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Communications.Management.Marketing

Truth Is Just Perception

Kevin Spacey Explains The Video Content Revolution

Audiences are taking over.

Kevin Spacey, star of “House of Cards” (produced by Netflix), recently gave a remarkable keynote address at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival 2013. He mostly talked about the future of TV.

Here are the best excerpts:

“Clearly the success of the Netflix model – releasing the entire season of ‘House of Cards’ at once has proved one thing – the audience wants the control. They want freedom. If they want to binge – as they’ve been doing on ‘House of Cards’ – then we should let them binge. (…) And through this new form of distribution, I think we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn: Give people what they want – when they want it – in the form they want it in – at a reasonable price – and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it; well, some will still steal it, but I believe this new model can take a bite out of piracy. (…)

The warp-speed of technological advancement – the Internet, streaming, multi-platforming – happens to have coincided with the recognition of TV as an art form. (…) Studios and networks who ignore either shift – whether the increasing sophistication of story telling, or the constantly shifting sands of technological advancement – will be left behind. And if they fail to hear these warnings, audiences will evolve faster than they will. They will seek the stories and content-providers who give them what they demand – complex, smart stories available whenever they want, on whatever device they want, wherever they want. (…)

One way that our industry might fail to adapt to the continually shifting sands is to keep a dogmatic differentiation in their minds between various media – separating film and TV and mini-series and webisodes and however else you might want to label narrative formats. Its like when I’m working in front of a camera . . . that camera doesn’t know it’s a film camera or a TV camera or a streaming camera. It’s just a camera.

I predict that in the next decade or two, any differentiation between these formats – these platforms – will fall away. Is 13 hours watched as one cinematic whole really any different than a film? Do we define film by being something two hours or less? Surely it goes deeper than that. If you are watching a film on your television, is it no longer a film because you’re not watching it in the theater? If you watch a TV show on your iPad is it no longer a TV show? The device and length are irrelevant. (…) For kids growing up now there’s no difference watching Avatar on an iPad or watching YouTube on a TV and watching Game of Thrones on their computer. It’s all content. It’s all story.

To say nothing of the audiences’ attention span. For years, particularly with the advent of the Internet, people have been griping about lessening attention spans. But if someone can watch an entire season of a TV series in one day, doesn’t that show an incredible attention span? When the story is good enough, people can watch something three times the length of an opera.

We can make no assumptions about what viewers want or how they want to experience things. We must observe, adapt, and try new things to discover appetites we didn’t know were there. The more we try new things, the more we will learn about our viewership, the more doors will open both creatively and from a business perspective.

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