MIPCOM: Morgan Spurlock Praises Short-Form Digital as "More Lucrative and More Exciting" Than Traditional Mediums

Morgan Spurlock - P 2014
AP Images

Morgan Spurlock - P 2014

The filmmaker called out Fox's 'Utopia' for not challenging viewers

Hot on the heels of the announcement this morning that his Cinelan production company will partner with Paul Allen's Vulcan Productions to release the short film series We the Economy, Morgan Spurlock told MIPCOM attendees that short-form digital is "more lucrative and more exciting" than any other delivery method right now during an afternoon keynote presentation.

"For me, in terms of creating original content, there's no better place to be authentic, and there's no better place to take risks, and there's no better place to find valuable partners," he said, discussing his new partnership with Maker Studios to develop the branded entertainment channel Smartish. Spurlock framed it as a channel to bridge the gap between the content of TED talks and reality television, while joking that it was for people that are "too smart or too ugly for television."

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Online and short-form give documentary and nonfiction films with a message the most direct ability to influence viewers, he said. "What Netflix, HBO and others have done in the past few years is phenomenal. The bar for scripted television has elevated, and it's been raised on a global scale. And as it's gone up, it has raised all of our expectations for what's possible, and the same is now going to happen for nonfiction and reality programs. Quality fiction TV brings a desire for quality nonfiction," he said. 

He called out Fox's Utopia, which has underperformed, as an example of stale format programming that is becoming less interesting to viewers. "It had done well internationally, but premiered to less than 5 million, and since then numbers have fallen." Instead, he praised the BBC's Benefits Street as an example of compelling, informative content that viewers are craving. "Audiences want to be challenged. They want more, they expect more now."

The Oscar nominee called himself "platform agnostic," and advised any network executives in the audience to work on linear and digital projects with equal enthusiasm. "What is the best way to build value? Once you know your brand identity, own that space in every space possible. You need to be delivering and developing on multiple verticals and identities simultaneously. If you don't own your voice, someone else will," Spurlock said.