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This session focuses on thought leaders who are diving deep into the notion of discoverability and making strides with creative answers. The experts discuss and show what they are doing to help discoverability with innovative start-ups, apps, tech and ingenuity.
Nowadays, the wealth of content has generated a discoverability issue. Of course, the same content can be on a number of delivery platforms, but each platform has its own requirements, and adjustments are often required, which can sometimes be tedious. Having a presence on social media is essential for those who want to broaden their online audiences. This situation creates the perfect setting for innovation. Flixel, for example, develops software to animate isolated elements in photographs (cinemagraphs). But, the quest for discoverability sometimes influences creation. And, in a context where content is consumed very quickly, we must be receptive to non traditional formats, technologies and tools.
TV and Radio host
Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the NFB
Director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts
Executive Vice-President, French Services, CBC/Radio-Canada
Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Flixel Photos
“The issue today is to be present everywhere, that’s clear.”
“I think you have to adapt the content to the platform that you’re going to choose. If you think of the way in which you’ll present content on Facebook, it’s not going to be the same as on television.”
“Today, we have access to such wealth that it is an issue to discover content.”
“The characteristics of digital thinking, it means no longer working in isolation, interdisciplinarity, the ability to move very, very quickly, to learn constantly, to change recipes all the time, in fact, this is not at all the mentality in which people my age were trained.”
“Delivery on our platforms helps reach many audiences abroad without even having a partner. We have a huge increase in the views of our films. We have channels on YouTube…this is very popular, especially abroad.”
“We are at a phase where most of our platforms have reached maturity. The next step: modernizing them, adapting them further to audiences, etc.”
“It is very difficult to increase the visibility of shows that you want to share in Canada or around the world if you don’t have a really good image on YouTube, and then, the production quality becomes a major challenge.”
“If the purpose of your creation is discoverability, what you are doing is advertising, not art. But, if you are producing art, and you have to worry about being discovered, you have to focus on something, which is originality.”
Anne-Marie (Translator): Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the second day of the summit, I hope you have enjoyed the first day of the conference. I am Anne-Marie Withenshaw. I’m going to be the moderator of this afternoon’s session.
Anne-Marie: If you want simultaneous translation, please feel free to pick up a head set right here.
Anne-Marie (Translator): Mr. Claude Joli-Coeur a leading figure in our film industry for over 30 years. Good morning, good morning. Wait a second I thought you were on the other side there. This morning you will be speaking with us as a commissioner for cinematography and President of the National Film Board. Simon Brault is also here with us. Director and CEO of Canada Council for the Arts. He has been active in this area for 30 years. Everybody has a microphone, that’s great. We also have Mr. Louis Lalande, good morning, it’ll be a little easier if I sit down, I can see you too. From Radio-Canada/CBC. And Mark Homza who is here from Flixel.
This morning we’re going to be discussing discoverability as we have been for the last few hours. We’d like to hear you as thought leaders, discussing these issues relating to discoverability. We want to hear your ideas, your solutions as to the applicability, the technology, the content and your ingeniousness is also more than welcome. So a short presentation, perhaps, for each one of your issues or do we just start with questions, I don’t know. Because this is a question for each of you. When you reflect on the issue of new platforms of distribution of content, how do you each take into account this concept of discoverability? Let’s start from the right hand side with Louis, rather from left to right.
Louis (Translator): That’s a good question. Clearly we have to discuss and reflect on this issue a great deal. Because we have so much content today I would start by saying that even in the French market today we are noting increased consumption of English language content, so that is also another issue. That is just showing to what extent there is so much choice. The first thing we need to take into consideration is content itself. On that note, I would even go a bit further and say, we really have to do something that sets us apart from the rest. Also, distribution, content is one thing but now distribution is also something else. In the case of Radio Canada on all of our platforms, and we have some good platforms, but we also have to make sure that the content is available on all available platforms. Including those of our partners, and in the Francophone market sometimes those platforms are our competitors.
Third, of course, we have thought about communications, of course, but there’s also the issue of marketing. You always have to think of a traditional communications and marketing platform and it’s a bit different for these digital platforms in the last few years we’ve created a social network platform and also we’re going a bit further in that respect. The fourth aspect, which is crucial that we always have to have front and center is the strategy of marketing for digital content, capsules, other things that are there to support the availability of the different types of platforms we can access so that we can strengthen that aspect of outreach before an event or during an event. That I think addresses that whole technological aspect that was addressed this morning. In other words, taking advantage of the advances that have been made, of course it’s extremely complex, we have a number of types of data that are available because of our platforms. There’s also a lot of data that resides among our competitors, among other distributors that distribute us, and that’s an issue because we have to make sure that we have access to that because we want to be in sync with changes and behavior of our listeners.
Anne-Marie (Translator): Speaking of these listeners, I think a few years ago one of the big issues was developing specific content for a platform whereas today the same content might be found on a number of platforms. It’s not that important, there aren’t regulations so much. We’re not going to watch short videos on our telephone, the same series can be viewed on a traditional television set but 2 weeks earlier might be on another digital platform. There’s no content devised for a platform. Is that true or not?
