Mandalay's Guber: Engaging viewers essential to digital media success

LAS VEGAS--Companies can rave about or turn their noses up at new IP-based technologies coming down the pike, but what really matters is how those technologies engage the individual, Peter Guber, head of Mandalay Entertainment Group, told an audience here at the National Association of Broadcasters trade show.

"Hollywood lived by the golden rule: He who had the gold, made the rule. … Technological change has … changed everything between the artist and the audience," Guber said. That includes incumbents like broadcasters, distributors, pay-TV operators and anyone along the traditional content delivery chain, he noted.

Guber, whose Mandalay Entertainment Group has been involved in both the storytelling process, through motion picture production, and delivering those stories to the audience in various ways including digital, pointed out that the linear direction of storytelling--from the creator to the audience--is undergoing radical change.

"The narrative structure worked perfectly from the campfire to the newspaper to the radio to the television. But this format and presentation are being turned on their head," he said.

"The pace of change is no longer linear: It's multidimensional." The audience increasingly demands a participatory role in the process, and that will change how content is developed and delivered throughout the media and entertainment ecosystem.

"The gatekeepers, the incumbents controlling these chokepoints (of distribution between creators and audiences) have great self interest in keeping everyone in their box in a nice tidy way with a nice evolution. But what we have in our hands today is a revolution," Guber said, noting that for those that don't accept that change is happening, the results could be lethal.

The key to success, Guber said, is meeting the viewer's expectation that they will be able to participate and engage with the content streaming to their smartphone. And that means being "audience centric," using new devices and software--like the virtual reality promised by tech like Oculus Rift or stadium-wide LTE Multicast--while keeping in mind how that technology will affect the viewer.

"You must be audience centric. Many of us focus on these people at the end of the food chain as customers. You can't use the word customer. … If you think of them as customers, they protect their groin and their wallet. If you think of them as audiences they open up their heart."

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