TV's New Age of Opportunity


Following are excerpts from the NATPE opening address delivered last week by Jon Feltheimer, CEO and co-chairman of Lionsgate Entertainment. Click here to read the entire speech.

Everywhere you turn these days, people are talking about how bad things are. Self-appointed experts are proclaiming the death of broadcast, the demise of packaged media and the decline of the box office. I guess the rationale is that if they say the end is near for long enough, sooner or later the warning will finally come true.

But can things be so bad when a simple idea for a Disney Channel TV movie like High School Musical can become a $2 billion franchise, or an $8 million film shot in the slums of Mumbai can become a runaway hit and an Oscar favorite? Or can things be so bad when shows like Mad Men, Damages, Dexter and The Tudors are coming out of a cable television environment that has tripled in size in the past 10 years?

Our media and entertainment industry remains vibrant and ripe with opportunity. You just have to look in the right places.

Television has never been better. The audiences have never been bigger. Programming has never been more diverse, or distribution more available. And, as a result, our industry has never had greater potential for growth.

Like many other businesses, we do need to rethink the way we make, market and distribute our product in a world driven by the powerful twin forces of digitization and globalization. We do need to remain relevant and vital to the new armies of buyers entering the digital marketplace of the 21st century.

And, most of all, we do need confidence in our ability to connect one of the most exciting products in the market today—television programming—with billions of consumers around the world who are hungrier for content than ever before.

Those who adapt best to the changing dynamics of the television landscape will be those who realize there are more television viewers today than ever before, scattered across more viewing platforms, more dayparts and more territories around the world. The ratings for the individual slices of the pie may have diminished, but the slices actually add up to a bigger pie.

And though the broadcast slice of this pie may have lost its dominance, it remains important. Just as I watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan with my parents, my entire family watches American Idol and Dancing With the Stars on broadcast. That hasn't changed.

But then afterward, my 2-year-old turns to Barney on PBS Kids, my 7-year-old son watches SpongeBob on Nickelodeon, my 9-year-old daughter downloads Hannah Montana on her iPod, and my 16-year-old converses with her friends on Facebook while watching TiVo'd episodes of Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill from The CW. My wife turns to a time-shifted Desperate Housewives in streaming HD on, while I beg for a few glimpses of ESPN in between everyone else's choices.

And for all the fragmentation, time-shifting and place-shifting, more eyeballs get cumed and more impressions are made than ever before—simply over a wider spectrum of choices and devices. The broadcast experience hasn't changed. But the larger context in which we view it has.

It may be difficult for some of you to think about opportunity in the worst economy since the Great Depression. But commerce continues, and the show will go on. Consumers are still spending but, likeeach of us, they're rationing their dollars a little more carefully.

Like each of us, they're becoming a little more selective in their purchases. And, like each of us, they're exercising the most awesome and dreaded weapon in their arsenal—the power of choice. They're wielding it not like a club but like a laser, to target the best, the most familiar, the most recognizable and the most appropriate to their lifestyle, taste and peer group.

The message is clear. A bad economy is the best critic on the planet.

The ubiquity and transportability of content in a digital world is also eroding national and cultural boundaries almost as seamlessly as it's eliminating the barriers between the television set, the computer and the handheld device. Billions of dollars are being spent around the world creating satellite, digital and mobile platforms to reach new and expanding audiences.

The promise of creating television shows that appeal to international audiences has never been greater. And opportunities to exploit the best product from around the world here in America have never been more plentiful.

However, there is one fundamental constant that no level of digital sophistication and no scale of international growth will ever change. If we remember that our job is to simply engage the voice of the artist with the mind of the consumer—no more, no less—we are less likely to go astray.

Our content is like no other. Unlike oil and gas, which have finite reserves, or electronic goods,which start aging the moment they appear on the store shelf, entertainment is a rare renewable resource.

Combine the timeless, evergreen value of this renewable resource with the immediacy of an impulse buy, and you've got an unbeatable one-two combination of the most powerful consumer sentiments on the planet.