Louis (Translator): Well I guess that depends, I would say that on that point the issue today is to be present everywhere, that’s clear. Whether we’re talking about new platforms, of course of the new platforms we maintain content, we have short dramatics in this area, we also have audio which is Première Plus, which is our channel. It’s really a first for us, we have content that’s really quite specific that’s “à la carte.” These are not shows per se, so it can be done. But in terms of perception today, the idea of being available on all platforms, we’re going to have premium content because they’re the ones that are leading the way in this [inaudible 00:06:17].
Anne-Marie (Translator): Mark, you look as though you are more or less in agreement on that front.
Mark (Translator): I think it depends as we were saying. I think you have to adapt the content to the platform that you’re going to choose. If you think of the way the way in which you’ll present content on Facebook, it’s not going to be the same as on TV. The framing will be different, the way you just express the content will vary based on the audience of course but also you have to take into consideration the format of the platform. Whether you’re talking about Instagram or twitter, it’s very important to be available on all of these distribution channels. Various companies do make some mistakes, they assume that yes you’ll take an ad and you have it on TV and then it will be as effective on social networks and that’s not necessarily the case. Because as we were saying there is so much content, we are bombarded with content, so it’s difficult to really convey a message and have it resonate.
Anne-Marie (Translator): Each platform has its own language and codes, is that right?
Mark (Translator): Yes, absolutely and you have to use these codes as you say in consideration of what we want to resonate with that millennial group that has a very limited attention span. Based on our experience, you really have 1 to 3 seconds to grab their attention.
Anne-Marie (Translator): Yes, but once you have it, it’s really quite interesting. On one hand they have limited attention span but then they’ve got binge watching. They’ve got 3 seconds to win them over and then they’ll stay 10 hours in front of your screen.
Mark (Translator): Absolutely yes, it’s the way in which you reach out to these users. It’s with the splashes of content in a way. You target over all the channels in a micro format, so create micro moments. Sort of a micro experience if you will, they’ll then think oh wow that might be interesting. That’s the hook, that’s the trigger, and then that takes them to content that is more long form and as a user you’ve got that user’s attention. That person will engage with the content.
Anne-Marie (Translator): Mr. Brault, Mr. Joli-Coeur, do you share these views? Taking into consideration, National Film Board had a very popular app for several months. Mr. Brault, I’m not sure, with respect to the Arts Council if you share the views of Louis Lalande.
Simon (Translator): We find ourselves in another world in a way because the Arts Council does not do programming, does not have a distribution platform as such, or broadcasting platform and our rule is not a legislative rule. We directly provide direct support to creators and to these creation think tanks essentially that are affected by all the changes. Of course the issue of content, technique and technology, this is nothing new for creatives. If you look at classical French theater, it’s divided in a number of acts because it’s the length of time that a candle will burn that would light up the stage. It was affected by these factors in the digital era for the Canada Council for the Arts.
This sort of merging into the new digital era is a priority for us. It’s the relationship to the work of art that changes. As a council we can’t be focused only on the value of this work of art, but we have to look at the relationship people have with that work of art and that goes directly through this digital platform basis. It’s the way in which people engage with it, the way in which they discover these things, and what’s of interest to us. Of course, we’re interested in the world of digital media but we also want community digital work to be done. If you have a small town where there is an opera, where there is a theater, et cetera, that people access it perhaps digitally. That digitally accessing it would be one of the options available to people. There’s a lot that can be done.
We think about marketing and it is focused, of course, on a very analog basis. We’re very interested in these debates, they’re very important for the Canada Council because we are in the business of buying creative time. That’s what we do and it’s important for us to exist today. Given that we see that the digital model does not take into consideration creation time. We have to create a space for ourselves in that.
Claude (Translator): I did mention this in my introductory remarks yesterday but in 2009, when the NFB launched its platform, you have to remember that this is a big issue of discoverability, but it’s a rich person’s issue really. I used to be in film distribution companies as an executive and it was rare when we would have films that were launched, it would be on the screens then on TV, and then you’d have it on a VHS tape or Beta. Then you’d record it and the tape would last. We went from an era where there would be threads as inputs, we would watch them on TV Hebdo, TV Presse and other platforms. Today, we have access to such wealth it is an issue to discover content. We also realize that with strong marketing, for instance, YouTube, National Film Board, CBC, all these big aggregators are in a way meeting places. In 2009, our approach-
Anne-Marie (Translator): Well you were a bit of a precursor, which-
Claude (Translator): Yes. I looked at a screen save recently that we had done years ago, it was 100s of films, now we’ve got 1000s of films on these screens. There’s this issue of discoverability. There’s also this issue of this extraordinary access. We, since 2009, have been adapting, we’ve been on iPhones, iPads, Androids, connected TVs, we’re everywhere. From an exclusive market, at least when I was in film distributing, it was very exclusive, you would negotiate exclusivity with Radio Canada, when will Super Écran stop and where will you pick up and have rights. At this point, content has to be widely available, very widely available, that concept didn’t exist back then. That’s what allows us to be at this point. I think we’re at the stage where making content available, it’s like a large spectrum, now we’re a bit more focused so things have evolved a great deal.
Louis (Translator): I think that it would require some expertise that would be different. When you think about marketing campaigns, communications campaigns that are quite different because they focused on different types of audience on a different type of platform. I’ll give you an example, when we launched the second season of Série Noire we did it on Extra de Tou.tv first and on the same day, we did 3 launches. A traditional launch for the press, et cetera, a second social network strategy with micro content, and then in the end we had a garage party, at the end of the day. That’s something.
