“Content is King.” As a content creator, producer and owner, I like that saying. It places my product in an exalted and regal state. More than just implying pedigree, strength and value, it stands for it. In a time of uncertainty, it symbolises certainty. In an era of passing fads, it speaks of endurance. Sobhuza II of Swaziland reigned for more than 82 years, SpongeBob of Bikini Bottom, almost 14. In kid-years, that makes Sobhuza’s reign look like that of Louis XIX of France, who reigned for around 20 minutes, but at least delivered the audience to Henry V, who eventually reigned for decades.
I create content because I love to, have to. I think up a character and put it into a story. I think up a story and have to tell it whether in shorthand, on one of my legal pads or in a pitch meeting in our writers’ room.
But content creation is also my business and content ownership, my most important investment. As a business, content creators have been fortunate that as technology has propagated new platforms, the demand for product to fill them has expanded at a rate probably never before seen in human history. As an investment, broadcast license fees, merchandising and consumer product revenue, music royalties, ad shares, subscription fees should all comprise a “regal” annuity stream that keeps on giving. The king’s ransom of $4 billion that Disney paid for George Lucas’ content should serve as inspiration to don armour and pick up a sword, fight the War of the Roses and emerge as a “Kingmaker” like Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick did; or at least get on that Delta direct flight from JFK to NCE and attend MIPTV.
Content is King and I’m one of many Kingmakers, just like the Earl of Warwick, but with less priority for a good hotel room with Reed MIDEM.
But unfortunately for we merry band of Kingmakers in the 21st century, 16th and 17th century content maker William Shakespeare could have been describing the current state of affairs, when he wrote, “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” For lately it seems that the king that is content no longer sits on a secure and exalted throne. The baby boom of platforms and the need to fill them has caused a content creation explosion that could outpace demand, at least in regards to demand for the type that had been created for film and television and meant to form the basis of a library with revenue streams. Content is no longer the monarch that was meant to be unquestionably worshipped for decades as result of His inherent status as a divinity or at the very least his divine right. The old kingdoms are giving way to newly formed democracies, sprouting up everywhere, on our laptops, in our hands, our wrists, our glasses and probably soon implanted in us. Rather than enjoying long, steady reigns, content now seems to subject to term limits and recall. Content is no longer something you worship for decades. Content is something you chew for under three minutes, spit out and move on to the next piece.
Content is gum.
Rather than spin epic stories that begin in a galaxy a long time ago, I’ve got to catch their attention in the first 15 seconds and keep it under 3 minutes. And the people I’m telling my story to have to find me not in the few channels of a dial or even in the 100’s of a cable box. Somehow I need to stick onto them as they zip through the aisle of an infinitely expanding megamart.
As a content creator that needs to monetise my content, this creates the obvious challenges, but it also creates opportunity as long as I can make it flavourful and sticky and make a lot of it, quickly and inexpensively. Though the story telling might be different, at the heart of it, it still has to leave you wanting more. It’s fun to make kings, but it’s also fun to make gum, especially the kind that has that squirt surprise thing in the middle. And as far as in investment, the empire built over decades by Jedis and light sabers was only valued at $4 billion, the one being built by birds and slingshots is already thought to be worth $9 billion.
I’m a gum maker and not a kingmaker, more Wrigley than Warwick, but that’s not so bad when there’s more than 370 billion pieces of gum sold every year.
Larry Schwarz is the CEO of Larry Schwarz and His Band. He is one of our four MIPTV online producer ambassadors, all of whose posts you can read here. Be sure to look him up in Cannes; you can follow him on Twitter here.
Schwarz is currently producing Alien Dawn for Nicktoons Network and Team Toon for Cartoon Network. Both series, produced in partnership with Fremantle Media Kids and Family Entertainment, were created by Schwarz. As he explains here, all his company’s work is created indifferent of the platform where it may end up, be it online or on broadcast TV.