New media meets old at Banff fest


BANFF, Alberta -- Away from the majestic Canadian Rockies and the action on the golf course, new media dominated conversation at the various functions and panels of this week's Banff World Television Festival.

However, traditional TV fare was not forgotten, with a considerable amount of deal-making for shows licensed for delivery next year done at the Banff Springs Hotel.
Intriguing projects announced in Banff included an HGTV Canada-Discovery Planet Green team-up on 13 half-hours of "World's Greenest Homes," a lifestyle show about environmentally friendly homes from Toronto-based producer Cineflex Prods.

HGTV Canada also ordered Vancouver-based Paperny Films pilot "The Stagers," a series about professional decorators who revamp outdated homes.

Despite the deals, Anna Gecan, vp content at HGTV, said that what was most notable to her was who was meeting whom as traditional media executives and upstart new-media players discussed tie-ups.

"You had unlikely partnerships this week -- distributors meeting Joost, broadcasters meeting with telcoms," she said. "It was critical to meet with potential partners you never expected to do business with."

The elements conspired all week to bring Banff delegates together. A weekend flood advisory greeted festivalgoers, and that was followed by intermittent snow squalls and a gas leak that closed several downtown restaurants one night.

Away from the deal-making, the debate this week came down to those urging producers to ignore traditional television and create content strictly for the Internet and those insisting that online content needs to look and feel like TV programming to thrive on multiple platforms.

"Pick up a camera, and just shoot it -- you get it up there, and you can get millions of eyeballs on it," Greg Goodfried, founder and executive producer of the British online video series "Lonelygirl15," told a panel on new media. "If it's good and sustainable and you continue to build on a fan base, then you can monetize that."

But Stacey Seltzer, senior vp content at Joost, told festival delegates that the upstart Internet TV player aims to harness the best of television and the Web into one business. "Let's start with the premise of TV, the greatest means of community, and start with full-screen access and bring the advantages of the Internet to that," he said.

Traditional media broadcasters, producers and content carriers were urged on the confab to work together with new-media players to exploit new digital platforms.

Dawn Airey, who will become director of global content for Britain's ITV in October after recently leaving the aborted TV startup Iostar, told delegates that broadcasters have to get used to a world in which content is, and forever will be, multiplatform.

"The reason I joined ITV and took the role of director of global content is because I am infinitely excited about the possibilities of content in all its forms," she said.

On the market front, the festival started off with Canada's broadcast regulator ordering domestic media giant CTVglobemedia to sell off Citytv stations in Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver in order to earn approval for its $1.4 billion takeover of Chum Television.

Festival delegates expected that ruling to spark a bidding war for the stations. It never came, as CTVglobemedia within days sold the free-to-air TV stations to Rogers Communications for CAN$375 million in cash.

Overall, the deal-making in Banff was done by Canadians, and -- despite the best efforts of organizers to bring together Americans and Europeans to do business at this retreat -- the festival, which wrapped Wednesday, remained mostly a Canadian affair.

That was evidenced when Airey kicked off her keynote address by asking the audience to put up their hands if they were Canadian.

"Wow! I didn't expect two-thirds of you to be Canadian," she exclaimed, before calling on Americans to raise their hands.

"A smattering," she observed.