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SXSW Report: 5 Tips for Tech Companies on Pitching Hollywood

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For video startups, getting a contract with a Hollywood studio is a holy grail. One South by Southwest panel helped young companies meet that goal by teaching how to pitch Hollywood. Led by Hiram Norman, vice president of digital media for Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Marketing, and Bob Mohler, senior vice president of digital media at Telepictures Productions, a part of Warner Bros. Television Group, the session offered a list of entertaining dos and don'ts.

"We love to work with young tech companies," enthused Norman, explaining that the execs and especially the on-air talent they work with, including Harvey Levin, Ellen DeGeneres, and Anderson Cooper, are constantly looking for fun and cutting-edge tech. But tech pitches often go wrong for a variety of reasons. Here are five tips the pair offered for crafting the perfect pitch.

1. Get to know the company

While it seems obvious, Norman and Mohler said that companies often don't take the time to see what exactly they executives they're pitching do. Pitch technology that helps that person's work get done better. To do that, be absolutely clear what that work is. More than that, know where the product being pitched fits in that work. "At the end of the day, it doesn't serve you very well and it doesn't serve everyone's time very well" if the product isn't appropriate for the executive being pitched," said Mohler.

2. Know the competition

Find out if the studio is already using a competing product. Otherwise, the problem might already be solved. Mohler explained that he gets pitched new video players, but that changing video players is a major undertaking. He's not going to go through that unless the new player is significantly better, not simply better in a few small, nuanced ways.

Pitch Hollywood3. Pitch to the studio's needs

Hollywood studios are trying to market shows, get viewers, and increase revenue. A marketing solution needs to increase the audience with measurable results. A revenue opportunity has to work with a proven business plan.

4. Timing is everything

Sometimes, tech companies are simply too young to pitch the major studios. If the studio say yes, they'll expect the product to be available that day, and they'll expect it to scale for a huge audience. Mohler told the story of a polling product he liked and wanted to use immediately with "TMZ." But the product wasn't ready and didn't end up being ready for over six months. By that time, Mohler had forgotten who he had spoken with and what the company did.

5. Don't let location matter

Hollywood is Pacific Time, the pair explained, and if they sign on with a piece of technology and can't get tech support when they need it because of time differences, that's frustrating. Companies pitching Hollywood should be prepared to shift hours around to accommodate Hollywood's schedule.

Despite the pitfalls, both Norman and Mohler said they were eager to find fun new tech that would work with their talent and their companies. For a look at what not to do when pitching Hollywood, they offered this video:

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