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Recasting Content to Meet Demand

Aug 30, 2004  •  Post A Comment

The cutting-room floor is going away.

As content proliferates on multiple platforms-from the mother ship of linear television to the emerging media offspring of broadband, video-on-demand and wireless-content providers are mining their cutting-room-floor footage and recycling, repurposing and reusing material across the new screens.

As a result, many networks are in the embryonic stages of determining how to rejigger their production and shooting schedules, and more important, whether such changes can yet be monetized.

The key is to shoot smarter, said Channing Dawson, senior VP, emerging media, Scripps Networks. “We are starting down the road of how to model financially, how to handle the shooting and the logistics. How do you piggyback production so you can produce five three-minute pieces for broadband or VOD in an additional three hours? Do you set up as a separate shoot or a piggyback shoot?” he asked.

Adding an extra day to cull broadband content is most desirable. For instance, if Fine Living were shooting a wine special with sommelier Andrea Immer, the trick would be to add an extra day to shoot several minute-plus segments on wine tips, for instance, that become original content for broadband, said Kent Takano, director of programming, emerging media, at Scripps.

“[That’s] so they don’t have to worry about squeezing it into their production schedule,” he said. Still, TV is the big engine, and if Andrea Immer or Food Network personality Alton Brown, for instance, isn’t available for another day, then, “We are out of luck,” he said.

`Designer’s Cuts’

Discovery’s Web strategy is to offer a “DVD extra” experience on Discovery.com, where users can view outtakes and behind-the-scenes material from shows such as Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper,” TLC’s “Trading Spaces” and Animal Planet’s “The Crocodile Hunter.” Within the past six months, the number of streams available on the Web site has doubled and the number of streams served has tripled, said Bill Allman, senior VP and general manager for Discovery interactive media.

That growth, and the ad dollars that have begun to flow to the broadband platform, creates a base on which to justify added production time to shoot broadband material. For instance, the site offers “designer’s cuts” for “Trading Spaces”-akin to director’s cuts on DVD-where the show’s stars discuss the episode. That requires additional voice-over time from the stars.

In addition, the interactive media division hired a cameraman to shoot footage solely for online from the AFI/Discovery Channel Silverdocs Film Festival in June in Silver Spring, Md. The broadband unit also has filmed additional material from the TLC’s “Home Free,” an eight-episode mortgage giveaway competition, exclusively for the Web site.

The challenges are to both monetize the production of original video for broadband and not to cannibalize the core linear channels. “[Broadband is] still a tail wagging a great big dog, and we make a lot of money the old-fashioned way on TV and don’t want to jeopardize that model for this model,” Mr. Allman said. Still, Discovery’s CEO Judith McHale said at the last company meeting in March that Discovery needs to be platform-neutral.

Extended Production Shoots

Turner said it’s also in the planning stages of developing a strategy to use all of the content it generates fresh in new platforms, such as behind-the-scenes material, said Mark Lazarus, president of Turner Entertainment Group. “I think what we are doing and what most are doing is we are proactively planning a way to capture and catalog that material and present it to viewers in these alternative distribution platforms in a way that is compelling,” he said. “[The material] has always been there. It takes some planning and expense, and today there isn’t necessarily an easy path to [return on investment], but we believe experimenting and understanding the consumer appetite makes sense.”

Extra time and extra shooting days are possibilities. Earlier this year, when TNT carried some of the National Basketball Association postseason, its anchors would stay 15 minutes extra to shoot one-minute to three-minute pieces for AOL Broadband highlighting the next day’s game. The additional time is a “small increment over core production costs,” Mr. Lazarus said.

Advertisers are also grappling with how to shoot for multiple platforms, said Alan Schulman, chief creative officer of Brand New World in Alexandria, Va., which develops creative for new and emerging media. “We have to think about the rights implications of using any sort of assets across platforms,” he said.

As well, advertisers may need to expand their shot lists to create addressable ads, the kind that are targeted for different zones or neighborhoods within a designated market area. While cost does increase on the front end, “Imagine how much you save on media waste,” he said.