Claude (Translator): With coordinated strategies but they’re thought up in different ways. At the end of the day I think it has to be said that we reach out to far more people, we’re actually accessing far more people than we used to. The fact that 80,000,000 people could have access or have viewed them, our National Film Board films, I mean that’s extraordinary.
Anne-Marie (Translator): In the history of our work there was a great deal that was said about the ratings, has that been a winning strategy for you?
Louis (Translator): Absolutely. TV has never really suffered from all the interest people have in the extras. There’s issue of notoriety, at the garage party, we sold out on everything, tuques, t-shirts, everything went. There’s so many factors involved and we’re really happy with that. That means that you’ve got to think from a producer’s side, on the production side, on the production team’s side, everyone has to be involved. Yes, people can, it’s just exhausting perhaps. Have a good series, it’s well written, and it will be on TV, well that no longer exists.
Simon (Translator): Especially as young users on this issue, and I try to say this often, is that if we’re going to do things in this way we have to have a creative ecosystem here. Série Noire these are people that I know, they’re people that are musicians, actors, theater people, these are people that we know. If that ecosystem does not exist, that Netflix is not financing, and that the web is obviously by definition not financing either, that means you’re going to feel a bit of pain in that sense. This is something that’s of great interest to us. We maintained it through direct support and quota. We know that the universe has changed but we need to be able to act to make sure that creatives have the time they need to develop their work. Otherwise, we end up in the situation, it simply has to be said, it’s not as though creation, you can come up with something overnight in a second.
Claude (Translator): When you watch say Netflix or Tou.tv or National Film Board, this is something that was financed on a traditional basis and if this funding basis is at risk or if there’s slippage in that area then there’s going to be a real dearth of potential. When you look at all those British Series that are on Netflix, they have been funded through a public funding system. Everywhere. So it’s not just these American series that exist in the ecosystem. If there were to be a drop in traditional funding then it’s going to asphyxiate our industry.
Anne-Marie (Translator): Absolutely. I’d like to get back to the user experience, these young users, they use their mobile phones or tablets, et cetera and their user experience is really important. Not so much, perhaps not as much as content, but that’s sort of the way you reach out to them. It’s a hook essentially. How do you strike that balance between the needs of this new generation of users and your creative content approach? How much weight do you give that user experience when you’re creating new platforms, or new technologies in the case of Mark?
Louis (Translator): On that front, I think it’s important. Everything we do has to take into consideration this fundamental fact that today we have to experience these changes in consumption along with the generations that are going through this. This is just the way things are, of course there’s a new project we test it. We don’t announce it, we test it. We take advice and in fact that’s the way in which we approach things. It’s a bit of an internal revolution in a way because this is not how we habitually used to do things. A few months ago we launched Premiere PLUS, we did a soft launch because we’re kind of in a beta mode and when we launch the application we will have already acquired a lot of user data and comments in order to improve the whole thing. It’s part of the process, it’s another approach that you use, it’s unavoidable. It’s more humble maybe, I would say humble. The idea of listening to others, it seems simple but here we have this incredible way to listen to them because we’re constantly in contact with them.
Anne-Marie (Translator): In Mark’s case, where you have to turn to these brands and convince them of something perhaps they’re less humble as to their needs, what they want. Do you find that they’re more receptive to perhaps listen to content creators, take into consideration these factors?
Mark (Translator): Brands always want to have a return on investment. We are one technology format that is not traditional in the audio visual sense. Anything traditional content creation, this is a bit foreign to us. Even the way we were funded as a startup was quite particular, quite unusual. Our reality is that we want to create content as quickly as possible because when you work with marketing directors, whether we’re talking, we have clients like HBO, Netflix, for them what really matters is to create content for social networks that is very effective at a reduced cost and that will be impactful. Something that will resonate with their audience. That’s why we presented this technology that is able to meet that need. It’s that speed that effectiveness of technology that would be accessible, easy, not only for those brands that have major budgets but also SMEs. These small companies, these small producers so they can compete with CBS, and Universal Studios and et cetera.
Anne-Marie (Translator): Does everyone know what Flixel does? Well no, just to perhaps to give you the context I realize that- what do you do?
Mark (Translator): We are a software developer. We’re kind of like the Adobe Photoshop of animation. Cinemagraph, which is a static image with isolated elements that become animated, so it’s a hybrid in a way. It’s a fancy GIF, isn’t it? Sometimes I try to explain this to people, it’s like a fancy GIF. Highly stylized GIF. In 2011, we used the GIF format because that was all that was available and now, it’s a non-traditional form but it’s video essentially. Since Facebook allowed auto-play, auto-looping, it has really changed the way in which we do business. What we do really is we sell this kind of software so that marketers in the TV industry, to create effective and quick marketing campaigns there’s a need for content, it has to be up quickly, there’s just not enough. They want to keep up with the demand. You could be on all social networks, we’re talking about twitter, Instagram, Vine, and you have to adapt things, code it up to their platforms. That’s huge. It’s quite a burden, and you have to do it quickly. Some of our clients will push 300 or 400 images, or assets as we call them, we’re talking GIFs, photos, videos, et cetera, we’re talking 300-400 per day. It’s huge, it’s exhausting. I’m thinking of clients like ESPN or The Score, big publishers.
