NewFronts: 16 Digital Execs on the Trend They Hate, Must-Have Apps and the Industry's Biggest Problem
THR asked top executives the same question and got some funny, surprising and honest answers about their viewing habits, the shows they'd remake and why everyone at the NewFronts in New York was struggling to define success.
This story first appeared in the May 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
The digital video industry looks a lot different than it did even one year ago, and it was all the more evident at the Digital Content NewFronts, where ad buyers packed into overcrowded event spaces, "engagement" was the buzzword on everyone's lips and it was trendy to scoff at TV.
While the entire industry converged on New York, The Hollywood Reporter took the opportunity to check in with 16 top digital executives, asking them to weigh in on everything from the headlines they want to see written to the trends they wish would end. Here are their responses.
How I watch television:
ZE FRANK I rarely watch anything on a TV screen. If I do, it is mainly Hulu or Netflix. Most of my consumption is on mobile — and most of that isn't really what I would call TV.
CHAD GUTSTEIN I recently bought myself a 75-inch TV set, which is really, really big. I like to watch TV that way, but I probably watch more video on my phone or iPad than [on] anything else.
MIKE HOPKINS On my Roku.
STEPHANIE HORBACZEWSKI I don't. I haven't turned on my television in the last month.
YNON KREIZ I watch TV where and when I want, rarely on a schedule and almost never while sitting on a sofa.
KEITH RICHMAN I haven't watched live TV — except for sports — in a long time. Maybe five years?
GEORGE STROMPOLOS What's the opposite of a cord-cutter? That's me. I subscribe to just about everything in order to stay current on the latest services.
To binge-watch or not?
FRANK I watch in spurts. I would say 30 minutes is the most I watch in a row.
JOAN GILLMAN A little bit of both. I binge [on] shows that I missed or that were on two or four years ago.
DAVID GRANT I hate binge-watching. My favorite shows I actually savor for when I really want to see them, and I try not to gobble them up all at once.
GUTSTEIN I'm watching Daredevil right now [on Netflix], and I'll maybe watch two episodes at a time.
ROBERT KYNCL Both. I binge-watch anything on Netflix. That's my preferred way to watch it. I would binge-watch [HBO's] Game of Thrones or Silicon Valley, whatever I could.
ANNA ROBERTSON Depends on the show: Other Space, Sons of Anarchy, Transparent — binge. Game of Thrones, Mad Men, The Americans — week-to-week.
The classic show I'd remake for digital is:
GRANT Not for PopSugar, but it would be fun to do today's version of Get Smart. I love that genre.
HOPKINS How can I not say Seinfeld?
HORBACZEWSKI I guess I'd have to say Sex and the City. It doesn't bore me, even now, to watch seasons one through six all over again.
REZA IZAD Three's Company with, like, Mamrie Hart, Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart.
WILL KEENAN I'm not at liberty to say, as I'm currently negotiating the rights.
DERMOT MCCORMACK The Bionic Man, but this time he'd be connected to the Internet.
DAWN OSTROFF Gossip Girl. [She developed it at the CW.]
STROMPOLOS Freaks and Geeks. I would set it in the 1990s instead of the 1980s.
JOHN WEST Magnum, P.I. — still the most classic mustache in crime-fighting.
The traditional movie star I'd most love to see on digital is:
HOPKINS I'm a huge action fan. If we could get Daniel Craig, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt — those guys are always great.
HORBACZEWSKI Tom Hanks. He crossed over with the Carly Rae Jepsen music video, and it worked. I'd love to see what he'd do in digital.
KEENAN Does Kendrick Lamar count?
KYNCL Betty White doing Epic Rap Battles of History.
OSTROFF Jennifer Lawrence
RICHMAN Anna Kendrick. She's super engaging on Twitter and has real personality. That's the type of personality that works in our ecosystem.
ROBERTSON Charlie Hunnam — talented, smart and captivating.
STROMPOLOS I'd love to see what Quentin Tarantino would come up with for online viewers.
The app I can't live without:
FRANK Google Maps, but if you were to judge by hours spent, it would be the game Scramble.
GILLMAN FaceTime to talk to my children. I'm a working mom.
GUTSTEIN OpenTable because I love to go out to eat.
IZAD Uber. I cannot live without it, particularly in New York.
KREIZ Windguru and Surfline are my go-tos for my water sports.
MCCORMACK My meditation app.
WEST Trello [organization app].
The digital trend I wish would end:
GILLMAN Advertising fraud. The industry needs to move faster to clean it up. It's holding back the digital industry.
GRANT Everybody claiming that they know how to reach millennials. A lot of people who say they're reaching millennials online are actually reaching teens.
IZAD The use of the word "content." In TV, you have a talk show, scripted series, one-hour drama, comedy. Until we move past treating it all as if it's one thing, we're not going to separate ourselves. "Premium content" is everywhere, but it doesn't really describe anything.
KYNCL I wish people would stop using the word "platform." Don't call YouTube a platform, call it YouTube. People relate to brands, not to business descriptions.
OSTROFF Fitness apps for wearables because I don't want to know.
WEST A focus on cord-cutters. Young millennials don't even know what cords are, except to charge their mobile devices.
At the end of NewFronts, the headline should read:
FRANK Next year it will all be figured out … promise
GRANT Not everyone is right for the millennials
IZAD These guys make really great shit for brands
KREIZ Go long on short form
RICHMAN I’d love to look at the headline in 12 months and have it read: Huge hits emerge from NewFronts slates
GUTSTEIN Machinima had the best NewFront
OSTROFF Digital-video networks are looking a lot like cable networks
If I could swap jobs with one person for the day, I’d pick:
HORBACZEWSKI I probably wouldn’t mind sitting at the top of Facebook for a day. I think some of the stuff that they’re doing is really interesting.
KEENAN The late, great Lew Wasserman. Or Brian Robbins of AwesomenessTV.
KYNCL I would say Elon Musk. He’s doing the coolest things in the world.
RICHMAN I’ve always thought that Dick Costolo had an interesting job because he gets fun stuff, but he also has real challenges, like ISIS using Twitter.
ROBERTSON Katie Couric or Diane Sawyer
STROMPOLOS DevinSuperTramp — every video he makes looks like the best day of someone’s life.
The biggest problem that the digital industry needs to solve:
HOPKINS We need to solve verifiable measurement in the living room right now.
KEENAN True convergence whereby traditional and digital-first happily coexist.
OSTROFF Being recognized for the same level of quality storytelling as our traditional-media colleagues, although that's starting to happen.
RICHMAN There are too many measurement standards. Is it views? Is it engagement? Is it subscribers? We're overwhelmed with data, and no one knows how to understand or analyze it.
WEST A common language and metrics around reach, engagement and activations.
The first thing I'd discuss in a room full of my competitors:
FRANK Who is buying lunch?
HOPKINS If it wasn't illegal, I would want to talk about the broadband market and what happened with Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
HORBACZEWSKI How do we work together? I don't think that we do enough of it.
MCCORMACK Seen any good shows lately?
You Must Choose: Apple Watch or Oculus Rift?
It must be the rarity of the Oculus Rift that has execs intrigued. Most said they'd buy the not-yet-available virtual-reality device over the recently released Apple Watch. "It would be cool to be one of the few people with an Oculus," says Defy's Keith Richman. But PopSugar's David Grant is a Watch fan: "When the Watch becomes a phone, I'll covet it all day."