Patricia Handshiegel

Digital Dish covers the ins and outs of an Internet executive moving into the television arena. Disher Patricia Handschiegel is the founder of Stylediary.net, which she sold to Stylehive.com in November 2007. She has a background in Internet infrastructure and technology business, was an advisor to Kaboodle.com (sold to Hearst in 2007), and has contributed as an entertainment/media business writer for Venturebeat.com. She’s also been an early visionary of professional Internet TV content since 2005 and is currently an advisor on several entertainment/Internet projects. Always an entrepreneur, she had a highly profitable babysitting monopoly at 11, lent her writing skill to students at 17 and landed her first published national article at 23.

She has also worked as a ghost writer for a national TV correspondent. At 22, she was recognized nationally for promoting the growth of women’s hockey and advised companies on creating hockey products for women. She’s been quoted and profiled in dozens of media outlets since and is currently developing two book concepts. A serial entrepreneur, she plans to continue to build Internet, entertainment and media companies, with the goal of promoting social change and charities. She is currently involved in the use of technology to help find missing and abused children, and has contributed financially to TheJoyfulChild.org and other organizations. She is the founder of Look|Shop|List.com (in development).


Digital Dish

December 2008 Archives

My Hollywood Holiday Wish List

December 28, 2008 6:50 PM

It’s said this is the time of the year when wishes come true. Here are mine for the coming year:

5. Networks continue to experiment and drive Web TV. The convergence of the broadcast television and Internet platforms are a "when," not an "if." It’s early, but the conditions make it a smart play if done well. Success or failure is all in user adoption. Look to what people who own Internet companies do and say, no one else—no “experts,” print journalists-turned-media experts, etc. Companies struggle with creating passionate traffic more from lack of understanding and approach than from it necessarily being hard to do.

4. More integration of Internet people into digital entertainment. A successful transition with the Internet platform and continued success in its traditional markets benefits all who work in the entertainment business. I think the key to success with this is for the industry to work with more Internet people in digital efforts versus with staffing entertainment veterans alone. It’s a matter of Google and XYZ Web startup on the resume, versus just experience on the entertainment side. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have people from the entertainment side, but a mix of both.

3. More parties and mixers. Where are the A-list entertainment industry events and mixers? I know of a few, but it’s nothing compared to the collaboration, meet-ups, parties and social gatherings that are always going on in Internet business. It’s less frequent at the C/executive level, but of the things I attend, it always seems to work. People make connections, share ideas and form relationships that can carry companies further ahead. I think it’s good for all business.

2. Trim the fat. All the layers! I understand that productions are big, complicated projects. It’s literally like setting up a carnival. But I’m not convinced all the processes I’ve seen on the business side are necessary. I’m not sure entirely yet, but as I work more and more in the industry, it seems things could be streamlined. As the market continues to be disrupted by the Internet, I wonder if organically it might.

1. Take risks. I know it’s harder to do this in entertainment than it is online, but not taking risks can be as detrimental as failing at something you try. Of all the industries I’ve worked in, entertainment and television by far has the most reach, capabilities and money, and I’m sure that’s in part because of its risk-averse approach. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it always works. Tons of people I know complain about a lack of creativity in Hollywood. Taking a risk is tough, but the benefits are there.

Why Is TV So Redundant?

December 19, 2008 10:26 AM

One of the things I’ve noticed is that despite tons of channels (which should technically mean a lot of programming options) most of what’s on TV is really similar. There are several shows set to the backdrop of hospitals and emergency rooms, dozens about fashion careers (and trying to make it in the business), and of course, the rich and privileged.

Of the said 300 million people in the United States, just 1% of the population are millionaires, yet somehow, if you look at TV programming our country appears to be full of them.
Well, sort of. At least when it comes to women-targeted concepts.

As I researched past programming for today’s article, I found shows like “Dallas” and “Fantasy Island,” which I guess in some way are the same as the modern-day affluence themes in “Gossip Girl,” “90210,” “Real Housewives” and all the other slice-of-wealthy-life shows on television.

Only back then, the upper class apparently rubbed elbows with average Joes by way of shows like “Roseanne,” “Family Ties” and “The Jeffersons.”

Now, even “Jon & Kate Plus 8” seem to be doing pretty well, and they’re feeding the equivalent of the four-on-four volleyball tournament.

I’m glad to see that at least in TV land, nobody’s struggling with 7% unemployment, bailouts and layoffs.

After all, TV wasn’t nicknamed the “boob tube” for nothing. Since the dawn of time, TV programming has aimed to transport us all somewhere. I for one like that there’s a lot of fun and fantasy. Everybody knows that Carrie Bradshaw could have never lived in a nice Manhattan apartment and Manolo Blahniks on a newspaper columnist’s salary (especially today). If only renting a house in the Hollywood Hills could be done working as an intern a la Lauren Conrad!

