EnTech Fest is an event for content distribution and marketing executives, platform partners, technology enablers, trend trackers, connected device and display developers, and all innovators across the digital entertainment ecosystem, including DEG member studios and platforms. The one-day event includes exhibits, conference programming, and the DEG’s annual reception.

Focus exhibit categories include: 
 
  • Emerging Technology
  • Consumer Experience
  • Immersive Storytelling 
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Advanced Content Delivery

 

EnTech Fest 2024 is free for DEG members. Register here.

OTT.X to Present Diversity Summit and Industry Review and Analysis Dec. 14

Industry trade group OTT.X. will present its second annual Diversity Summit as well as its second annual Industry Review and Analysis Dec. 14 at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles.

The Diversity Summit, taking place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will be a gathering of “visionary leaders, content creators, and advocates dedicated to fostering inclusivity and representation in the digital entertainment landscape,” according to OTT.X. It “serves as a dynamic platform for stakeholders to engage in thought-provoking discussions, share innovative strategies, and champion the critical importance of diverse narratives and voices in shaping the future of streaming media,” according to the group. The event features presentations, panels, and discussion sessions with diverse executives and entrepreneurs from across the OTT industry.

Among the topics:

  • “Keynote Fireside Chat” with Roxanne Avent Taylor, CEO and producer, Hidden Empire Film Group
  • “Delivering Content for Underrepresented Audiences”
  • “OTT Inclusion Analytics”
  • “Thriving as One of the Few Becomes One of the Many”
  • “Diversity Success Stories and Case Studies”

 

Speakers include:

  • Roxanne Avent Taylor, co-CEO and producer, Hidden Empire Film Group
  • Kacy Boccumini, executive director, systems and workflow, Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • Paul Colichman, CEO, Here Media
  • Dennis Dortch, co-founder and CEO, Black & Sexy TV
  • Michele Edelman, head of growth, Premiere Digital Services
  • Margo Lang, VP, people and organization (HR) strategy, Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • Yolanda Macias, chief content officer, Cineverse
  • Quincy Newell, CEO, TwentyOne14 Media

 

OTT.X is presenting the Diversity Summit as a free benefit to all.

Starting in the afternoon is the 2023 Industry Review and Analysis, taking place from 2:30-5:30 p.m. The Industry Review and Analysis is a half-day event that will serve as a follow-up to the release of OTT.X’s annual industry report. It offers “an expansive deep dive into the current and future state of OTT by joining leading research institutions as they provide critical analysis touching all sectors of the streaming industry,” according to OTT.X.

Topics include:

  • “The OTT Platform Landscape and Business Models”
  • “The AVOD and FAST Advertising Landscape”
  • “The Future of Devices”
  • “Consumer Demographics and Behavior”
  • “Content – What Works Best on What Platforms/Business Models”
  • “Global Trends Outside of the United States”
  • “Analyst Q&A”
  • “Investment Advice & Opportunities”

 

Speakers include:

  • David Bloom, senior contributor, Forbes
  • Tom Gennari, CEO, BB Media
  • Kirby Grines, founder and CEO, 43Twenty
  • Vince Muscarella, VP, sales, Whip Media
  • Mark Orne, EVP, cross platform group, Screen Engine/ASI
  • Jaime Otero, VP, partnerships, Parrot Analytics
  • Eric Sorensen, director, Streaming Video Tracker, Parks Associates
  • Mike Vorhaus, CEO, Vorhaus Advisors

 

All attendees will receive a digital copy of the 2023/2024 OTT.X Industry Report upon its release. The Industry Strategic Review and Analysis is free for all OTT.X members and $150 for non-members.

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Prospects for FAST, Explosion of OTT Services and Channels Key Topics Discussed at OTT.X Summit

The future prospects of FAST (free ad-supported streaming television) and the problems of content discovery, distribution and monetization with the explosion of OTT services and channels were key topics of discussion for speakers at the OTT.X Summit Aug. 30.

