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Consumers, not media industry, will drive innovation

May 22, 2012|By Joe Flint
  • Ed Burns is embracing new platforms for his movies.
Ed Burns is embracing new platforms for his movies. (Jim Cooper / Associated…)

BOSTON — A new generation of consumers who have little regard for historical distribution systems will be what drives media companies to rethink their role as gatekeepers to content.

"It always seems to be about the kids," said filmmaker Ed Burns who has taken to releasing his movies on non-theatrical platforms, including Apple's iTunes, and on video-on-demand.

Speaking at the National Cable Telecommunications Assn. here, Burns said that young people today "are not nostalgic for the way we consumed entertainment. They still want this content. They’re just not willing to get into the car and drive to the theater."

While Burns didn't say the demise of the movie theater was near, he did say it will be tougher for non-blockbuster movies to find a place there. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing for the long term. Now through on-demand and other platforms, it may become easier for Burns and other small filmmakers to have a "more direct relationship with the consumer and reach a much wider audience."

"The consumer demand will pull the technology and industry where it wants to go," said Neil Smit, president of Comcast Cable. 

Part of the challenge for media companies is balancing the desire of consumers to get content the way they want it, where they want it, without disrupting the business models that have been the backbone of the industry for decades.

While distributors and programmers are embracing putting content on mobile phones and on tablets, there is still great resistance to altering the overall system. For example, consumers want to cherry pick the cable channels they want, which is an approach that programmers and distributors are not willing to embrace.

That may eventually have to change too.

"We're going through a generational shift from a generation that values ownership to a generation that values access," said Rio Caraeff, CEO of online music video company Vevo.

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