10 Things We Learned From Variety’s Entertainment and Technology Summit

Variety’s Entertainment and Technology summit featured a host of conversations surrounding the use of advertising in media and the ways in which perpetually advancing technology is constantly affecting how fans consume content. From “Spider-Man’s” departure from the Marvel Universe to Crypt TV’s possibly long future with Facebook Watch, take a look at the 10 biggest takeaways from the summit below.

Favreau Talks Technology

Jon Favreau aims to use today’s technological advances to better the entertainment industry.“I’ve been lucky enough to have the wonderful privilege of telling stories and having innovations of other people help me,” the director said. “I want to pass some of that to the next generation and help preserve what those who came before me are concerned about and hopefully get like minded people who are cautiously optimistic about the future to come together and be at the forefront of those innovations.

Spider-Man’s Future

Sony has a “long life” plan for “Spider-Man” including several shows and a separate universe, even after it’s split from Marvel. “Spider-Man was fine before the event movies, did better with the event movies, and now that we have our own universe, he will play off the other characters as well,” Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra said. “I think we’re pretty capable of doing what we have to do here.”

Longer Content Is Also in Demand

Younger audiences want not only short content, but crave longer length content as well.”The biggest misconceptions around young people is that they only want to watch two to three minute content. When Crypt started, partly because we didn’t know how to make good content, we were making 30 second to one minute videos,” Crypt TV CEO Jack Davis shared at the summit. “Now, we’re dropping 20-30 minute episodes and engagement’s gone up. So, it’s very hard to build that community that will engage and respect the art given to the audience, but once you do, they will watch longer because they have a respect for the content.”

Patreon Mulls Loans for Creators

Patreon may start providing loans to creators. Among other additions to the young subscription-based fan platform, Patreon CEO Jack Conte admitted the site may start providing loans to creators. “Nobody’s building for creators right now,” Conte said. “Even [platforms] that say they’re building for creators aren’t — advertisers are their customers.”

Artist-first Mentality

Thanks to social media, artists have more control and more say over their marketing and overall image-making than ever before. But it’s a two-way street. Some of the music industry’s most successful artists are those that are willing to bring fans along behind the velvet rope. 

“The world we live in now is more artist-first than ever before,” said Val Pensa, senior VP of marketing for RCA Records. “The things that are performing best out there are content that also has context.” She cited Halsey, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus as example. “The fans are showing that they do want to see the artists more. That has trained us to completely move with the artists, follow their vision and execute in a way that they see fit. At the end of the day, it’s that connection with the artist that is going to give us longevity.”

Taco Bell’s Marketing Muscle

As technology and social media expands, major companies have more opportunities to “feed the fandom” and in turn leads to big results like expanding audiences and more audience interaction.

“That was really our beginning of us really looking at experiential, ‘how can our brand really engage with our fans how they want us to engage?’ because they invited us into their lives,” Jennifer Arnoldt, Taco Bell’s senior marketing director of retail, engagement and experience, said of the fast food restaurant’s decision to open a hotel in Palm Springs for five days which saw bachelorette and 21st birthday parties as well as a honeymoon and an engagement.

Ads are Here to Stay

Whether the service’s revenue is funded primarily by ads or subscriptions, advertising and marketing are still key parts of the relationship between streamers and consumers. “People want what they want when they want it. This idea of ad-supported anything going away is just bonkers. As human beings, we want to discover and one of the ways we discover things is through good and responsible ads,” Eric Edge, Postmates senior vice president of marketing and communications, expressed at the panel.

Podcasts as Commodity

Podcasts have increased the amount of personal information shared between hosts and fans. Podcasts, for a majority of hosts, have become a way to increase an entertainer’s connection with his or her fans, comedian and podcast host Pete Holmes shared at Thursday’s summit, joking that he now knew many details about Marc Maron’s father due to Maron’s podcast. He also went on to share that he’s upset with the way podcasted and other content is being condensed for sound bites and viral moments. “I hate what’s happening to podcasts now — they’re all turning into 30 minutes because everyone has a deal. It’s the businessification [of it].”

Comedy Cultivates Viral Moments

For today’s shows, it’s not all about networks and the ratings anymore. Fellow comedian David Spade reflected on the creation of his latest show on Comedy Central, “Lights Out with David Spade” saying, “The element that wasn’t in the shows I did before is who’s in the show, how many followers do they have, and on the other hand who’s tweeting about it, what are people saying about it. That’s a whole machine. That’s a big part as much as ratings.” Actor Kevin Nealon joined him in the sentiment, adding, “It’s kind of getting to the point where the network isn’t the important thing. It’s turned into what’s going to go viral.”

Going Beyond Ads

The ad relationship is primarily between the company, the distributor and the fans — not the comedy or talent. The author and creator of “My Drunk Kitchen,” Hannah Hart, revealed how ads don’t always translate to dollar signs for content creators during the roundtable discussion. “Adsense does not pay people a lot of money. It doesn’t pay people much,” she shared. “YouTube has allowed creators to sell books, to have a TV show, to do tours, and that’s how I make money.”

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