Left to right: Louisa Heinrich, founder of Superhuman Limited; Daniel Ravner, founder/CEO of Practical Innovation, Sandra Lehner, senior social TV manager, Joiz Global; and moderator James Martin, head of social media, MIP Markets.
In this last session, the most buzz-worthy trends of the market — as identified by MIPTV’s social media team — are discussed and analysed by a panel of industry experts. As always, panelists first summed up a big trend they saw this week before diving into more general trends.
Heinrich observed fewer efforts to force digital talent into a linear world. “In the last few years we’ve seen traditional companies take talent from the digital world and drag them back into linear programming. It’s not worked out well. This year, traditional media companies seem happy to leave digital talent in its native environment and support them from there” while building audiences from those spaces, she said.
“TV is going back to being a TV industry,” Ravner said. “The search for the next big thing has quieted,” which he finds optimistic because “letting go really can usher the emergence of the next big thing.” It provides time to let ideas evolve before becoming worldwide phenomenons. “The ‘next big thing’ is a buzzword. Let’s just do television that works.”
Lehner agreed. “It was refreshing to hear Vice say they don’t have format fever,” she said, “and a lot of YouTubers said they just want to make content they want to watch.” She also saw changing attitudes about data. “Quite a few mentioned it’s not about the quantity of data but the quality — what people really like rather than reaching a big audience, like what TV tries to do with their TV ratings.”
Moderator Martin then went down a list of big trends that came out of this week’s tag cloud on Twitter. The biggest trend (that wasn’t #Cannes) was #MDF or the MIP Digital Fronts, but the week’s biggest tweet was this one from a Latin super-vlogger (which also encapsulates another big trend, #Authentic):
En Cannes para el MIPTV 🙂 pic.twitter.com/L5fS7PrcYV
— Luzu (@LuzuVlogs) April 14, 2015
“What do you think it means that new media stars can do what seem like banal things and make massive waves?” Martin asked.
“They’re close to their audience,” Lehner said simply. “They become friends with their fans. It’s like if your friend is going to Cannes, you like that picture because you have this relationship.”
“Back in the golden era of film in the early 20th century, stars were people who live in houses on the hills, and they could be as secretive as they liked,” said Heinrich, adding that this proliferated a culture of gossip. “Now it’s completely postmodern: We idolise people because they do something we feel we can’t do, or they do it in ways we’re not able to, but now it feels like someone you know, not someone with this separate life that you can’t possibly comprehend.”
“New media is mature enough that it has its own opinion about what a talent is,” Ravner observed. “At the beginning of any platform, the TV or media industries try to enforce the notion of talent: How to be talent, how to create it online.”
The difference is, especially in the case of social media stars, “Most of these stars are people who don’t have something to compare [their stardom] to. They naturally evolved with the platform and know better about how to become a media talent than people who create talents on different platforms.”
Another trend? #ADD. Earlier today, Bonin Bough of Mondelez called us the “most distracted society”. Earlier this week, vlogger Bart Baker said “people get bored in 2.5 mins until something crazy happens”, and in that same panel, Maker Studios’ René Rechtman said 87% of Netflix viewing on mobile is under 10 minutes.
“It would be a colossal mistake for us to try pandering to this,” Heinrich said. “Humans are adapting to this technology, which developed really recently. We’re trying to figure out how to cope. It’s leading to a lot of distractedness. But we’re already starting to see the reversal of that trend” — like spas where you can pay someone to take their phones away, or studies that find people are both addicted to, and resentful of, their mobile devices.
“There is a place in the world for things that require more attention and focus, and content that is more challenging,” Heinrich went on. “Maybe I’m wrong and in a few years there won’t be anymore two-hour movies. But the success of movies like Lord of the Rings suggests we do want long-form content. There’s just no context for those numbers.”
Not to worry! Ravner tried providing some. “The physical ability to watch something while you work, or while you’re on the train, requires content that is 2,5 minutes long. It’s a whole different use case” versus when people get home and watch TV for an hour, which used to be their primary viewing behaviour, he said.
Lehner built nicely on that point: “When I watch something on Netflix, I may stop under 10 minutes because I don’t like it. But when I like it, I binge-watch, maybe for 5 hours because I’m so engaged. Maybe that’s where the 87% comes from: there are so many options. You’re looking for content to connect with.”
“So maybe those numbers reflect channel-surfing in the Netflix age,” Heinrich speculated.