But seriously, I have been wondering: Why are so many shows the same when we have more TV channels than ever?

Even the most seasoned entertainment veterans I’ve met and know can’t seem to be able to pinpoint the answer. Some say it’s risk aversion, others blame the pitch. Far many more honestly shrug sheepishly and say, “This is just how the business is.”

Is it fragmentation? Something about the process? I’m curious and am going to be exploring more about how the business does its business to see if I can find the answer.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

December 16, 2008 5:01 PM

I think about television programming a lot these days. Doing so is a little like trying to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica. It’s exhausting! The industry is still fairly new to me and often feels vague and complex. It’s a lot clearer than it used to be but I can’t lie. I have never seen a more nebulous target.

First, there are two basic sides to the industry, which from the outside appear as one. One is the swirling vortex that is the people who create the content; the other the clean, almost sterile (but no less intricate) structure that runs it.

From there, it splinters into a million directions on both sides, which then move around. It’s like a giant ball with a smaller core in the center (those who run content) completely surrounded by an outer world (those who create it). In the center of the center is what everybody wants: a show on the market.

Once you enter this weird, watery world, it’s like being in a big, strange city and you’re lost in the car.

Only here, everybody you come across gives slightly different and sometimes contradicting directions. Some people aren’t really sure of the way themselves but will try to pretend to be just to get a lift in your vehicle. Should you make it to one of the formally assigned guides to the city, you also have to be careful. Each of them have their own way of getting into the center. It doesn’t always mean it’ll be the one you should’ve taken.

I’m getting tired just writing today’s post about it!

It doesn’t end there because, of course, if you do find that you make it to the center, it’s no easier as it has its own, different brand of spaghetti that can be just as complicated. I’m sure that in a lot of ways, this is because I just don’t fully know/understand the business yet. But sometimes the business mind of me stares at these things in wonder at how and why exactly they’re there.

I think I may have finally solved at least one big part of the riddle, and soon, I’ll know if I am right about the other. It still doesn’t mean that the work is done, for if I have in fact successfully found the code, the game’s still not up.

I then have to find, gather and put together all-new clues and pieces for the formula that unlocks the last level. It’s like playing “Tomb Raider” and you’re like Lara Croft.

What’s so unusual to me is that at the end of the year, the business shuts down. I had heard about this but didn’t entirely believe it. Now, here we are. For me, it’s very fascinating and wonder what all is involved. Is it just the talent agencies? All of the networks? Who? What?

I can tell you that this is one girl who won’t be asleep in her bed when this promised industry-wide slumber comes to town. When the cat’s away, the mice will play. With the halls empty, I can’t wait to see what I find out.

Is the Internet Creating a Scary Crystal Ball for Talent Firms?

December 11, 2008 11:44 AM

In my last post, I briefly mentioned that I have been hearing and seeing a lot of producers, writers and talent expressing interest in launching Web projects but that they’re unsure about how to do it. Many have said that despite agencies offering digital departments, agents/managers aren’t able to truly guide them on what to do.

This past week at an event, many mused about how one firm’s digital representative appeared as if he “didn’t have a clue.”

Not long before, at two separate business lunches with companies that have fairly solid brands, I heard a similar sentiment: When they met with talent firms, they left feeling unconvinced that working with a firm would bring any value to their project, so they decided to work without. It joins stories of managers blatantly lying about their connections and relationships, agents blowing off important calls that could have made money, and situations where reps didn’t have the experience to put a project together or push it through.

Increasingly, I hear more people talking about forgoing representation and working independently within the market. With the Internet offering the opportunity to get in front of companies directly, I’m not surprised.

It prompted me to write today’s post: Will the Web someday disrupt talent agencies? Is it already now?

It’s an interesting thought. I’ve heard that Angelina Jolie forgoes working with representation, but I’m not sure other stars necessarily could, should or would. It takes a great deal of work and time to set up and take meetings, maintain relationships, etc., and I know firsthand that agents and managers can sometimes open doors that could take months to otherwise do.

Doing so also requires one to be relatively business-savvy. Not everybody has that skill.

But as the barrier of entry to the market widens because of the Internet, and more move in from outside business verticals, I can imagine that in some ways, firms could be threatened. Given that I have heard even top talent talk about agents and managers being “lost” when it comes to pushing digital projects, it seems possible that new agencies with Web know-how could crop up as competition—and more than likely do just as well in traditional arenas like TV, too.

The business has a pretty set system. Once it’s learned, it’s pretty easy to make contacts and moves.

I for one would prefer to see talent firms stay in the game, though I have had my fair share of ups and downs with reps, too. Entertainment’s business processes can be easily learned but hard to navigate, and going it alone can leave one vulnerable to bad (and costly!) experiences. Plus, busy business people (like myself) don’t necessarily have the time to do the work.

