Verizon Communications vice president of content and programming Terry Denson has become the phone company's programming chief, recently adding oversight of content acquisition and deployment of Verizon wireless-phone and broadband services to his current duties regarding FiOS TV. Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead sat down with Denson to talk about Verizon's cross-platform content distribution strategies. An edited transcript follows.
MCN: Exactly what are you new responsibilities?
Terry Denson: The new responsibilities are primarily oversight of the acquisition and implementation of content strategies for [Verizon's] multiplatform operations, including mobile, online and video. Within each of those platforms there are a variety of disciplines that my team is also responsible for, such as music and games in addition to everything on the video platform from interactive to high definition to VOD.
On the mobile platform, I'm responsible for mobile Web, what we call our dashboard services, and VCast.
MCN: How much of a difference is it to work on new disciplines such as music and games as compared to your traditional role on the video content side?
TD: There is a material difference in stretching from a linear discipline such as Verizon FIOS video to a music downloading discipline or a ringtone discipline on a mobile device. So what I'm really looking to accomplish is trying to figure out ways to create an interdisciplinary content strategy because it's all content.
MCN: How do you accomplish that?
TD: Today I think everyone is working on cross-platform opportunities, but I've broken the evolutionary stages of next-generation content strategy into three categories:
One is a cross-platform strategy, two is an integrated platform strategy — which is currently a holy grail — and three is an interdisciplinary content strategy.
Cross-platform is simply what's happening today, which is having a piece of content available on each platform. But when you look at who can offer that cross-platform experience, there are few people who are executing on it. To be in a position to say we can offer a piece of content on Verizon FIOS through linear [cable] and VOD, but also on broadband and through Verizon Wireless, is a powerful statement.
The second part of the evolution is an integrated platform, where content moves from platform to platform. For example, I could be sitting in my living room watching the first quarter of a live football game, then go to my daughter's soccer game and pull out my wireless device and watch the second quarter, and then go to the airport and watch the rest of the game on my laptop. I can access that content from any platform and I can access it in real time.
Now that requires quite a bit of technical development, that's why the content providers and the distributors have to work closely together to create next-generation business models that are derived from that particular experience.
In the third stage — interdisciplinary content — let's take the Guitar Hero video game as an example. That game is popular among 6 to 24 demographic, but that demographic has no idea who Aerosmith is. So then they download Aerosmith songs, which creates a renaissance for the group's songs. That leads to an Aerosmith tour and all the derivative merchandising that comes with the tour. You've connected numerous disciplines together to generate new revenue streams, and we are uniquely positioned both as a multiplatform operator and from a corporate structure to be the most efficient and effective partner for a content provider.
MCN: Given those scenarios, do your new duties put you and Verizon in a better position to facilitate those negotiations with content providers?
TD: I think it takes the negotiation out of the negotiation, and in place of that it enables more creative-partnership type of discussions, because there is a deeper symbiotic relationship between content provider and distributor. As we get more into the integrated platforms, it will be more important for the content provider and the content distributor to actually work together, and that's where you really have more creative discussions. We're seeing that early on in some interactive discussions that we're having with providers. We recently launched ESPN fantasy sports [mobile] applications and we offered an interactive NBC Olympics application [this summer]. What's happening is we're heading into a new generation of content discussions in which the discussions are partnership-oriented because there's a better complement to one another as content platforms become integrated.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.