Anne-Marie (Translator): For an ESPN or a The Score what exactly would your job be?
Mark (Translator): For instance, for The Score, they need content. They’ll need content for a number of apps. For iPhone, Android, and they do marketing campaigns to get user acquisition. So for instance, if they use our services they’ll use cinemagraphs for their web campaign, for their banners, for the social networks, for the websites. So it’s a huge amount of content that has to be created and the truth of the matter is that time is of the essence. Turn around for the content is an issue. We need to, if we have any tools available to increase turn around then that’s great. It allows us to evolve in this ecosystem. It can’t be said that every marketing director has expertise in Photoshop or After Effects. That type of expertise that certain people have is very costly. We’re trying to, in fact, democratize advertising.
Anne-Marie (Translator): Perhaps we can get back to what you’re saying, Mr. Joli-Coeur. Because there are traditional methods, for instance cable, via satellite, that still take up a perhaps large share of the market, but then there are some significant players like Apple and Netflix that are providing new content solutions for Canadian content creators, is the future a concern to you? As something that’s always being referred to, something people are constantly thinking about? I think that’s sort of a door you somewhat slid open, Mr. Brault, are you seriously concerned?
Simon (Translator): I’m not concerned, in so far as, even people who say, for instance the work that you do, Mark, so many other people do. They can do it, even Netflix in the US, they can do it so long as the talent that they seek, expertise exists where they want to do it. That talent and that expertise arises out of some institutions, for instance Julliard in the case of Kevin Spacey, and other institutions. I think institutions have an important role to play, increasingly so. The transformation of our institutions is one of the big issues in the digital realm. If these institutions can’t find a way to reinvent themselves then it causes great problems. I think creation as such hasn’t really changed in the digital era, having a good idea, finding it, interpreting it, expressing it. When I left the École Nationale you were training actors for video games because we realized gamers don’t like bad guys that are really caricatures. Actually we have excellent theater professionals that play those bad guy roles. There are some questions that remain and that are fundamental.
What concerns me is the scale of the competition. I think it really has to do with this issue of scale. If we really want to be able to operate on a worldwide level on that scale then I do have some concerns. Do you have any solutions? Well not necessarily. What I believe is that there are some things that are absolutely essential. There are some essential ingredients that are crucial, that are not sufficient, but they’re essential. My job at the Canada Arts Council is to make sure that what’s really there, the fundamentals, that we have good artists, that they don’t decide to quit, that they don’t decide to do something else, that they develop their expertise. That is a necessary but not sufficient factor. I’m counting on my colleges there.
Anne-Marie (Translator): Yes, I think Mr. Lalande might have a few words to say about that.
Louis (Translator): I think it shows to what extent we have to work together. It’s just never happened in the past that every part of the system has an essential role to play. If creativity is not supported in some way, there is not going to be any output, there won’t be any ideas generated. As we evolve in this arena, I think we’ll have mechanisms that’ll allow us to reach our goals, reach our ends. I think what I’m concerned about is that this is an issue of funding to arrive at that end.
Louis: Certainly, there are worries. I’m really happy that we have support. But globally, we need to find a way to work even more together because of the world ambition—it’s inevitable. We need to get in there and I think we’re basically well equipped. We see it in cinema. Who would have predicted 10 years ago that there’d be such a success in Hollywood. But it’s really well known. Even though, cinema is one movie at a time. Sometimes, success, you have it, you make more. So, in that regard, it’s really amazing. In that regard, we have an appointment we can’t miss and now’s the time to grab all the elements to ensure that we have a structure in place that succeeds.
Anne-Marie: Do you still find, on the other hand, that there are two worlds? Because I often have the impression that there really are two worlds. That’s to say, the people who have this ambition, at the level of creators, those who have this ambition, and those who just have a kind of fear of that ambition.
Simon: Of course, yes, there are two worlds. And there are even incredible creators who decide to anchor themselves in analog and to be anti that. And I think it’s important. And sometimes, ironically, it’s in their work that we find explanations or clarification on what we could be doing in this digital world. So for me, I think, yes, there’s tension there, and I think it’s important that it exists but at the same time, it’s important to see that at the creator level, and leaders of institutions, and all that, that the fundamental characteristics of digital thought still aren’t as widespread as they could be. I mean to say—you were talking earlier about ad campaigns—when I arrived at the Canada Council, I really realized, for example, that my comms. team needed to be fundamentally rethought. That we needed to rethink the Canada Council for the Arts as being a media in itself if we wanted to be able to have sway, if we want to be able to play our role. Because before, we had a simple way [of doing things], we controlled the money, we had programs, we waited for people to apply. But we can’t play that role anymore. We need to play a much more dynamic role. So, we really had to change. So the characteristics of digital thought, it means no longer working in a silo, it means working in an interdisciplinary way, the capacity to move really, really fast, to constantly learn, to change the recipe all the time. In fact, it’s not at all how people of my age were trained to think. And so, yes, the stakes are high.