Moderator David Bloom, a senior contributor at Forbes, opened the keynote panel of industry analysts noting that Nielsen recently reported that the number of shows and films available on streaming platforms is up 39% in the past two years and the number of services is up from 118 two years ago to 169. He asked panelists how services could differentiate and compete in such a crowded marketplace.

“You can’t find anything,” said Michael Pachter, managing director of Wedbush Securities. “Somebody’s going to be the consolidator of all this.”

“I think the big guys, a couple will drop out,” said Mike Vorhaus, CEO of Vorhaus Advisors.

“There’ll be some sort of merger. The little guys will do fine.” Though, the ones in the middle won’t, he said.

Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst of nScreenmedia, agreed that smaller players would have an advantage going forward.

“Before internet delivery everything was controlled,” he said. “It was virtually impossible for a really small provider to reach any audience at all, and that changed with internet delivery. And I actually think the opportunities for smaller providers are increasing rather than decreasing.”

The big players are all looking for profitability, he said. “One of the ways they are going about it is they are cutting content and they are raising prices,” he said.

“[Walt Disney Co. CEO] Bob Iger is shameless about this,” he said, noting that Iger said when Disney raised streaming prices virtually no subs left, justifying price increases.

“The big guys, they’ve got a little bit of everything; they can’t go deep on anything — that’s the opportunity,” he said. “Know who your audience is. Know the best way to reach them. And I am reasonably confident you’ll be able to pick up a decent-sized audience. You’ll find your audience.”

Being part of a bundle is a way to survive for streaming services because “they may trip over your channel,” said Laura Martin, managing director and senior internet and media analyst at Needham & Co. Other ways to thrive are to be “super big” to compete with Apple and Amazon or have a “super fandom.” Also, she stressed the need for multiple revenue streams, such as e-commerce, subscription and ads — “all the revenue streams that are possible.”

Dixon suggested finding an audience on YouTube “where there are no boundaries” before building a service.

The analyst panel also addressed the FAST marketplace.

“It’s evergreen and it’s long tale,” noted Vorhaus. “It’s not hits. If you’re making hits for FAST channels you’re going to lose money.”

“They provide content in the same way that traditional TV did, but they’re not traditional TV,” Dixon said. “There are no bandwidth bounds. You can put a channel up, tell the audience about it, have them come to that channel for a week or so and have it go away. You just have so much more flexibility. You need to think about them in a different way. You may have anchor channels that they come back to again and again, but there are also these more ephemeral channels … such as for holidays.”

“It’s impossible to argue with free,” Pachter said, though he questioned whether linear FAST would ultimately be able to compete with AVOD (ad-supported video-on-demand) if content discovery gets easier.

“Ultimately I think AVOD wins,” he said. “I don’t need a channel if I have discovery.”

The growth of FAST channels and whether the hype is justified were topics of discussion for other panelists and speakers as well.

“FAST is being viewed by a large audience and it’s growing,” Srini Ka, co-founder of Amagi, said during the “How Does Fast Become the New Cable TV?” panel.

“We don’t think FAST is overhyped,” Stuart McLean, CEO of FAST Studios, said during the same panel. “Most people think that the FAST viewer is too cheap to pay for cable. The fast viewer is really the heavy video consumer.”

“FAST revenues have grown 20 times in the past three years and are expected to triple again in the next three,” added Carol Hanley, CEO of Whip Media.

Still, speakers noted that the FAST market isn’t the bonanza it used to be.

“There was a perception of FAST as an 1849-style gold rush. … The reality is that that era of FAST over the last two, three years has passed,” said Erick Opeka, president and chief strategy officer at Cineverse.

One side effect of the ad-supported explosion is too much content chasing too few ad units, noted Martin in the earlier analyst panel. “It is a race to the bottom for AVOD and FAST,” she said, as there is no “pricing power” for ads.

Another perennial problem with the explosion of FAST channels and other digital platforms is lack of efficient discovery.

