Photo: one of VICE’s Shane Smith’s top quotes of the market, captured here by Euronews
“We are officially it. We’re going to be on all platforms. When it’s f*cking holograms, we’re going to be holograms!”
VICE’s CEO Shane Smith didn’t just wow the crowds of the first MIP Digital Fronts last week in Cannes: his speech was perhaps the most obvious declaration of war of all of MIPTV, addressed to traditional broadcasters and networks. In other words – and this is undoubtedly the market’s key trend this year – new players are now in the race for original content, be it news shows, scripted programming or documentaries. And guess what? They’re all digital companies; love to compare themselves with TV’s disrupters of the 1980’s (particularly MTV); and actually have very little to do with TV as we know it.
Conceived to be the first international marketplace for content produced exclusively for online audiences, the inaugural MIP Digital Fronts featured some of today’s most popular digital talents on stage. The showcase sessions included presentations from YouTube producers Rhett & Link, JacksGap, The Young Turks, Golden Moustache & Copa90, Maker Studios’ Stampy Cat and Chester See, and Dailymotion’s Freeride World Tour and Marawa the Amazing (click through for our full liveblog reports). More than the number of views they get online – mostly seven-digit figures which are finally grabbing traditional broadcasters’ attention – it is their ambition that struck MIPTV delegates: most of these digital players see themselves as innovators in major fields such as education and environmental defense, just because they can engage with their audience in ways that were not imaginable before.
— MIP Markets (@mip) April 11, 2014
Besides VICE’s stating that the only cause they’ll take position on is that of defending the environment, YouTube star Joseph Garrett (the man behind Minecraft character Mr Stampy Cat) announced a new “purely educational” channel with Maker Studios. If you consider his channel — essentially a pixelised cat giving guided tours of a videogame — is the second most-viewed YouTube channel in the UK right now, his potential to become the next big star of kids’ entertainment is huge. Unless, of course, it’s already happened…
“If you ask who the star is in London now, it’s not David Beckham. It’s Stampy!” said René Rechtman, president of international for Maker Studios.
And that young audience is quite a force for change. Talking about kids watching his Minecraft videos, Garrett said: “if you take their engagement and put it into a more productive space like education or the arts, they’re going to be involved in that, they’re going to be engaged.”
MIPTV 2014 was all about innovation on the tech side as well, notably on how broadcasters can make their shows more interactive. To mention just two examples, Atlantic Productions announced it would be making a version of its new Sir David Attenborough-fronted production Conquest of the Skies for Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset recently acquired by Facebook; and MIPCube Lab’s 2014 winner – France’s TVTY – offered to concentrate media power by monitoring TV channels, detecting its clients’ competitors’ TV advertisements, and then triggering online campaigns (see video below).
The shape of things to come was also clearly perceptible at MIPDoc, through productions such as Fort McMoney (click for full liveblog report), a project that combines film and gaming aspects in order to explore environmental issues around our energy usage. But the creators themselves admitted that their transmedia documentary focusing on a public issue wouldn’t have seen the light of day without public funding, in this case from the ever-innovative NFB/ONF.
— MIP Markets (@mip) April 6, 2014
Last but not least, who better than “the new media moguls” themselves to talk about this emergent world of digital production and distribution? During a MIPCube fireside chat (full report here), leaders of Cheezburger, Vimeo and What’s Trending explained their strategies, in what remains one of the clearest glimpses at the future that MIPTV offered this year. To quote Cheezburger’s Ben Huh (who built his empire from lolcats website I Can Has Cheezburger):
“When you’re a new media entity, you have to make a choice between going hard on content — diversifying your content offerings yourself — or going hard on tech and platforms.”
Huh, for the record, has chosen the latter. “The habits people develop on their smartphone will change the type of content Cheezburger produces fundamentally,” he said. “You have to go out there and make content native to the device of your audience. [A smartphone] is not a shrunk-down television.” Half a billion pageviews per month suggest he’s doing the right thing…
To conclude, this MIPTV showed that in many ways, TV is embracing tech better than ever before (Oculus Rift, Fort McMoney); but the wave of disruption coming from online video phenomena like VICE or Mr Stampy Cat could well transform the entertainment ecosystem like never before. Is the TV industry ready? Time will tell…