Claude: There still is the essential of audio-visual content that is consumed… It’s linear production, it’s production that is now available in new ways and with marketing that breaks with everything we’ve known. But if we remember that we’re in 2016, in 1966 Telefilm Canada’s predecessor was founded, the Canadian Film Development Corporation which was… [Telefilm’s] first executive director was Michael Spencer, a veteran of the NFB, who passed away last week. But 50 years ago, hardly anything was happening. There was what was being done at the NFB. There were a few private-sector productions. Very few feature films were made by private companies before Telefilm was founded. In 1983, the Canadian Broadcast Program Development Fund was created. The government invested a huge amount—$75 million—which gave a massive boost to the private industry. Today, we have a wealth of creators in this amazing ecosystem which, however, was built over the years. Specialized channels were developed. What’s going to happen? Are we…
Anne-Marie: Have we reached a plateau?
Claude: I think that television—and I’m not TV expert. But… Conventional, general-interest TV will stay strong but it seems to me that specialized channels, given the behaviour of younger viewers who no longer subscribe to cable, will eventually have an impact. It seems to me that this can’t continue.
Anne-Marie: Yes, that’s certain. Is it… We have an excellent roadmap in terms of exporting content, we were talking about it earlier with film, but also with television, nonetheless. We participate in important co-productions on the world stage. As head of an organization, do you see co-productions as a key instrument to foster discoverability of our content abroad?
Louis: Certainly, it’s an element now. We haven’t had a lot of success in co-productions at the TV level. We make them, but it’s difficult. It’s difficult because even there…
Anne-Marie: Certainly, the language barrier is there. And we can’t all be Orphan Blacks. It can’t all be…
Louis: I don’t want to get into that, but actually… it’s easier…
Anne-Marie: To export a French series?
Louis: To develop co-production concepts with Anglophones than with Francophones [crosstalk 00:35:44]
Claude: It takes a bit of time for your mind to accept that and for the people who work to accept that. But we are making progress, and I’ll give you two examples. We signed a development agreement for drama with France Télévisions. Three years ago, we had guidelines, we had projects, not one of which got off the ground. And we’ve also just signed, for the first time, a co-production deal with Art et France, which is our partners on a series. Which is really… The investment is done before the series is done. It’s not an acquisition. Of course, with Stéphane Bourguignon, he’s a well-known writer, etc., but for us, it’s still a huge step forward. It’s finding the right partner, good people for… It’s a pathway, it’s not the only one. It’s not the only one. I think we have to… At a certain point, you have to assert yourself and say, the product that I’m making… A little like Xavier Dolan, “I’m doing it. It’s my film,” and at a certain point, they’ll come.
Anne-Marie: But it’s true. It’s a fundamental cultural question. It’s a little linked to the other question of ambition, which I was talking about earlier.
Claude: But French co-production has worked better in feature film.
Claude: The feature film really has an impact. It’s clear that to have foreign co-production will multiply…
Anne-Marie: Money, visibility.
Claude: Money, but also the audience that we will reach because it is in its own proper market.
Louis: There are reasons for that. It’s that co-production is done between producers. We are producers.
Anne-Marie: You are broadcasters.
Louis: We are a broadcaster so we favour. So, you see, it becomes a bit more complex. It’s bridging people.
Anne-Marie: And so for the future, is this part of your strategies?
Louis: Of course, because, in any case, for us it’s clearly one avenue among many.
Claude: The digital… Broadcasting on our platforms allows to reach many foreign audiences without even having partnerships. With us, we have an enormous growth for viewership of our films. We have YouTube channels… It’s a big hit with foreigners.
Anne-Marie: That’s what emerged in a significant way yesterday…
Claude: In terms of exports, well, it’s exporting audiences.
Anne-Marie: That’s what came up in a big way yesterday in several of the panels with people whose first broadcaster was YouTube. That’s to say, that they had a worldwide window of visibility without hoping for it. They were hoping for local and there was something really…
Claude: People discover our content through that network.
Anne-Marie: So for you, for example, for the NFB, what’s the next step after… This app and the proliferation of apps since 2009? How do you think the NFB will move on to the next stage in terms of content aimed at a worldwide audience?
Claude: We’re at a stage where a lot of our platforms have reached maturity. The next step is to modernize them, adapt them more to audiences…
Anne-Marie: International? Or more targeted?
Claude: More targeted. And to be less in the sense that we cover everything. But to go at it in a more targeted way. So, we launched… I brought together an internal group to set up a digital expertise centre, at the digital content and organizational levels, creation of our platforms. To concentrate this expertise. So, follow us, we’re going to come up with something new soon.
Anne-Marie: In terms of subject matter … in the…
Claude: As much in subject matter as in broadcasting platforms.
Anne-Marie: Ok. Ok. We’re waiting for it. I got a half answer. That’s good. That’s good.
Louis: Another element which I spoke of earlier, our role, which is a little different… In the end, it’s to make a good match. An example with 19-2, with which Radio-Canada is a partner with TV5 Monde, so, effectively, the people from TV5 Monde recognize the value of Canadian drama productions. And there, recently, with TV5 Monde, we did a launch in Paris… A really official launch of 19-2 before it was broadcast and so there…
Anne-Marie: But that was several years after the end of the series.
Louis: Of course, but it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that the people, the audience, but also the French producers, understand…
Anne-Marie: That something is happening.
Louis: A mix of things and better knowledge, in the end. Sometimes, it’s the little operations that yield a different kind of visibility, but that also allow us to stake a place on the world stage and develop new ways to secure our place.
