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Publishers Explore New Forms of Content at NY Media Festival

Online video is still in transition, moving from yesterday's cable dominance to a future full of choice and personalization. The content creators at yesterday's New York Media Festival had their eyes on what's coming next.

"People will start to put together their own bundles, and in those bundles there's always room for free," noted Eric Berger, general manager for Crackle. "I do think the trend to skinnier bundles is inevitable," as people don't want to pay for content they don't watch.

Crackle is now experimenting with virtual reality (VR) video, tackling it in three different ways: creating VR extensions of original productions, building a VR theater experience that can show 2D content alongside VR and 360-degree ads, and creating original content directly for VR.

It's too early to say which business model is right for VR, Berger said. Transactional sales will emerge, but some content will have no business model. Whatever the case, he sees VR as a great way to connect brands with an audience.

A post lunch discussion between reps from Facebook and NBCUniversal looked at the successful and unconventional marketing for Mr. Robot.

"It literally from day one hacked popular culture," said Alexandra Shapiro, executive vice president for marketing and digital, entertainment networks at NBCUniversal.

"Technology has changed the game," Shapiro said, impacting how and where people watch their favorite shows. Nielsen ratings are just one piece of the puzzle: The longtail now is about making money. Rather than simply being concerned with day-to-day ratings, TV creators need to "dimensionalize" their work in a way that resonates with popular culture—creating experiences, partnerships, franchises, VR video, and book extensions around hit shows.

Brands that treat their products like content have upped the competition, Shapiro said. TV creators need to push the boundaries and not fall into legacy behaviors. "If we've done it before, then let's not do it again," she said.

An afternoon panel looked at how popular online studios create shows and interact with fans, with no two following the same strategy. For this group's younger audience, having a relationship with favorite creators is important. Ashley Kaplan, head of content for Fullscreen, recalled asking YouTube star Michelle Phan what premium content meant to her fans. Premium meant anything that brought them more access, Phan explained. Online youth-oriented video isn't trying to compete with Netflix, but just be part of the content mix, Kaplan said. It succeeds when it fosters and encourages a relationship between creators and fans.

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