ORLANDO, Fla. — Cable distributors and programmers must find common ground on how to provide consumers with content on their terms, or risk customers migrating to other platforms to get what they want, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said at the CTAM Summit.
Feltheimer, speaking during a general session at last week’s conference, said new developments in technology, along with the availability of quality content, provides cable with a major opportunity. “The marriage of content, technology and choice now offers an unprecedented choice for consumers,” he said.
But recent high-profile battles between distributors and content providers threatened to undermine that opportunity.
“We can screw it up by being slow to recognize just how revolutionary the second screen is, and we can screw it up when all the constituents in our business are so focused on their narrow agendas that they can’t work together to look at the big picture,” he said. “What we need to do is find ways to work together to make our jobs easier, not find ways to make them harder.”
As audiences realize that more content is available on platforms other than traditional cable, Feltheimer said, the industry risks losing viewers for good if it cannot provide them with what they’re looking for when they want it.
“These days, an educated consumer may not be our best friend,” he said. “An educated consumer understands that if you or I don’t give him what he wants, there are a million other places he can get it. Once a consumer has left your ecosystem, it’s very hard to get him back.”
Feltheimer said the industry would have to collaborate to find new distribution models to best monetize popular content. He pointed to Netflix’s successful move to secure rights to series such as drama Mad Men — which he said costs Lionsgate $5 million per episode to produce — that didn’t generate great interest in the syndicated market. Offering past seasons of the series actually helps drive viewers back to AMC for first-run telecasts, he said.
“The business is no longer a zero-sum game,” Feltheimer said. “Today our industry is elastic, and we can all benefit if we work together.”
Feltheimer called for a better user interface for consumers to find-on demand content, dynamic ad insertion, and electronic sell-through for on-demand movies to entice viewers to watch content on all screens while monetizing the transactions.
He also said the industry should heed the growth of second-screen usage among young adults as a harbinger for the future.
“As we move to the smaller and smaller screens, our ideas need to get bigger and bigger,” Feltheimer said. “When our kids think about movies and TV shows, more often than not they’re thinking about [smartphones]. They may be second screens to us, but they are first screens to our kids, and they are the battleground to capture and engage the interest of tomorrow’s consumer.”