Tech fears tackled at Cologne Conference

Speakers provide hope for new ad-supported TV model

COLOGNE, Germany -- Traditional television revenue models are crumbling, but that's nothing to be worried about, at least according a wide range of speakers at this year's Cologne Conference.

The main message to come out of the German TV festival and confab, which wrapped Monday, was that big industry bugaboos including Internet piracy and TiVo-like time-shifting technology won't mean the end of TV.

"Television is a parasite that lives on the back of other platforms," said MIT professor and media historian William Uricchio in his keynote. "The panic I'm seeing now (with regards to the Internet) has happened to TV before ... with the advent of the remote control and the video recorder."

While Uricchio acknowledged he thinks the traditional ad-supported TV model is on the way out, other Cologne Conference speakers provided some hope with examples of other profitable ways to produce drama content.

These included U.K. house Big Balls Production, whose "Kate Modern" online drama for Bebo turned a tidy profit by tapping advertisers such as Microsoft, Warner Bros. and Cadbury to bankroll the series of four-minute online episodes. Or German ad guru Friedrich von Zitzewitz, who produced a video blog for Volkswagen with hit German comedian Hape Kerkeling that went viral this year.

Daniel Hetzer, Fox TV Studios vp programming, added a note of caution, pointing out that online success stories still earn a fraction of traditional television shows.

"The problem is translating a successful online idea -- like 'Kate Modern' into the traditional TV model," Hetzer told The Hollywood Reporter. "That's very tricky, and no one has really been able to do it yet."
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