Day: September 7, 2017

Media Growth Spurt on Agenda at Variety Entertainment and Technology Summit – Variety


Media Growth Spurt on Agenda at Variety Entertainment and Technology Summit – Variety

The rapid expansion of media and technology has made a profound impact upon the ways in which consumers can view entertainment. It’s this expansion — or explosion — that has dramatically changed the ways in which content is told and marketed, from virtual reality storytelling and 360-video space to over-the-top content and podcasting.

For Rob Hayes, executive vice president, digital, NBC Entertainment, the availability of NBC’s content via on-demand services like Hulu and YouTube is nothing short of game-changing.

“I like the user experience on those — Hulu has taken on an interesting approach, which is an OTT, TV-centric user experience, [while] YouTube is a mobile approach,” says Hayes, one of this year’s speakers at Variety’s Entertainment and Technology Summit to be held Sept. 7 at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. “It’ll be interesting to see how those evolve.” 

Coleman Breland, president of content experiences, FilmStruck and Turner Classic Movies, is equally excited by the array of formats available to consumers.
“Streaming is natural and common,” he says. “AR and VR appear most relevant and natural in the gaming business. And gaming is already on a very nice growth trajectory in entertainment spend.”

Kay Madati, executive vice president of digital media at BET Networks, sees the choices and formats as the means for his network to achieve its long-term goals.

“When I see all these technologies and platforms, I borrow [Netflix CEO and co-founder] Reed Hastings’ phrase,” he says. “He has always aspired for Netflix to be ubiquitous — accessible wherever you are, on any device, at any time. Whether it’s on linear or digital platforms, this is the future. If we cannot be relevant and find innovative ways to tell stories in all these different formats, we won’t be relevant in the future.”

But which element is in the driver’s seat: the tech or the content?

“If it’s organic to the storytelling or programming, it should be a natural experiences,” says Hayes. “It shouldn’t be forced.” He cites NBC’s “alternative and reality” programming as a prime example of both sides working in harmony. “‘The Voice’ is a very interactive show, and we’ve developed a companion app that really allows the audience to engage and even contribute to the results and the voting mechanisms. So when that feels right and organic to the story or program, I think it’s very natural.”

Marketing, too, can co-exist and work harmoniously with technology, if the interaction is a fluid and natural experience. As Breland explains, “the key is mastering the correct mix of marketing for a particular audience, being able to measure the activity, and possessing the flexibility to adapt and pivot mid-stream.”

The uptick in media tech in the last five years has provided an almost limitless number of content-viewing options, but with so many choices, consumers can start to feel overwhelmed.

“I think that a wide array of content may fundamentally overwhelm, but there’s no one person that’s going to be able to watch all the great things that are on all of the platforms,” says Madati, who believes that making sure that there is quality content for viewers and then “keeping them connected to why it’s interesting on a multi-platform basis is even more important.”

Breland adds: “How do we choose what content is worth the exchange of our most precious commodity of time? We’re witnessing some of the best writing in the history of entertainment, while at the same time, user-generated content — and that includes a simple photo posted on Instagram or Snapchat — competes for our time.”

So where does entertainment and technology go from this point? 

For Madati, it will be greater, more cohesive interaction between traditional media content and platforms like Netflix or Twitter.
“My crystal ball says that those ‘frenemies’ come together, and at the end of things, it’s about bringing content to people in a highly distributed fashion on the platforms they love.”

As Hayes sees it, television viewership will continue to grow while also exploring new venues of storytelling to increase connectivity. “I think that AI is a really exciting area and we’re in its infancy now,” he says. “Five years from now, we’ll see great examples from that technology on how it’ll extend an entertainment experience.”

And for Breland, it comes down to one question: “Will the best-produced show win [fans] or will a good show with the right mix of personalization and community, stoked by tech, prove triumphant?” 

Though colored by emerging tech and intelligence, the answer, he says, may still come down to personal choice.

“Each person will have to decide what degree of tech they want meshing into their entertainment life. But make no mistake, immersion and a deeper experience are becoming the norm.”

