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Content is king, distribution is kong. Be King Kong

In a packed opening session at OTTTV World Summit in London this morning, an expert panel discussed the rise of OTT and the effect it has on content production and distribution.

Panel chair  Marc Lorber - International Content, Programming Acquisition Architect at Lionsgate described his company’s role. “Content is in our DNA,” he explained. “We are entrepreneurs”.

He explained that excellent content was only one piece of the puzzle and that great distribution is vital. “If content is king, distribution is kong. We want to be King Kong,” he joked.

Lorber described the shape of Lionsgate, noting that it’s 2016 acquisition Starz was spending US$2bn on content this year alone. However, making your content stand out is not just an issue for operators fighting for the eyeballs of viewers, but also for producers to attract the attention of distributors and broadcasters.

Melanie Stokes, Joint Managing Director of Kindle Entertainment, picked up that point. “The challenge is with all these fantastic ops with these new platforms is how you make your content stand out. How do you as a small production company compete with that level of expertise?”

“The first step is easy,” she joked. “We hooked up with Lionsgate.”

The second part is much harder, she explained. “Identifying the trends and seeing what is coming up. You’ve got to do something that resonates with a global audience.”

She used the example of Kindle Entertainment’s upcoming Kiss Me First, a dystopian series following a girl torn between real life and a dark web virtual reality game that at first seems utopian, but then shows its darker side. “Not only are we looking at the tech or VR, we are also looking at a story that is very presient now. It mirrors the world today, be it Hollywood or Westminster. You really have to be in tune with what is going on in politics, global preoccupations. Younger audiences want much bigger ideas.”

Once you have a piece of great content, distributing it is no longer as simple as it once was. “It is my job to make sure you can watch it in high quality on whatever device you want,” Matt Stagg, head of content at EE and winner of the 2017 TV Connect People’s Choice Award said. “We had 4G a year ahead of others. But our go-to-market strategy was ‘it’s better than 3G’. Then along came OTT, as screens got bigger.”

Stagg described the changing viewing habits this bought about. One of these is “realtime video on demand, where you have video-on-demand released weekly that people want to watch together, but aren’t necessarily together”.

Another is what Stagg describes as “self-indulgent binge viewing,” where you spend time not necessarily at home watching the content that you like. “It’s not short clips, it is live sports and now premium content with subscription VOD.”

With the advent of 5G, EE is now looking “at what we can do with contribution. When we look at 5G we can build slices for remote production. We don’t have to send a full prodction crew to an event. We call it glass to glass. With 5G in the middle.”

In terms of selling that content, Charlotte Thorpe - Head of European sales Lionsgate, said: “Really you are still selling to the highest bidder, but one of the interesting things about the OTT space is that 75% of customer acquisition is driven by search. So if you are an SVOD series you need that content to be key in terms of search.”

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