New York — Peter Tortorici likens the media business to being on a rollercoaster.
“It’s a ride that sometimes makes you want to scream, sometimes makes you want to throw up, and is never boring,” the CEO of Group M Entertainment said Thursday in a keynote conversation with B&C editor in chief Melissa Grego at the NYC Television Week Content Show. But that rollercoaster is “off the rails,” according to Tortorici, and nobody knows where it’s headed.
Technology is driving the pace of change, and we as human being are having a hard time keeping up,” Tortorici said. “We as business people are having an even harder time in reinventing our business models to meet the new behavior that we as human beings are engaged in as a result of what technology has provided for us.”
Tortorici discussed the accelerated rate of change experienced in recent years by the television industry, and contrasted that with comparatively static nature of the business a few decades ago.
“You had three broadcast networks, and then the fourth broadcast network came into being,” he said. He then described working at CBS Sports in the 80s, and sitting with his boss at the time, Peter Lund, as Lund read the trade publication Electronic Media. “Peter said, ‘Oh, this is interesting. Rupert Murdoch bought John Kluge’s Metromedia television assets and he says he’s going to make them into the fourth network.’ And then we started laughing, because it just sounded absurd. It really sounded ridiculous. But the laugh was on us, because I was also at CBS eight years, or more like 10 years later, when we lost the NFL to Fox.”
Tortorici also discussed the current state of the industry and how it is dealing with the rise of digital media. Asked by Grego about Disney’s deal earlier this year to acquire Maker Studios, he said, “In terms of strategy, I think it’s very smart. I think that being in business with an MCN that provides an opportunity to young, creative talent to do what they do, to make a business out of it, and to also be a hotbed of development that can mover into other larger, more monetizeable media platforms like television and movies and the rest is a smart place to be.”
Grego also asked Tortorici to offer tips on strategies he uses to help himself keep moving forward in the industry as opposed to looking backward.
“If you really want to be in this business, you have to be a person who has respect for analytics, insight, and imagination,” Tortorici said. He said that data will “continue to be an important part of the puzzle,” and that insight is needed to glean important information from that data and act upon it. And imagination, he added, is needed “to be able to do something with that insight that isn’t necessarily a straight-line approach from A to B to C, but from A to B to someplace completely different.”