Pax Tandon, Talent & Business Development
1. Pitch a strike
In a dog-eat-dog world where traditional television and multi-channel networks (organizations that work with digital platforms and their stars to help them monetize in exchange for a share of revenue) are going head-to-head for market share, it’s helpful to know what kind of meal the top dog wants to snack on, and feed them that. Real Screen gave us a major insight into exactly this, and the answer is…drumroll, please… brand alignment. Yup, it really boils down to marketing 101. Gone are the days of the hard sell, the quick pitch. These days it’s about building relationships in your sweet spot arena, and being very mindful about pitching accordingly. In a market saturated with content (notice I didn’t say “good” content, more on that later), networks want to distinguish themselves. They want to carve out a niche in the market, take ownership of that portion, and be the go-to for that kind of content. Like Comedy Central with funny personas who have their own shows. Or Netflix with edgy, high-quality content you can only get through subscription. Or Amazon with loads of options, including risky, non-vetted ones. They each have a specific brand to sell, and they want you to help them build that brand. So sit down, get mindful, and get out there and do some thoughtful pitching to the one or two networks where you know your creative project will thrive. If you’re throwing that pitch, make it a strike.
2. Likes over Love
We all know where television is going. Online. Multi-channel networks are taking an increasing portion of the market share of eyeballs as our handheld devices and laptops become as indispensable in our clutching fingers as that morning cup of coffee. This means we’re ingesting online content faster than we can sip said coffee, and taking in all kinds of new faces every minute. This also means that today’s pre-pubescent basement gamer can become tomorrow’s most-liked YouTube star. Folks may not be getting the most talented on-camera presence on their screen, but they’re following them anyhow because they’ve got an “it” factor. Maybe just enough “it” to hit “like.” They may not love them like they do their celebrity crush (I make a formal declaration of Justin Bieber here), but that’s inconsequential. For MCN’s, likes translate to eyeballs, and eyeballs translate to ad dollars. And thus is the next digital star born. This means that as you pause to consider what your definition of talent is, widen the playing field to consider those you may not have otherwise. In some cases, likes trump love, and there’s a goldmine to be discovered there. Don’t go following this philosophy when choosing a mate, but for the world of media, consider it written in stone.
3. When the Stars Align
I took a selfie with the Property Brothers. Oh, and one with Pauly Shore. Why am I sharing this? Because the Property Brothers are two of HGTV”s most iconic faces. Well, in fairness, they’re almost like one face so maybe it’s more accurate to say “two of HGTV”s most iconic face.” In any face, iconic they are and they were representing at Real Screen. And then there was Pauly Shore, goofy film icon from the 90’s popularized by such classics as “Son-in-Law.” He was clearly there to get a piece of the action, knew all the big network execs, and even spent his birthday sitting in on sessions. What does this mean? It means that tons of attention is going to reality TV. Here’s where you say, “Thanks Captain Obvious,” and threaten to close the browser. Wait for it!! A big slice of this attention is coming from unexpected sources- from networks and programming houses that haven’t traditionally been about “reality.” That means lots of new opportunity in a world that you might have thought was either saturated or just past its hey day. Take Nat Geo and Discovery, pioneers of realReality Television, known for shooting live animals in action in their natural habitats and such; they’re looking to be major players in this new game, shooting the “real” in a way that feels almost surreal -so beautifully produced that we lose ourselves in the fantasy. And isn’t this what we want at the end of the day? To get lost in the story and escape our own troubles? There’s a way to do reality now that’s more authentic to the nature of what’s being filmed, and that’s a good thing for you folks out there who want to depict reality as it really is.
4. Put the Excel back in Excellence
One of the things stated repeatedly at Real Screen ’16 was “it’s the best time to be a content producer.” Great news for an audience made up primarily of content producers. Before you grab that iPhone6 and start filming your uniquely shaped toes and calling it a masterpiece, take heed this caveat: we’re not just talking about any old content, we’re talking about quality content. It’s a saturated market and a highly competitive one, and every stakeholder in this situation, from viewers to networks to ad purchasers, are used to scrolling through mountains of content to find the gems. This just means the gems are easier and easier to spot, and we have little patience for the rest. Churning out excellent content is, of course, easier said than done, so use these helpful tips straight from the network execs to prime you for success: 1) Humor rules the day. When in doubt, make people laugh with your creative output and you’ll score a win; 2) Lead with the heart. As mentioned above, people are drawn to what’s real and authentic, put off by the overly contrived or affected. Keep it 100 and you’ll have their undivided attention and your integrity; 3) Listen to what your audience wants. We mentioned good listening before. It pops up here again because it’s one of the most important elements in building good relationships. And that’s exactly what you’re doing as an ace producer –building great rapport with your audience. So find out who that audience is, get to know them, and give the people what they want.
5. Uncalculated Risk
Hopefully you’ve noticed some recurring themes by now. Among them, that the media landscape is changing rapidly and intentionally – a sharp attention to finding where the needs are and filling them will set up any producer for success. However, for the true pioneers out there who seek to push boundaries rather than chase them, Real Screen ‘16 has some advice for you, too: before you head West remember that you can’t just be a pioneer, you’ve got to steer us in a completely new and unexpected direction, whether you think there’s an audience for it or not. You’ve got to be a pioSTEER. It’s a form of completely uncalculated risk; this strategy is all about going out on limbs and being unique. It’s a safer world for the risk-takers than it used to be, because it takes less and less to shock us as television and films get bolder and bolder. So it’s a solid strategy to take a risk and hope to set yourself apart. Once you’ve got those eyeballs, you can leverage them to continue to make the productions that matter to you. Because when you’re a pioSTEER, the productions that matter to you come to matter to everyone else. And that’s the best reward there is.