The ability to create great engaging content will continue to be the bedrock of a successful studio in the future, but rapidly changing technology will mean that interactive features, short-form content, data and international markets will assume greater importance.
"It still starts with great content, but millennials want all of these new interactive" content as well, "provided that the content resonates with them," argued Nancy Tellem, president of Xbox Entertainment Studios at Microsoft during a session called "Studios of the Future," at the Paley International Council Summit on Nov. 21.
With a number of sessions at the Summit focusing on the subject of big data, several panelists noted that the plethora of data provided by digital media would help them get a much better understanding of their audience. But they also downplayed the role that data could play in crucial creative decisions.
When asked about the different roles that data might play her current role running the Xbox Entertainment Studios compared to her former job at CBS, Tellem said that "it is all about producing content the audiences and consumers will want" and that both CBS and Microsoft used data to help with that process.
"We see what is downloaded and what are the most popular shows," she said. "But a lot of creative decisions can't be determined by algorithms.... If you had a formula for creating hits there would be a lot more of them."
Ronnie Screwvala, managing director, The Walt Disney Company India, agreed saying, that data was important but it was "difficult to create new creative elements and approaches if you are only thinking backwards to data."
All the panelists stressed that technologies was also having a much more important impact on business issues and that technology alternatives were pushing millennials away from high-cost pay TV bundles.
During the panel, Tellem noted that millennials were willing to pay for content they wanted but balked at paying for all the content in large bundles they didn't want. As a result, she said there was growing interest in free over the air TV.
"It is the consumer saying the bundle doesn't work," she said when asked about the impact of Aereo, adding that she didn't think Aereo would have had the same impact "if bundling hadn't got so expansive."
While Tellem and others highlighted the ongoing popularity of high quality long-form content, Ynon Kreiz, executive chairman of Maker Studios stressed the growing importance of short-form content. He noted that they were now producing over 100 original shows and that usage and revenue were soaring.
He said that they had more than 50,000 content creators and were about hit 5 billion monthly views. With about two thirds of their audience outside the U.S., international markets were becoming more important.
Kreiz also said that the dynamics of creating short form content were different than traditional TV. "It is a new medium," he said. "You have to think about it differently," adding that they had to get viewers engaged within the first few seconds of a short two-minute video.
Regardless of length interactive features would be more important. Tellem noted that their target audience was primarily millennials, skewing towards men aged 18 to 34, and she cited a study saying that this demo was much more interested in interactive experiences, both for content and ads.
"The important thing for us on our platform is to be able to connect with the user," she said.