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Lionsgate: Online Discovery Great for Long-Tail, Not Disruptive
Services like Netflix are giving new life to older titles, but aren't yet disrupting studios' traditional revenue sources.

Online content discovery is changing the movies that people watch, but isn't yet disrupting the traditional movie distribution structure.

Speaking on a first day panel at Streaming Media West, currently underway in Los Angeles, Brian Walsh, manager of the digital/on-demand team for movie studio Lionsgate, observed, "I don't think fundamentally anything's changing." Once movies are done with their theatrical releases, the pay TV and DVD markets still provide the bulk of the studios' revenue. What is changing is that new content discovery offerings created by all-you-can-view services like Netflix are making it easier to find older content that viewers are interested in. Since there's no risk, thanks to the subscription model, viewers are able to experiment with older titles and are sampling more older content.

"The new technology isn't changing the way people watch, but it's changing the length of time that things are on the shelf," said Walsh.

Prior to the current online content discovery offerings, a 15- to 20-year-old title was essentially gone, observed Walsh. Now, viewers are dipping in and sampling older library titles. Content discovery will be the next big wave, he added.

While Lionsgate has been experimenting with video-on-demand and day-and-date releases, Walsh doesn't think that will take over as the dominant model. People still enjoy the social interactions of going out and experiencing events as a group.

"You don't want to eliminate some of the word of mouth that's generated by theatrical visits," said Walsh.

Conversely, joining the social conversation often means catching up with missed content. On-demand platforms are essential for that.

Lionsgate has seen positive results with day-and-date releases for Arbitrage and Margin Call recently, Walsh said, because they were smaller releases, so online offerings let people who didn't have theater access see the films. VOD offerings are also positive to families who can save money by home streaming. For those reasons, Walsh sees VOD as a huge growth opportunity.

Walsh dropped a mini-bombshell on the panel with the admission, "I don't have cable," prompting fellow panelist Bruce Eisen, vice president of online content development and strategy for Dish Network, to feign leaving in a huff. While Walsh is currently experimenting with cord-cutting, he said the experiment wasn't going well. Online offerings lack a "specificity of content," he said, meaning that many channels aren't available over-the-top. Just as important, OTT lacks "randomness": viewers need to know what they want to watch with online offerings; they can't simply power on a set and let someone else decide.

When cord-cutters start buying access to favorite shows a la carte, said Walsh, they quickly reach the $60 per month that they'd pay for a basic cable or satellite subscription, without getting nearly as much as content.

"I think it's a good experiment to try for a while," said Walsh, cautioning that people will want to keep a cable or satellite phone number close at hand.


Content Discovery for Movies

TV Everywhere has changed the model for studios to drive consumers to their content. Join cable, studio, and digital distribution executives as they discuss how Facebook and mobile discovery apps are playing a role in helping movie viewers find what they want and share what they like, and see how satellite and cable providers are driving people to rent and buy movies digitally. Panelists showcase real-life examples and case studies, as well as provide expert guidance in terms of both planning for and implementing successful strategies and tactics to boost exposure and discoverability.

Moderator: Aaron Henry, Principal, Found Public Relations
Speaker: Bruce Eisen, VP, Online Content Development and Strategy, DISH Network
Speaker: Steve Polsky, GM, Flixster
Speaker: Brian Walsh, Manager, Digital/On-Demand Team, Lionsgate
Speaker: John Zelenka
, EVP, Revenue, Digitalsmiths