“The FAST system is a big mess,” said panelist Philippe Guelton, chief revenue officer at Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, noting the “consumer gets stuck into a platform” or a Roku stick.

Marcy Levitas Hamilton, CEO of TriCoast Worldwide, said getting on platforms, such as a Vizio, is getting harder.

“You have to have the relationship or meet them through someone else,” she said. “A lot of them are closing the door to new vendors.”

Her company has such FAST channels as the horror-focused Dark Matters and the craft-focused Made It Myself TV. Such niche-focused channels make it easier to find an audience and get on platforms, she said. The key she said “is coming up with a great new concept that has an audience already and that you can get the content for.”

American Film Market

The American Film Market is a film acquisition, development and networking event. Unlike a festival, AFM is a marketplace where production and distribution deals are closed. More than U.S. $1 billion in deals are sealed every year — on both completed films and those in every stage of development and production, according to organizers.

Thousands of industry professionals from more than 80 countries converge in Santa Monica every November. They include acquisition and development executives, agents, attorneys, directors, distributors, festival directors, financiers, film commissioners, producers, writers, the world’s press and all those who provide services to the motion picture industry.

At AFM, participants can discover the entire global catalog of available films and projects, attend 30-plus conferences and panels, and connect with the independent film community’s decision makers.

OTT.X. Speakers Look at Present and Future of Streaming

The competition in the video streaming marketplace is getting stiff and will be even tighter in the future.

That’s according to speakers on the panel “Growing Your Footprint” Sept. 1 at the OTT.X Fall Summit in Los Angeles.

“There are hundreds of channels out there now,” said Matthew Singerman, president of KFA Consulting. “The competition is fierce.”

“You have to be at the forefront of what you’re doing, with the technology,” said Berkin Ecevit, sales and business development director at SPI, which has partnered with Canal Plus through its majority stake in SPI.

Indeed, being a good partner is key, said Singerman.

“It’s about how can you help that platform with your channel,” he said. “What’s gonna make the platform want us?”

Data also is important in competing.

“Today, we have a tremendous focus on customer data,” said Jason Peterson, chairman and CEO at GoDigital Media Group. “We know who these people are, where they live, what their purchasing behavior is.”

Knowing the audience “really, really well” is even more crucial when a streamer tries to attract advertisers, he said.

As far as expansion internationally, Tomas Gennari, CEO of BB Media, noted, “We need to become experts in each of those markets.”

“The same formula that works in the U.S. will not be able to work everywhere in the world,” he said.

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Moderator Michele Edelman, of Premiere Digital, asked the panel if consolidation is coming with current economic pressures and growing competition.

“As an industry matures, it’s very normal to see consolidation,” said Peterson.

“I think there will be continuous consolidation,” said Gennari.

“Consolidation is going to happen,” predicted Ecevit. “FAST [free ad-supported streaming] will be global.”

Indeed, bigger players have an advantage, noted Peterson. Companies with streaming services, such as Apple and Amazon, look at the total lifetime value of customers and can afford to use streaming as a loss leader, he said.

“It doesn’t matter if ‘Lord of the rings’ for Amazon is profitable,” Peterson said. It’s about “did they get customers for their overall service or did they retain customers for their overall service,” he noted.

Still, a growing international marketplace will bring fresh foreign content.

“We love it when we see things like ‘Squid game,’ ‘Elite’ … non-Hollywood productions … conquer the world,” Gennari said. “I do expect to see more of that.”

Sports content, too, will be key in the growing battle for exclusive content to attract customers, Singerman said.

“All the major sports will have exclusives,” he said.

“Not just major sports, but minor sports,” added Edelman.

Despite all the competition, good ideas will still matter, said Singerman.

“Even though there’s saturation, someone always comes up with a channel or an idea,” he said. “There’s always a way to break through.”

Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ to Be Touted in ‘Bundle Pavilion’ at D23

Streaming services Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ will be touted at the D23 Expo 2022 in early September.

