Panel: B'casters need to embrace new media

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CANNES -- The relationship between broadcasters and emerging new-media platforms might be an uneasy one, but it is one the industry has to get used to, executives on a panel devoted to television of the future said Monday at MIPCOM.

"In Italy, we have working relationships with many of the telecoms companies that in some ways are our competitors," Sky Italia CEO Tom Mockridge said. "We have signed (content-supply) agreements with IPTV services including Fastweb and Telecom Italia, and we have mobile deals with Hutchison and 3."

He added: "Some of the commentary on these issues ignores the fact that the entire sector is expanding, and that presents a lot of opportunities. There is plenty of infrastructure -- our challenge is to provide content."

Incoming Disney-ABC International president of global distribution Ben Pyne said that broadcasters could attract new audiences by offering the same content on different platforms, adding that different viewerships were attractive to different advertisers.

"We place content on the ABC.com Web site for free 12 hours after it has aired on the ABC network," he said. "The average age of our TV viewers is 43, and the average age of people visiting our Web site is 28."

But Pyne said that the free-download model wasn't an easy sell initially, even inside Disney.

"When we first made the announcement at a cable market in Atlanta, I was a marked man for the next three days," he said. "There was a great fear that we were cannibalizing, but ABC.com and ABC shows have never been stronger."

Simon Kenny, the recently installed head of content at online programming outfit Babelgum, said that linear video streams viewers had to watch in the same form as on television were not attractive to a new generation of content seekers.

"Sites like YouTube have created the expectation that you get to watch really quickly and you get to search, and that is what audiences want. Longform is not the same."

But he said that while expectations are high, achieving them sometimes can be a problem.

"It's actually not that easy to get this all to run the way it is -- people thought it was going to be a miracle -- but we have had to restructure our systems to take account of saving, tagging and new levels of interactivity," Kenny said. "People expect the whole experience in video to be seamless, but it takes a long time."
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