Anne-Marie: Let’s talk a bit about YouTube for each of you, maybe a little less for Mark… Because it’s a completely different role but even for the four of you, is YouTube a viable platform for your content? When, for example, we’re Radio-Canada, French services, and we have Tou.tv which is a world in itself, is YouTube still important? Is it a player?
Louis: Today, as I said, we have to be humble. We can’t exclude anyone. The challenge… I’ll speak for traditional broadcasters, who still exert a strong force of attraction at many levels. I think the issue is to really ensure how to use YouTube across all platforms that we have and in terms of our overall ambition for broadcasting and for expanding the reach of Canadian content. It’s one of the players and it’s one of the platforms we need to integrate into our way of doing things.
Anne-Marie: Does it happen that you discover new creators via new forms of technology like that?
Simon: YouTube, in any case, in the world that I’m in, is complementary. That’s to say that I think… there’s a lot… but it’s still not used enough, I think. Obviously, the issue… It has to be complementary, not because it’s naturally complementary, because there aren’t financial models that exist to work on YouTube alone. You want to live on YouTube to create pressure so that Radio-Canada or Télé-Québec picks up your show, etc., because that’s where funding will come from.
Anne-Marie: But less and less… that’s to say, since… less and less, after all.
Simon: Less and less, but it’s still…
Anne-Marie: It’s still a big fish.
Simon: In a national context, in a context where traditional media exists, in a context where there’s political pressure. It’s still an important tool, and I think that when we look at the broadcasting of performing arts or even audiovisual, in audiovisual there are issues of copyright, etc., but it’s still difficult to get recognition for a show that you want to circulate in Canada or around the world if you don’t have really good footage on YouTube, and there, production quality becomes an important issue.
Anne-Marie: For that production…
Simon: Exactly. So, in the end, it’s still an important leveraging tool today, I think. Video in general, anyway.
Anne-Marie: I want to go back again to Xavier Dolan, who continues to be talked about, but he’s the person who directed the most-watched video on YouTube. To date, with the video he made for Adele, which was shot… where was it? Morin-Heights? The Eastern Townships?
Speaker 6: Châteauguay.
Anne-Marie: Châteauguay? Châteauguay… That’s pretty amazing. So…
Simon: And then, there was an Adele meet-up.
Anne-Marie: Of course. More of Adele, only black and white, and the flip phone.
Claude: For us, YouTube is… we see impressive results. But it’s with an approach to public service, to make our content accessible, it’s perfect but it’s an economic model that doesn’t hold up. We are blessed that we don’t rely on it for revenue because it’s peanuts, it’s an issue that everyone has in music, in broadcasting there’s nothing that’s going to sustain new programming via this kind of broadcasting.
Anne-Marie: Unless you partner with brands.
Claude: Yes, but we can see…
Anne-Marie: It’s completely different but unfortunately, there are more and more creators who have to turn toward this kind of funding.
Claude: There we see branded content.
Claude: Some by subject matter… some by cruise line.
Anne-Marie: A paradigm shift. Mark, maybe you can speak about just how… you’ve done a lot of it… of how certain partnerships work with brands? You’ve partnered with Tyra Banks, with CBS, with Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, Panasonic… How much of a role does a brand have in creating content and how much freedom do you have, how much can you steer things?
Mark:But, it’s as you said… Brands are now very committed, very involved, and therefore… For a content to be compelling, relevant, the storytelling is very important, but it’s certain that if the brand… Go fund on non-traditional platforms where the business model is a bit… is still in development, emerging, shaky… it is a combination of things, but yes, the brand will impose itself, so someone like Tyra, for example, where the content we created had to fit within a certain … Framework, certain characteristics, and we sort of didn’t have much choice.
Anne-Marie: What was it, for example?
Mark: It was… Yeah. Listen, we came up with a particular creative, and if it wasn’t her thing, well, it changed. And even she had royalties from the TV network. Or CBS was not happy or it wouldn’t try to find… If it hadn’t resonated with the target audience, if CBS with all its data analysis believed it was going to have a somewhat middling impact, well, the creative was completely scrapped. But I think that, yes, the key point is really to create content that scales. All these brands want, how should I put it, … How do you say “scale” in French?
Anne-Marie: Economies of scale.
Mark: Yes, that’s it. The scale. They try to cut costs as much as possible. That’s why what we… what we do gets interesting. You talked about YouTube… So we create a lot of content for YouTube… In music, for example. With up-and-coming bands that don’t have any money to fund videos of three, four, five minutes. So what we do is we create really conscious content, the song will roll for two to three minutes but it is the same hybrid image that plays for the duration of the song. We will do a combination of three, four, five images. For the band, creating this kind of content is cheaper, and it allows them to become known and, subsequently, they get noticed by a Sony Music or Warner Brothers and then the talks begin about, say, more traditional funding.
Anne-Marie: Yeah, Yeah.
Claude: They’re discovered.
Anne-Marie: It’s pure discoverability.
Simon: Discoverability as the ultimate goal.
