This is the first in a series of posts from leading and up-and-coming producers in the run-up to MIPCOM 2016. The posts are coordinated by TV business consultant Deborah Macdonald; connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Jacque “J.A.” Steel is an American (US) based producer, writer and director. She has produced/directed 4 feature films and 2 television pilots.
> What do you think is the most innovative thing in TV now, and why?
J.A Steel: Here in the US, the biggest thing for the smart phones is a video game called “Pokémon Go”. The Japanese had an anime series several years ago called Pokémon: The Series. I thought it was a very good kids tv show. Now, with everyone playing the mobile app, I see a resurgence coming for the TV series. When people are engaged with a franchise on such an intimate, interactive level, their interest is increased in the storytelling and the characters – that’s where a new TV show could come in.
> What opportunities does the development of new platforms and business models (YouTube, Netflix, etc) open up for your activity today? Is the playing field now more level?
I’m still not seeing the playing field becoming more level. It is very hard to monetize internet content. I have to go out and solicit brands to create “branded” content. Basically, I’m creating long form advertisements to promote a brand or product. To drive viewership to a channel there is also monetary outlay for crossplatform advertising on social media like Twitter and Facebook. The return on investment is stil low on the new platforms, unless you are Youtube or Vimeo. I have friends who have internet series who have tens of millions of views, but their money doesn’t come from the actual views, but sponsors they were able to attract to their channel.
I still don’t think the playing field is very level. There is still a certain need for the “big star” names to pull in the sponsors and the financing. Unless you are already established, it’s still an uphill battle.
>To what extent is the ‘traditional’ system (pitching to broadcasters and so on) still powering your business, and how do you see that system evolving?
I still pitch to broadcasters (or I have my agent pitch) in the ‘traditional system’. However, it is evolving with shooting “concept” videos as part of the actual pitch, uploading them to Youtube, and getting audience feedback. I still have have pilot scripts ready to go at a moment’s notice. But, I’ve also had to develop fuller marketing strategies revolving around social media and audience engagement. Now, I have to create a universe and storyline outside of terrestrial television that the audience can access online 24/7 not just when they are in front of their televisions.
> What is your favourite TV show/IP today and why?
My favorite show for the past several years has been “Criminal Minds“. It is still the only show I watch religiously. I really love how well the characters are written. The show still feels “fresh” even though it is now entering its 12th season. I always admire the shows that have longevity in this day and age. I also enjoy watching the reruns. There always seems to be some piece I missed watching the first time that was interwoven into the subtext. To me, being able to watch the same episode over and over is a sign of good writing. I admire good writing and characters over everything.