By Etan Vlessing
CANNES - As Kevin Spacey descended on MIPCOM this week to promote Netflix's ballyhooed original series The House of Cards, onlookers were asking whether the video streaming giant and other so-called over-the-top digital platforms were just dipping their toes in the water to create original content, or ushering in the future of TV.
The verdict: Don’t expect Netflix, Hulu, Google/YouTube to grab the first-run window from traditional broadcasters anytime soon.
Spacey, talking to the assembled media in Cannes, stressed the artistic freedom that he, as an executive producer, and his team received from Netflix. “Because this is the first time they (Netflix) are doing drama, they don’t even have the offices to do this compared with the other networks,” he said.
The big tease also came this week from Google/YouTube global head of content Robert Kyncl, who urged MIPCOM content creators to collaborate with the video streaming giant to bring viewers, advertisers and content together.
“We’re making as much revenue per hour as the ads on cable TV. That would not have been possible without brands embracing our advertising formats, which enable viewers to skip ads they don’t like, and advertisers to pay for only ads viewers watch,” Kyncl said while in Cannes to launch 60 new YouTube channels for content, including for Germany, the U.K. and France.
Hulu, which in its battle with Netflix for original content, recently commissioned the Morgan Spurlock series A Day in the Life, had CEO Jason Kilar in Cannes to trumpet that the video streaming service (which is co-owned by Comcast/NBCUniversal, Newscorp/Fox, Disney and other investors spent $500 million on content in the past year.
“We have licensed 46,000 hours of content from 400 partners. So my message to you is that we are active buyers of content from across the globe,” Kilar said during a keynote address at MIPCOM. Here the Hulu boss only echoed what content creators and distributors in Cannes already knew: the over-the-top digital platforms remain very much reliant on outside suppliers for their content.
“Is a rev share the future of TV?” asked one well-known Canadian producer in the Palais Wednesday, not wanting to go on record to avoid dissing Hulu, a major buyer of his content.
Despite Spacey’s best efforts to pitch House of Cards as a game changer for the VOD business these days, the Canadians insisted there’s little new in video platforms using some exclusive programming to keep existing subscribers happy and win over new ones. “Everybody needs exclusive content. There’s a percentage of original content that any digital provider would like to have for profile,” Abhi Rastogi, CEO of Toronto-based indie distributor 108 Media, said while in Cannes.
At the same time, he insisted an explosion in the number of digital platforms means the content business is broad enough to allow product to move between different portals during its market life. “It’s great for content. It can hang around on many more platforms, and consumers can enjoy it as they want.”
If anything, the Canadians want to see first-run content from Netflix or any other premium video streaming service succeed before they judge something a game changer outside of the traditional broadcast business and its connection to mass advertising. This is why Sony Pictures Television flew Spacey in to help shop the show globally, and screened the first two episodes to foreign broadcasters.
Also being shopped this week in Cannes is Netflix’s first original series, Lilyhammer, which portrayed actor Steven Van Zandt as an American mobster entering the witness protection in Norway.
Freelance journalist Etan Vlessing is in Cannes this week covering MIPCOM for Cartt.ca.