At the event, presented by Visa, attendees will be able to enjoy immersive experiences, talent appearances, and photo opportunities at the Disney Bundle Pavilion along with live demos of the latest features on Disney+ and special perks for Disney+ subscribers across the show floor, according to the studio.

This year, the global celebration of Disney+ Day returns Sept. 8, leading into the D23 Expo Sept. 9 to 11. Attendees will be treated to news, first looks, and talent appearances from upcoming Disney+ Originals as part of the Hall D23 showcases including the Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Disney Live Action presentation on Sept. 9, and the Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios and Disney Branded Television presentations on Sept. 10. Throughout the weekend, Disney+ subscribers attending D23 Expo will be able to unlock special giveaways or promotions at Offer Spots on the show floor when they present their Disney+ subscriber pass, which can be picked up at D23 Expo starting on Sept. 8.

In honor of the new home of “Dancing With the Stars,” Disney+ will ​​invite guests to step into the ballroom for a special celebration on the Backlot Stage on Sept. 11. Co-hosts Tyra Banks and Alfonso Ribeiro will be joined by a panel of executive producers and judges to share their memories from the show and reveal new details about season 31, premiering Sept. 19 on Disney+.

On the show floor, the Disney Bundle Pavilion will showcase the collection of entertainment and sports content offered across Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ with special programming and experiences. Disney+ will exhibit two installations. A lenticular installation offers guests an opportunity to look for their reflection among the moving images, while a Disney+ holographic display will offer beamed-in appearances by characters.

Hulu will invite guests to “Check in to Their Obsessions” as they walk through the Hulu green vessel. They will be able to join the Belchers for a “Bob’s Burgers” family photo opportunity, as well as put themselves in the hot seat of a confessional from their favorite reality TV shows, as they navigate a variety of immersive experiences.

ESPN+ will offer fans a close-up look at some of the most iconic memorabilia in sports, including the College Football Playoff trophy, the UFC Championship belt, an El Clásico game ball, and more. Fans will also be able to snap a photo sitting behind a sports news desk. 

The Disney Bundle Pavilion stage will host three days of panels, trivia, activities, screenings, and more, highlighting the offerings from Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+.

The tentative schedule includes:

Friday, Sept. 9
11:35 a.m. — “Pixar’s Onward Story Presentation” by story supervisor Kelsey Mann
12 p.m. — “To the Edge of the Unknown” from National Geographic with Jimmy Chin and Alex Honnold
12:35 p.m. —” Sketch With an Animator” with Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Eric Goldberg
1:55 p.m. — “The History of Cars: Road Trip from the Original Film to New Series ‘Cars on the Road'” with creative director Jay Ward
3:50 p.m. — “Across the Bundle Spotlights: Hispanic Voices Panel”
6:25 p.m. — Hulu dance party

Saturday, Sept. 10
12:10 p.m. — “A Conversation with Frozen Filmmakers” with Academy Award winners Chris Buck (director) and Peter Del Vecho (producer)
1:10 p.m. — “Sketch with an Animator” with Lindsay Carrozza of “Solar Opposites”
3:50 p.m. — “Across the Bundle Spotlights: Made by Her Panel”
4:50 p.m. — “Meet the Muppets: The Muppets Mayhem Conversation” hosted by Tahj Mowry
6:25 p.m. – Hulu dance party

Sunday, Sept. 11
10 a.m. — “A Conversation with Encanto Filmmakers” with Academy Award winners Jared Bush (director/writer), Clark Spencer (producer), and Yvett Merino (producer)
3:50 p.m. — “Across the Bundle Spotlights: Black History Always Panel”
6:25 p.m. — Hulu dance party

Continuing the Disney+ Day celebration, fans will be treated to first looks at some of the new movies, series, specials, and shorts coming to Disney+ in 2023 and beyond during the following panels:

Friday, Sept. 9
10:45 a.m. — “The Simpsons” (Premiere Stage)
3:30 p.m. — “Studio Showcase, Day 1: Celebrate the Magic of Disney and Pixar” (Hall D23)
5:45 p.m. — National Geographic and Disney+ special screening: “Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory” (Hyperion Stage)

Saturday, Sept. 10
10 a.m. — “Studio Showcase, Day 2: Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Studios” (Hall D23)
3:30 p.m. — “Disney’s Epic Entertainment Showcase: The Musical: The Extravaganza!” (Hall D23)
5:45 p.m. — National Geographic and Disney+ special screening: “Limitless with Chris Hemsworth” (Hyperion Stage)
6 p.m. — “The Santa Clauses: Conversation with Cast and Creators” (Premiere Stage)
6 p.m. – sneak peek at Zootopia+ from Walt Disney Animation Studios (Backlot Stage)

Sunday, Sept. 11
10 a.m. — Disney original documentary’s sneak peek of Mickey: The Story of a Mouse (Backlot Stage)
10:30 a.m. — the cast and creators of the Disney+ Series “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder” (Premiere Stage)
6 p.m. — “Dancing With the Stars” 31st season celebration (Backlot Stage)

The Disney+ Innovation Lounge Presented by Imax Enhanced will feature innovations from across partners and products in a dedicated space to learn and explore the future of the streaming service. In the lounge, Disney+ subscribers and D23 Gold Members will receive a Disney+ collectible card pack featuring custom illustrations.

D23 Expo is sold out, according to the studio.  Select presentations will be streamed for guests at D23 Expo Live! For more information, visit D23Expo.com.

Cinedigm’s Chris McGurk to Keynote OTT.X Fall Summit

Cinedigm chairman and CEO Chris McGurk will be the keynote speaker at the annual OTT.X Fall Summit at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles Aug. 31 to Sept. 1.

Chris McGurk

Activities for this year’s summit, produced by the trade organization, include two days of conference programming, multiple workshop and breakout tracks, research insights via the research roundup, exhibitor booths and tabletops, one-on-one pre-scheduled business meetings, networking breakfasts, lunches, and industry cocktail parties.

The event will feature more than 70 speakers discussing topics such as maximizing ad revenue for FAST channels, progress toward better search and discovery, distributing and windowing content across business models, globalization of content, metadata, and rights management. Panels include “Growing Your Footprint,” “Distributing and Windowing Content Across Business Models,” “Progress Toward Better Search and Discovery” and “Fast Track: Maximizing Ad Revenue.”

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Research institutions presenting their latest insights include Comscore, nScreenMedia, Omdia, Slalom, The NPD Group and Vorhaus Advisors

The OTT.X Fall Summit is free for all OTT.X members and $500 for non-members. Media Play News readers can register here for a 10% discount using promo code FS22MPN10.

OTT.X Fall Summit Returning to L.A.’s Skirball Center Aug. 31-Sept. 1

The annual OTT.X Fall Summit will return to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles Aug. 31-Sept. 1.

Activities for this year’s summit, produced by the trade organization, include two days of conference programming, multiple workshop and breakout tracks, research insights via the research roundup, exhibitor booths and tabletops, one-on-one pre-scheduled business meetings, networking breakfasts, lunches, and industry cocktail parties.

The event will feature more than 50 speakers discussing topics such as maximizing ad revenue for FAST channels, progress toward better search and discovery, distributing and windowing content across business models, globalization of content, metadata, and rights management.

There will be multiple breakout tracks at this year’s summit for new technologies, small business, FAST, content operations and more. There will also be a special panel of college students discussing their views of OTT and their own viewing habits.

Research institutions presenting their latest insights include Comscore, nScreenMedia, Omdia, Slalom, The NPD Group and Vorhaus Advisors

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“Our annual Fall Summit brings all sectors of the streaming industry together to examine our current state and pave the way forward for our rapidly changing business” Mark Fisher, president and CEO of OTT.X, said in a statement. “Key industry players, big and small, participate at the summit to exchange business and expertise and get ahead of the latest trends in streaming.”

