SXSWorld February 2016


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2 8 S X S W o r l d | F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 6 | S X S W. C O M f you're six years old right now, "television" isn't an entertain- ment medium, it's just a device in the living room. These days, with plenty of screens all capable of showing much of the same content, there's not much dif- ference between somebody's YouTube channel, an institu- tion like Sesame Street, and a kid-aimed blockbuster. When considering the future of television, the most impor- tant question to that kid will be: "Do you want to watch it?" Plenty of shows have bounced from YouTube and the Internet to networks like Comedy Central, but that's probably just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the blur- ring of the lines between TV, web series, movies and every other kind of entertainment you can watch on any of those screens. As we hurtle toward a world in which the things we watch are all streamed to the same devices, it's not just going to be the six year-olds who stop thinking about the legitimacy granted by a gatekeeper. And while that's important for audiences to consider, it's absolutely vital for creators. "What is TV? If we're talking about the future of TV, and breaking into TV, what does that even mean?" Dani Leonard, co-founder of film and television incubator Big Vision Empty Wallet asks. The answer is that it matters a lot less what platform you're on than it does how you cultivate an audience that can find you on any platform. "The successful creator, at this point in time, is the creator who owns his or her own audience, and has built and cultivated an audi- ence," Leonard says. "At that point, it doesn't matter what type of distribution a creator has." Creators who recognize that are the ones likely to find them- selves in a position to make the jump from the web to a broadcast network—or to be in a position where they don't have to make that transition at all. The kids with iPads don't just have a different per- spective on what TV is from people who grew up with arbitrary distinctions—they also have an advantage when they decide that they want to go from watching things on those screens to making things for those screens. "The younger generation is in an incredible position to start growing an audience now, because they've got 5,000 Facebook friends. We haven't been building that from the beginning, and building, engaging with, and activating your audience isn't just completely possible—it's completely crucial," says Alex Cirillo, Big Vision Empty Wallet's other founder. "Younger creators are really in a great place to understand, and grow with, their audience." Of course, that doesn't mean that in the future, every current six year-old is headed toward a future as a TV star, whatever that term comes to mean over the next decade or so. With increased access to the means of pro- ducing content, there's already a glut of material, and that's only going to be more true in the future. "There are so many web series, and the Internet is so saturated with con- tent, that you really have to work harder to stand out," Leonard says. "It'll be harder to be the next Broad City, or the next Issa Rae, because everyone will have to be developing content that's even more unique." That's good news, even if it might be intimidating to aspiring cre- ators. Because as the number of people making things increases, and the audience becomes people who are increasingly agnostic about what medium the thing they're watching originated on or was first intended for, the opportunities to find and monetize an audience increase, too. "There are more options now," Cirillo says. "You don't have to be on Comedy Central to make money off of your content. You could find a sponsor who will pay you for your content, or you could find a website that will pay to host it. You can find your own sponsors and make money that way, or you can use platforms like [streaming video service] VHX that can help you make money on your own con- tent, through your own website. Being on broadcast television will continue to be a marker of success, but it isn't the only way to make money." And ultimately, whichever platform a person uses can be fluid. While there may end up being a self-distributed show that has no need for a network and can make more money independently, net- works are still going to be looking for and offering good deals to the talent likely to make marketable content. "The networks will continue to use online platforms as proof-of- concept and proof-of-audience, and that's a really great thing for independent creators," Leonard says. "It gives us the opportunity to create things our way, and build our own audience, and it's a win- win, because it also gets in front of networks, if we should choose that we want to go that route." T Dani Leonard and Alex Cirillo will moderate the "Breaking into TV in the Digital Age" panel on Saturday, March 12. Part of the Future of Entertainment Conver- gence Track, this session is open to Film, Interactive, Gold and Platinum badges. Online TV Outlets Heighten Demand for Good Programs by Dan Solomon I Alex Ciril lo a n d D a ni Le o n a rd (l- r) J A H M E L R E Y N O L D S

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