Ned Sherman Talks Digital Content and DEW on the Eve of the Annual Expo

/ Feb 9, 2015

Ned Sherman

There’s no shortage of events these days that aim to tackle the issue of how to effectively create, distribute, and make money from digital content. That’s not much of a surprise, considering how it’s still too early to have established models for digital — everyone is still experimenting and it’s important to share nuggets of insights, when they do arise, in a bid to continue pushing the industry forward.

Digital Entertainment World was founded by IDG World Expo and Digital Media Wire with that specific goal in mind — bring the relevant players in the digital ecosystem together and foster conversations, and who knows maybe some deals, too.

The focus, again, is exclusively on digital content, spanning video, games, and more. Now in its second year, there’s a lot more for people to talk about on that front. After all, from HBO’s decision to go over-the-top later in 2015 to virtual reality becoming the hottest thing at both CES and Sundance, digital is no longer viewed by old-school Hollywood and Madison Avenue types with a dismissive eye.

To dispense some thoughts on that, as well as what else to expect at DEW, we chatted with Digital Media Wire’s CEO and publisher Ned Sherman, on the eve of the now-annual event.

What’s the primary goal for DEW? For the industry to come together to talk about issues in monetizing content? For deals to get done?

We created DEW to address a huge need in the market for a well-organized first-class event where leading content owners from video, music, games, and media can meet with emerging technology and service providers, digital distributors and device manufacturers, to build the partnerships necessary to create and monetize digital content across platforms. As the event has grown and the industry evolves, it is increasingly becoming a new kind of digital marketplace where meetings are planned and deals are done.

Digital video is a pretty big field — from short-form web series to content produced by YouTube stars, to Vine, to the TV-like programming that the Netflixs, Amazons, and Hulus of the world are doing. How do you define digital video content?

Digital video content encompasses both the long-form, professionally created content popular on services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu as well as short-form UGC content popular on social platforms like Vine and YouTube that has given rise to a new breed of influential digital creators. Budgets vary considerably as well as the business models for monetizing these different types of digital content.

My next question then is: should all these different types be grouped together under one “digital video” banner? Or is it better for the industry to recognize that different formats require different strategies and models?

You’ve asked a savvy question and one that deserves a longer response than I’m going to give, but the short answer is that there are production, format, and business-model differences in how these different forms of “digital video” are created, distributed, and monetized — and while there is value as an industry in looking at the macro trends in “digital video” we also need to be sensitive to the differences and be careful not lump everything together out of convenience. 

At DEW, we have different sessions that address the different models and formats as well as macro discussions that look at the overall growth and developments in the “digital video” industry.

When it comes to the monetization of digital video entertainment, what remain the key issues/barriers for greater growth?

We are in the early days for digital video as a monetizable form of entertainment and there is no doubt that there is a lot of change to come. Better, more reliable measurement is a key factor for advertising models to emerge to allow for greater monetzation of the digital video. Among the other issues are piracy and the need more transparent and accessible licensing, accounting, and reporting regimes for digital content to grow in global markets.

What are your thoughts on where the measurement landscape is at the moment, especially with Nielsen and comScore each announcing plans to measure video programming across platforms?

There is great demand for better more reliable measurement and the announcements by Nielsen and comScore are an indication that the message is being heard loud and clear. There is a lot that needs to be done before advertisers and publishers alike can feel that there is a reliable and fair system for measuring ad effectiveness across platforms.

The startups selected for DEW’s annual pitch competition will get the chance to show their stuff at the conference, but off the bat which ones intrigue you the most, and why?

This year’s class of startups competing for the $75,000 prize at DEW is outstanding. With close to 100 startups competing, the 12 finalists selected to pitch on-stage at DEW have already jumped a major hurdle. Rather than call out one, I’d like to point that the markets covered by the group of 12 — among them OTT, social and mobile commerce, personalized video experiences, and VR — are indicative of some of the top trends that we are seeing in the industry as a whole. It’s a great a group and will be a highly competitive pitch process on February 11.

What are your top trends for 2015? And why?

If 2014 was the year of OTT, I think we are going to see more of the same with more content owners and broadcasters embracing OTT models — from direct-to-consumer offerings to new TV Everywhere applications tied to traditional pay TV — to meet the consumer hunger for video on demand when they want on it on any device. It is an exciting time for consumers and the digital video industry alike.

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