Will any of the above points affect or change the business, though? I wonder. Let me know your thoughts!

Web TV vs. Broadcast TV, Part II

December 8, 2008 9:03 AM

In my last post, I mused about the differences between Web and traditional TV. It’s been almost a year now since I’ve expanded into the entertainment business. It’s been an interesting journey, and a lot of great experience.

Last week, I talked about how I love the broadcast side. Today, I’m all about the Web.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve got a few Web TV projects I’m working on. All are progressing. If there’s one thing the Web offers, it's plenty of bandwidth, which means you’ve got plenty of time and room.

As somebody who has created shows for both broadband and broadcast, the easier, more open opportunity of Web TV is a lot less intense and a lot less lucrative.

It’s attractive mostly because you can make ideas happen. There are no pigeonholed mindsets, no established trends people want to parlay into, no real limitations to what you envision or want to create. Price is a factor, of course, but since the cost and barrier of entry for Web TV can be low, it’s not impossible to make something happen.

Money is tight online, but brands want to get involved with the Web. The right vehicle and execution/Internet knowhow can net sponsors. I’ve seen it.

Hollywood executives have been coming to my company, 9 Group, in droves and many say it’s because their agents/managers don’t know what to do with the Web.

That’s understandable. I certainly couldn’t sell a script. Surely it can be learned, and many are making strides online, but it takes time to get up to where an Internet veteran is. Just the same, I’ve learned a ton about how to create a broadcast show, but I’m nowhere near the knowhow and contacts of a TV veteran.

When I wanted to make a broadcast TV show, I went to experts in the space. Why wouldn’t you do the same if you wanted to launch something on the Web? The ultimate combination, in my opinion, is a blend from both ends.

Another problem many have is an unrealistic expectation of budget and what they ultimately will earn. But smart players know that, like any other Internet project, risk can pay off later. I can say that when it comes to where a brand or sponsor wants to spend, they seek credibility, and that’s to the Hollywood veteran’s advantage.

The one area of the industry that doesn’t seem to be jumping in? Talent.

Big stars are a huge draw online, but right now the stars are benefiting tons of sites when that attention could be going direct to them. If I were a Jerry Seinfeld, or even a Spencer Pratt, I’d be all over creating Internet projects—and I’d work with Internet veterans to do it.

I’ll be posting more on this later because I think it’s an important topic. With the Web evolving to be a form of entertainment more than ever before, all of Hollywood should be eyeing a move in.

Web TV vs. Broadcast TV, Part I

December 1, 2008 11:43 AM

I’m in Chicago as I write this, in town visiting family for the holiday. It has been an incredible time. As today’s Digital Dish is published, I’ll be flying back to Los Angeles (weather permitting—it’s been snowing all morning!), then catching another flight for meetings on a Web TV project.

The way Web TV is packaged is a little different from traditional shows, which makes this meeting an important one. As I’ve said a million times in past posts, I’ve wanted to create Internet TV shows since 2005, in addition to the broadcast project I’ve developed this year.

Having now worked on concepts for both platforms, Internet and broadcast, it’s interesting to see the differences.

Web TV is obviously a lot easier, and I appreciate the wide bandwidth for launching projects. The audience isn’t quite as built-in, but it takes virtually nothing to create and launch a show online, or to maintain a production budget. The market definitely has become Hollywood’s now, as producers and creators find room online for pet projects. That has meant the quality and creativity have been raised by leaps and bounds these past few months.

I, for one, love it. What’s going to move Web TV ahead is an experience that mirrors what users are already familiar with.

With the exception of past productions like “LonelyGirl” or “Kate Modern,” I’m not sure it’s exactly happened. It doesn’t mean there isn’t still room for talented amateur producers armed with a digital backdrop and a Sony Xacti camera. But it’s an A game more than ever now. I’m excited to see everybody rise to the challenge, because ultimately, this kind of stuff will spark Internet television forward.

As a viewer, the second that viewers see a host playing with his hair, making faces or rolling his eyes in an online show, they seem to check out. It makes me glad to see online TV evolve.

I’ve constantly found myself no less in love with the traditional broadcast process. All those moving parts that keep me up at night, the network executives who seem so hard to satisfy, the standards and the sky-high bar—I admit I secretly love it. It’s like taking on the black diamond run for a skier or snowboarder. You’re wound up out of your mind, but the run is still awesome.

There’s an expectation of quality that goes beyond average. For an entrepreneur playing in the TV space, it’s an enormous (and exciting!) challenge—even if one wipes out.

Here’s what I wonder, though: As Web TV slowly matures and potentially proliferates, will it make broadcast development and production any easier? Only time will tell. I can’t wait to find out!

P.S.: By the time I finished this article, my flight in Chicago was badly delayed. I’m now skipping that leg of the trip and heading straight to the other city I’m scheduled to land in. Ah, holiday travel!