Mark: Absolutely, but it’s a step-by-step process. And yes, because… Nowadays, as artists, as creators, there’s nobody who will just give you a half a million like 10-15 years ago in the film industry or in the music industry. You have to prove yourself, and I think there are enough tools available to creators and not only tools that we currently have but different formats… whether it’s a version of Adobe, Final Cut Pro, that allow artists to create really interesting and pertinent content but at lower cost, and it’s just more accessible. So it makes it possible to launch the discoverability process and then it falls back to a more traditional system.
Anne-Marie: Do you notice if that affects creation? That’s to say, that the creation is influenced right from the start, from its starting point, by a wish to accumulate likes, and views, and clicks… To have to pay your dues even before you even exist, it’s a little paradoxical for a creator. That’s to say, I already have a lot of people who follow me and who’ll support me, your money in terms of producer, creator, the brand, won’t be wasted. But that’s the first stage of creation.
Simon: But in fact, it’s a bit what I said earlier. If the purpose of your creation is discoverability, what you do is advertising, it’s not art. That’s what you’re doing. But if you make art, and you have to worry about being discovered, well actually, you have to focus on something that is your originality, your incredible signature, and anyway, the past few years have shown us that really original and really challenging content still exists and breaks through. So, in fact, what interests me in the arts is to see how we can use these tools, which are developed tools that are interesting, that allow us to find a different scale, but use them so the ultimate end is artistic, not advertising. I think it is quite thinkable. You can illuminate all kinds of things by shining a light on them, you can illuminate all kinds of content. I think that’s what we have to understand. But it requires a way of thinking, and it’s true that I look at the creators who are the same age as my son, it is true that they are much faster when they produce music, they’re interested much more quickly in seeing how they‘ll be noticed than before, because before, getting noticed was the producer’s job. It wasn’t the artist’s job. But today artists believe … There is a time … Much shorter time between creation and … but one thing mustn’t pervert the other, otherwise we’re in trouble.
Mark: Content is consumed very quickly, too. You launch a song, it’s digested, next, what’s next? Constantly. And you’re right, the artist today is not just going to focus … First step, yes, it is to create artistic content, relevant, which has substance. It is 100%, it’s the most important thing. But often what … Because we work with many artists. We often notice that there is no strategy on how to bring their content into the digital space. The focus on creating interesting short films or producing an EP or LP, whatever. And then, the next question is, what’s the go-to-market strategy? So it’s not to … There isn’t any. They’re not sure how to do it, or what platform to use … There isn’t… Oh, we’ll post on Twitter or do a Facebook post, but it’s not enough. You really need to develop an action plan for how exactly to get discovered, and that’s where you have to be really open to non-traditional distribution formats, to non-traditional tools and technologies. A bit like you said previously, you need to test things out. And we live at a time where we can. 15-20 years ago, you launched an album, you launched a film, and then, “I hope this is going to succeed.” While today, you can launch a 15-second clip, or you can preview six or seven songs, a mini-trailer, or a micro-ad, or a micro-moment, and there you can gauge, ok, what is the reaction of my audience, is it worthwhile, is it not, how will you change your content, and you can do it very quickly. And I think that’s the reality today. Artists, I think it’s very important that they begin to educate themselves and truly take hold of these tools precisely to get discovered.
Louis: I would just add another component because we talk a lot about artists but we also experience this in current affairs. Discoverability in current affairs, watch out, okay. This is something that is fairly king-sized. And you have to approach it in a different way. I have two anecdotes about this: a revealing moment for us at the CBC, in terms of discoverability, the year-end interview with Prime Minister Trudeau that happened in the subway with people. So, an interesting idea, that’s how it is … But, the team realized there was almost … The audience is there. There are about 400 people who are there with their phones and filming. Then someone says, “Yeah, but now we cannot broadcast before it is finished,” but actually it goes … But then immediately it triggered an instant strategy of clips, snippets of all kinds of elements to pollute all … I say pollute because it’s really an outreach strategy on every imaginable platform, Facebook pages, this, that, and the constellation, we made a diagram, it was pretty interesting and it’s really that, but for an information campaign, it was something … It’s almost a mortal sin to think about that. But that’s the way it is today.
Anne-Marie: To let… to put the power back into the hands of the audience. That’s to say, the audience has become the first broadcaster.
Louis: It’s with you and if you want… that’s to say, it’s put online differently.
Simon: The discussion is harder to have.
Anne-Marie: And what’s the other example?
Louis: The other example… is [the TV show] Enquête. The abused Aboriginal women in Val-d’Or… It’s a really long-winded investigation, etc. But there, you say, yeah, of course it’s going to work. But then, how do you ensure that you reach another audience? It’s with a strategy, effectively, using little episodes we launched two days prior. It’s extraordinary. Of course, the viewership of the traditional version was better but we know we reached a full audience… An audience who…
Mark: It’s a good strategy.
Louis: Yes. Which touches on… and brings this issue back to a different level that just…
Anne-Marie: You called on people’s empathy as well.
Louis: Yeah, yeah, at all levels. I think that, in the world of current affairs, today, what’s interesting is, it’s more fragmented than before. People say that people inform themselves less… People inform themselves differently. And to ensure that all the important elements, that we can do them.
