Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekly Review: South by Southwest 2009

Due to time constraints I skipped the weekly review last week but this weeks installment highlights some of the big news from SXSW related to online video, streaming and distribution. South by Southwest (SXSW, Inc.) is a private company based in Austin, Texas, dedicated to building and delivering conference and festival events for entertainment and related media industry professionals. Since 1987, SXSW has produced the internationally recognized Music and Media Conference & Festival.

In 1994 as the entertainment business adjusted to issues of future growth and development, SXSW added conferences and festivals for the film industry (SXSW Film) as well as for the blossoming interactive media (SXSW Interactive Festival). Now three industry events converge in Austin during a Texas-sized week, mirroring the ever increasing convergence of entertainment/media outlets.

The SXSW Interactive Sessions ran from March 13-17 and consisted of panels, keynotes, core conversations and new product announcements. View the full schedule here.

SXSW: Web Video Isn’t Killing TV - Digits - WSJ

While the popularity of online video skyrockets, a panel of comedians and technology executives cautioned that the content is still a long way from destroying traditional TV. That’s not to say that Web video isn’t changing the way TV actors and writers think about their jobs, they noted in a panel at the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas, this weekend. The panel — which highlighted the role comedy plays in driving Web hits — quickly expanded to assess the success and influence of online-only content in general.

Web Comedy Vs. TV Comedy: The SXSW Showdown! « NewTeeVee
To launch his SXSW panel, “Comedy on Television and the Web,” moderator Ricky Van Veen of opened with a provocative but arguable point: Unlike previous technologies, humor and not porn is driving the adoption of online video. What followed was a smart and (yes) funny conversation between leaders in web-based comedy and a couple luminaries in televised humor pondering how large web comedy can become compared with TV, and how the two mediums will influence each other. From the online world were panelists Van Veen, Keith Richman of Break Media, and Avner Ronen of Boxee; Meredith Scardino, staff writer for The Colbert Report, and B.J. Novak, a star and writer for the U.S. version of The Office represented for old teevee. Here are some of my other favorite highlights, arranged as a series of questions (sometimes posed by the audience or panel, and sometimes by me)

DVDs Still Crushing Digital Distribution (AAPL, NFLX)

Filmmaker Spurlock: Digital distribution revenues are 'pathetic' | Webware - CNET
AUSTIN, Texas--The Internet and the rise of online video have meant a plethora of new options for independent filmmakers. But, as has been well-publicized, the money just isn't there yet. A panel at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival on Monday highlighted that this is an extremely contentious issue.

"Digital distribution is not some magic bullet," said panelist Gary Hustwit on the success of his documentary "Helvetica," in front of a packed room of audience members that came from both SXSWi and its sister festival, SXSW Film. "It's not that because the film is available digitally it does well. It's because you do the work...because of that exposure, it did well."

In spite of widespread blog speculation that DVDs are dying and that digital downloads and streams will replace the physical medium in due time, filmmakers say that from the creative side, relying on these outlets--iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Joost, and SnagFilms, represented on the panel by CEO Rick Allen--simply is not profitable yet. In fact, in many cases, sales and revenue numbers are kept on the down-low. Morgan Spurlock, the documentarian behind "Super Size Me" and "Where In The World Is Osama bin Laden?," put it bluntly. "The reason numbers aren't released (for digital distribution revenues) is because the numbers are pathetic," he said. "The numbers are sadly low in comparison to what we expect from film and television."

"If you're looking to pay your rent, not so much, if you're looking to pay your phone bill, you have a great chance," Spurlock continued. "It's getting to a point where it's down the road from being profitable, but we're just not at that point yet."

Hulu Reveals Marketing Plans at SXSW - TVWeek - News By Daisy Whitney

Building on its Super Bowl advertising momentum, online video destination Hulu plans to launch another network prime-time ad for its site later this week on NBC and Fox.

At the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Eric Feng, senior VP and chief technical officer at Hulu, said the spot will premiere Thursday night. He’ll preview the spot at his speech at the festival tomorrow, Mr. Feng told TelevisionWeek.

The new ad is part of a broader marketing campaign for Hulu that began at the Super Bowl when the site ran its first national prime-time ad, which featured Alec Baldwin of NBC’s “30 Rock.” Then in late February, Hulu ran a second prime-time spot on NBC and Fox starring “Dollhouse” star Eliza Dushku. The goal is to broaden the reach of the site and to build awareness of Hulu as a site to watch TV shows and films online, he said.

Mr. Feng also said Hulu will be experimenting with additional interactive advertising formats later this year. “It’s all about efficiency and effectiveness and we want to be an engaging place for advertisers and users,” he said.

TubeMogul Blog » TubeMogul Wins SXSW BizSpark Accelerator Contest

SXSW event gives startups a place to pitch
Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator testing ground for 20 young companies

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Brandon Wiley had only two minutes on Monday to explain what his startup company Ringlight does, how it is supposed to make money, and how it's different from competitors. And it was all in front of a Web-savvy audience of South By Southwest Interactive Conference and Festival attendees and a panel of three critical judges. After telling the judges that Ringlight allows people to access files on their desktop remotely with no limits on file size, Wiley was given some no-nonsense advice."There's a lot of big players out there solving this problem in very sophisticated ways," said Don Dodge, who works for Microsoft Corp. and is a veteran of five startups including Napster. "I hope you focus on something that is unique and a market that cares about it that won't go to the big players."

Wiley was part of a new daylong event at South By Southwest Interactive called the Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator. The Accelerator allows startups to showcase their products and services in front of a live audience and panel of judges made up mostly of seasoned entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and even well-known tech blogger Robert Scoble, who recently left his job working for Fast Company Magazine to work at San Antonio-based Rackspace Hosting Inc., a Web-hosting company.

Brett Wilson, co-founder and CEO of TubeMogul, won in the online video-related technologies division at the Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator on Monday during South by Southwest Interactive.

Online video-related technologies: Emeryville, Calif.-based TubeMogul is an online video analytics and distribution company that provides independent information about video performance on the Internet.

Video: SXSW Takes a Serious Turn - TVWeek - News
Daisy Whitney's New Media Minute
Even the notorious fun-loving conference South by Southwest couldn’t escape the specter of the economy. Rather than sleep late and skip panels in favor of parties, South by Southwest Interactive attendees hit the show floor in search of advertising partners, distribution deals and new sources of revenue. Daisy Whitney’s New Media Minute report from Austin features interviews with Web stars Zadi Diaz and Alex Albrecht as well as executives at Hulu and Digitas.

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