DEW: Communities Around Content Key to Growth of Video

Serving the communities around content is key to thriving in the video space, according to a panel session featuring execs from The Chernin Group (TCG) and related companies Wednesday in Los Angeles at the Digital Entertainment World (DEW) conference.

“What these businesses are about is a short cut, a sign, a place for people to come,” said Sarah Harden, president of Otter Media, TCG’s venture with AT&T that manages, invests in and operates media, entertainment and internet businesses. She noted that content is no longer the scarce commodity; rather attention is. “You’ve got to earn your way into an 18-year-old’s mind space.”

Tom Pickett, CEO of Ellation, an OTT video business that includes Crunchyroll and is primarily funded by Otter Media, said “every incremental way you can create deeper affinity” among the community around content is crucial to the business of earning consumer attention.

“When we think of the next generation of entertainment, we don’t think of it like Hulu and Netflix — just great content — we think of it as content and community,” he said, noting that the forums and engagement that takes consumers inside the world of their content keeps people coming back. Background info and programming about Japanese anime, which Crunchyroll specializes in, is an example of that. “If you’re running an OTT service, people can subscribe and people can quit. You have to increase engagement.”

The Chernin Group was built with an eye toward investing only in growth areas of media, according to The Chernin Group president Jesse Jacobs. The three main areas they focus on are premium film and TV content, emerging markets and what Jacobs said is the fastest-growing area, digital media. “We’re now in a world where consumers want to access content directly,” which they can do through mobile apps, connected TV, and TCG and Otter is focused on getting the best content to consumers in a direct-to-consumer environment and get them to pay for it, Jacobs said. If they can do that successfully with great technology and with scale, they “can be phenomenal businesses.”

George Strompolos, founder and CEO of Fullscreen, is coming up on 18 months of partnership with Otter Media. TCG was the first investor in the company, which was founded in 2011. It’s seen incredible growth, initially based at TCG’s space, he said. Fullscreen has since outgrown the space and now has 600 employees in offices in Playa Vista. As Fullscreen sees nearly 80% of their viewership now being on mobile, Strompolos says the introduction of AT&T as an exemplary fit. The arrangement has empowered them to create a diversified media company as the landscape changes. “There’s so much change and disruption in this business and we’re accepting that change, we’re not fighting that change.