The OTT.X Fall Summit is free for all OTT.X members and $500 for non-members. Media Play News readers can register here for a 10% discount using promo code FS22MPN10.

OTT.X XFronts Event Spotlights FAST, AVOD Services

Ad-supported streaming services took center stage on the first day of the inaugural OTT.X XFronts event, taking place May 24-25 in Los Angeles.

The event is an exchange consisting of pitches and presentations by prominent and up-and-coming AVOD and FAST (free ad-supported streaming) platforms, networks and channels to an audience of brands, advertisers and ad agencies.

OTT.X president and CEO Mark Fisher said XFronts tallied nearly 400 registrants.

In welcoming the crowd, Erick Opeka, Cinedigm chief strategy offer and one of the creators of the event, said XFronts was designed to help “build the next generation of great streaming companies.”

“For years, the [ad-supported streaming] business was tiny, incremental and frankly a rounding error,” he said. But now with Netflix and other major streamers looking at ad-supported tiers, he noted, “The rest of the industry is catching up.”

Prior to a panel titled “Is FAST Programming Moving in the Direction of Cable TV?” TelevisaUnivision’s Richard Hull said that linear streaming was indeed encroaching on traditional TV turf.

“You’re finally seeing a transition of all the linear dollars on broadcast and cable TV starting to move over to these free ad-supported platforms,” he said.

Panelists agreed that FAST services were the new frontier in the linear TV business that cable and broadcast built.

“We actually consider ourselves as being in the cable TV business,” said Stuart McLean, CEO of FAST Studios, which features numerous channels and is soon launching the Women’s Sports Network. “All of our teams come out of the cable business.”

“But there’s the data to back it up on who’s watching when,” he added.

“That’s something that cable’s never been able to do, [serve up ads] customized for the user,” added panelist Anthony Layser, VP, partnerships and programming, at Xumo, the OTT service provider owned by Comcast Corp.

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Adam Bergman, VP of national ad sales for Vizio, which offers FAST services on its connected TV screens including its own WatchFree+, noted Vizio is a service just like cable “without the strings” and also pointed out streamers’ added power of data in serving advertisers.

“That’s my screen and my remote in your hand,” he said of the Vizio service. “I know more than anyone about what happens on my screen.”

Xumo’s Layser said the ad-supported business started to really take off in 2019. “The content doors started opening,” he said, noting that services such as Tubi, Pluto TV and Roku paved the way. “Since that time it’s very different in terms of the premium nature of the content,” he said, adding “more and more studio catalog is available.” Original programming in the space has also started to pop up, he said. Tubi has started to add originals, he noted with a nod to fellow panelist Sam Harowitz, VP of content acquisition and partnerships at Tubi.

“Our overarching strategy is to superserve passionate communities,” Harowitz said, noting that Tubi has a library of 40,000 titles. In measuring Tubi’s success, he looks at “the total view time that a customer is spending on our service.” Tubi is also built around machine learning, which helps to serve up better content to consumers the more they watch, he said, driving engagement.

While distribution is cheap in the marketplace, FAST Studios’ McLean said, “At the end of the day, you still have to have scale.”

As streamers jockey for distribution partners, carriage conflicts like those frequently experienced in the cable marketplace could become more common, said Vizio’s Bergman, pointing to the dustup between Roku and HBO Max.

“One will look to have the upper hand when maybe they shouldn’t,” he said, pointing out that carriers might say, “I am fine without your content if those are the terms.”

The first day of the conference also included company presentations with details about lineups, content promotion and other plans for the coming year. Presenting companies included FAST Studios, which highlighted the launch of the Women’s Sports Network with an ESPN and surf star; Cinedigm, which outlined its genre-based channels and a partnership with Roundtable Entertainment; Future Today, which highlighted its kids and family content; Plex, which spotlighted its new content discovery product; and AfroLandTV, which highlighted its African content and a move into original programming starting with an African food show.