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Technology and the quest for sporting records – The Economist


Technology and the quest for sporting records – The Economist

Game Changer: The Technoscientific Revolution in Sports. By Rayvon Fouché. Johns Hopkins University Press; 264 pages; $29.95.

ATHLETES have always sought an edge. Ancient Greeks at the original Olympics wrote jinxes against their rivals on lead strips and ate raw testicles before events. Cyclists in the Victorian era dabbled with cocaine. The Boston Red Sox, a baseball team, are under investigation for illegally relaying signals to players using an Apple Watch. The great fallacy of sport, according to Rayvon Fouché, a professor at Purdue University and a former competitive cyclist, is that people treat it as “the last bastion of meritocracy”. In fact, as his new book “Game Changer” demonstrates, “it is really about how to garner and exploit the largest legal or illegal competitive advantage possible.”

Hiring a psychologist is an increasingly popular option (see article). But for those willing to cheat, the obvious source is performance-enhancing drugs. Mr Fouché claims that traditional anti-doping tests, which examine urine samples for banned substances, are obsolete. Just 0.5% of the competitors at the Athletics World Championships in 2011 failed tests; an anonymised survey published in August found that more than 30% of them admitted to having used illegal drugs in the year before the competition.

In the past decade sporting authorities have widely adopted “athlete biological passports”, which look for sudden changes in the blood or urine but rarely provide incontrovertible proof. Evidence of how easy it is to hoodwink them has come from Bryan Fogel, another cyclist-turned-commentator, whose documentary “Icarus” was released by Netflix last month. The film follows the doctor who masterminded Russia’s state-sponsored steroids programme, which was eventually busted in 2015, and shows the World Anti-Doping Agency’s incredulity as each layer of the deceit is gradually revealed.

Yet Mr Fouché contests the “perception that the most prominent technoscientific changes within sport have been pharmaceutical”. Much of the gain in performance can be explained by vastly improved equipment. Pole-vaulters are propelled by carbon-fibre rods; golf balls by titanium clubs. The author devotes a chapter to the body-length polyurethane suit manufactured by Speedo, a swimwear company. More than 130 world records were toppled in the 18 months after it was launched in February 2008.

“Game Changer” argues that the physical differences between competitors “may become so infinitesimal that athletic performance may cease to determine the outcomes”, and thus that technological advances are gradually eroding sport’s authenticity. The common solution has been to prohibit them. FINA, swimming’s governing body, banned full-length suits in July 2009. Anti-doping, too, has been a check on scientific enhancement. But doping is regulated with good reason. Erythropoietin (commonly known as EPO), a blood-thickening drug, was linked to the deaths of 18 cyclists in the five years after its initial clinical trials in 1986.

Sporting administrators have to draw lines somewhere. They are often blurred, temporary and unpopular. Mr Fouché considers the examples of Oscar Pistorius, an amputee runner whose prosthetic legs might have given him an advantage at the Olympics, and Caster Semenya, a female runner who was accused of being a man. The IAAF, athletics’ governing body, allowed both to compete after extensive testing but left no definitive precedent for future cases. Authorities are hasty to ban innovations that change the balance of a sport, and prone to dithering, as has happened with the constantly changing specifications in college baseball for aluminium bats, which give hitters more distance. Doping policy is equally erratic. Russian hackers have leaked hundreds of “therapeutic-use exemptions” (TUEs): certificates that allow athletes to take steroids for medical purposes.

With his “sporting publics” and “dominant narratives”, Mr Fouché is clearly writing for academics. Casual fans will be far more entertained by Mr Fogel’s Orwellian tale of doping doublethink. Nonetheless, Mr Fouché makes important points about sport’s growing grey areas. Athletes strive for the Olympic motto: citius, altius, fortius, or “faster, higher, stronger”. They ought to compete ceteris paribus—another Latin phrase, beloved of economists, which means “with all else being equal”. But that, as any wily Ancient Greek wrestler could have told you, is a fantasy.

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