“Vice said they wanted to move into feature movies!” Lehner pointed out.
“…and also into mobile,” Martin added. The point? Don’t burn any bridges. There’s room for both short- and long-form content; what makes the difference is the context you’re watching in.
The next topic was #omnimedia, or a propensity by today’s stars to want to be on all platforms, doing a million things.
Heinrich saw this as an “extension of the previous thing: No boundaries.” Humans make stories, it’s how we cope with dying, and of course we’re trying to see what kinds of stories we can make on all the new technology at our disposal, she said.
Ravner saw the question more pragmatically: Experimenting with lots of things is a way to “Follow the money and try finding ways to capitalise on social,” he said. “It’s still a largely unanswered question.”
Lehner believes it’s because each platform has a specific purpose. “If I take a pic of the sunset in Cannes, I’d put it on Instagram. If I want to have a real-time conversation, I go to Twitter. If I want to give a sneak-peek but don’t want it to spread, I go to Snapchat.”
“Maybe people are trying as much as they can until they find what’s most comfortable and decide to focus just on that,” Heinrich said. “It’s ‘start big and focus down’. that’s the cycle of creativity.”
The panel then discussed #MIPNordics, followed by #Stars. A small snapshot of that conversation:
“We love a bit of hero worship,” said Heinrich. “These are people we admire, think are genius, wish were our boyfriends, whatever.”
Ravner said, “In a study of 2014, for four out of the seven biggest social networks, the No. 1 reason to join them was to interact with celebrities.”
Martin observed that stars are increasingly more active on social, which drove Ravner to observe, “A lot of crossover experiences don’t go well: Web celebrities that go into Tv, and vice versa.”
Heinrich felt that was natural. “If you pluck something out of its native environment, it’s unlikely to thrive. Just the way the world works, right?”
Maybe it’s because things feel forced, she speculated. “Compromises get made” in terms of format, or how long you have to tell a story. The story itself can be compromised when a medium is changed, but for TV specifically “we take for granted that we book things in certain slots. We still cut things up in terms of half-hours or hours or 15 minutes. When you try to move properties from one area to another, it needs to be considered: how much can you change before you lose the core of it?”
She emphasised the importance of both digital and TV world collaborating to produce the content of the future. “There’s so much they can learn from each other. It’s not about one against the other; it’s about them helping each other to reach their potential.”
Ravner agreed. “If you start an app today, your biggest challenge isn’t UX or servers; it’s marketing. In my experience, nothing gets an app noticed as fast as a good TV presence.”
The final trend was #antilove, which drew a lot from this year’s more — apparently — cynical Fresh TV format highlights.
“Most TV people don’t watch television,” said Ravner. “It should tell you something about the kind of television we get.”
But he added that generally, “There was only one show that had interactivity in it. TV is more comfortable going back to television, and I thought that was the most refreshing trend in a very long time.”
He felt it enabled formats to go back to basics, as in the case of Stripped, where youths live in a house without any belongings, not even clothes. Each day they have the right to choose one societal thing they’d like to have back. “That was so interesting,” Ravner gushed. “What do their choices say about us or them?”
“In the 50s, TV was all about pretending everything is happy, even if what was really happening was really twisted,” said Louisa. “Then got more complex. Maybe this is the next step,” she suggested.
“I’m not a huge reality TV fan, but these shows acknowledge that, socially, we are a bit screwed-up and struggling with ourselves. I also like the concept of Stripped because what does it tell us about ourselves? TV, when it’s not busy trying to get on Twitter, does really well. It can tell us something about ourselves and where we are socially.”
“The best TV is like that: just great storytelling,” Ravner agreed. “That’s a trend: Going back to basics.”
Contrary to this trend’s title, Lehner saw love between the lines. “One format I liked was Pray for Love, where they look for husbands/wives for priests. There are a lot of prod companies developing similar formats, like a Welsh format called Vicar Wants a Wife. So I thought the trend was actually love! Even Father’s Pride” (where gay sons try bonding with their intolerant dads in the South America jungle), “looked really powerful,” she said.
Ravner said that when it comes down to it, people use social to express something about themselves—even if it seems like they’re talking about you. “If I say something about Better Call Saul, I’m saying something about me,” he said. “If you want people to talk about you, make it easy for them to invest in what you’re doing.”
That’s a wrap! Catch up on all our live coverage here: miptv.com/live