Mark: It’s okay that content is fragmented, that the messages are fragmented. We just have to adapt. Simply, you gave the example of Enquête and of certain new campaigns. Netflix did the same thing when they launched the second season of House of Cards. It was a concept of case study, micro-moments, mini-episodes. They said, well, the traditional way of doing the three-minute trailer, and to launch that, doesn’t make any sense. We’re going to do Snapchats, and we’re going to do Snap Stories, and we’re going to use Facebook… Really bombard people with it because we know that people jump from one platform to another. And so we have to intercept them during the moments when…
Louis: The contact moments.
Mark: Exactly! And yes, of course, they used our visual format and it worked really well too. A little plug for Flixel. But that’s exactly it, their philosophy was, we will take a non-traditional approach and we will adapt to the realities of the market, which is a really fragmented reality. The way people consume. Fragmented consumption.
Anne-Marie: Since there’s 10 minutes left, if you have questions, I’m inviting you to ask them to our panelists.
Mark: Don’t be shy.
Any questions? Well, if not, I will continue.
Louis: I have one for you.
Louis: How do you see your evolution in a few years? The evolution of your concepts and of the strategic advantage you currently have?
Mark: Listen, in technology… Today, we’re very relevant. In two years, it could be…
Claude: You don’t have a five-year plan?
Mark: No, to be honest, I don’t think… No, but I’ll be very honest. We always think 12 to 18 months ahead. Never more than that. Because the environment is so unpredictable. We saw it during the conference, once augmented reality, virtual reality starts to… It’s a good question for them because that, that’s going to change storytelling.
Mark: Completely, and…
Claude: VR applications.
Mark: Ah yes, that’s to say…
Anne-Marie: Will everything want… Or need to become interactive? But then we won’t have the time in eight minutes, I can tell you.
Mark: That’s another debate.
Louis: I don’t think so, but we have to show an interest in it. To give an example, at the Olympics this summer, every day with the IOC, a competition will be accessible in 360. That’s something really exceptional. We have to be interested in this. It’s a really big audience. Obviously there will be a lot of difficulties, but it’ll happen and I think that it’s… It’s a new dynamic. And I think that… I think that we always need… It’s fun to tether yourself to a powerful engine that leads to another step in how things are consumed.
Anne-Marie: I have a question, in fact. I asked Christiane yesterday when we were talking about Tou.tv. But I’ll ask it a bit differently… That’s to say, we’ve often heard … That’s it.
Anne-Marie (Translator): Never mind, we can still hear you. In recent years we’ve heard a lot about producers, broadcasters, haven’t been the only ones but those producing all sorts of data that have been heard. Yesterday we talked about Netflix changing their content based on what the users are wanting and based on strategies so I need to know more. Have you been surprised as against your expectations for the data, retrieved the data, collected, have you been surprised, hey what’s that, so many people like this or are listening to that?
Louis (Translator): As I am talking to you I’m wondering if you want to tell me whether management committees made in the recent 18 months we’ve had quite a bit of revelation and discussion and circumstances that have been troubled over, shuffled. This has been motivating but it also takes for us to be humble. The last term, this technological concept of the better use of the sources that we have as far as data goes but there are other avenues to be explored. We want to ensure that we are in sync with the behaviors, the digital measuring tool is much clearer than in traditional television. You’re talking about revelation, about being taken aback.
Anne-Marie (Translator): Someone has a question in the room. We’ll let him finish his answer… We’ll let him finish.
Louis (Translator): So the listening of viewing rate can be measured with high precision. The length as well, duration, this is not a truthful answer. We’re kind of beating around the bush. What we noticed was that broadcasting on some channels do not affect what is being done on TV, people had said, “this is going to make the TV rate go down.” Then you have promotional campaigns, no it doesn’t destroy anything. It actually enhances.
Anne-Marie (Translator): Is there any impact on live viewing?
Louis (Translator): No precisely not.
Anne-Marie (Translator): In drama?
Mark (Translator): No, if anything it’s had a positive impact in the state when you do business with more traditional networks, data shows that there has been some impact. The less the French speaking market is made of 90% of folks who have some form of TV with distribution that you have in the first broadcast, so 10,000,000 people. You don’t just reach out to one segment but everyone in the states, the announcers are saying, “I’ll give you 2,000,000 to fund your content and live viewing”, and that’s the big premieres to put the numbers out there. There is some correlation but in so much it’s not what you expect. Costs going to be controlled and the decision making is extremely important, because we can find out what the impact of advertising is but if there’s people tuning in we don’t know. There’s factors we cannot quantify, we don’t know, cannot measure the success of the campaign because there’ll be bits and pieces.
Speaker 7: Snapchats or vines can be like attendance for the media content, I mean they’re kind of hard to be verbal because-
Anne-Marie: Because it’s ephemeral.
Speaker 7: Yeah.
Louis (Translator): So NBC is having a Snapchat trivia Olympics, taken to the Olympics, and at the film festival, Snapchat is felt and it was in the film festival a few weeks back. We had a small lab at CBC a year ago or something, someone came up and offered to have some drama series on listening who would be interested in lab work. People knew what that was. Someone had offered something. That’s among the projects to work on that was retained because things have grown exponential since then. We cannot talk of an exact science all right, no no no, as everybody’s saying.
Anne-Marie (Translator): This is what concludes this session on innovation. The last question was a particularly relevant question and the various different answers. Gentlemen, we would like to thank you, lots of food for thought, solutions to the set of problems, of issues. Thank you for being with us, thank you for attending. It’s lunchtime.
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