Fox, NBC executives see future for linear, less so for distribution windows

From left to right: Todd Supplee, PWC; Kelly Abcarian, Nielsen; Erin McPherson, Verizon; Neal Mohan, YouTube; Brian Sullivan, 21st Century Fox; and Maggie Suniewick, NBCUniversal. (Ben Munson)

LAS VEGAS—A panel of media executives at Variety’s Entertainment Summit at CES played a game of “Fad or Future” while discussing the staying power of everything from linear programming to virtual reality.

The five panelists largely concurred in their views but differed on a few key technologies and strategies. The panelists were Kelly Abcarian, senior vice president of product leadership at Nielsen; Erin McPherson, head of content strategy, acquisition and programming at Verizon; Neal Mohan, chief product officer at YouTube; Brian Sullivan, president and COO of the networks group at 21st Century Fox; and Maggie Suniewick, president at NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises.

When asked about linear programming, all the panelists agreed that it’s the future. But when asked about DVR on set top devices, Nielsen and YouTube said it’s a fad. The panelists concluded that the concept of DVR will remain—but as cloud DVR becomes more standard the hardware might go away.

All of the panelists agreed that SVOD is still the future and just about all of the panelists felt that augmented reality/virtual reality/mixed reality is the future except Sullivan. He worried about a society where no one connects and that as more people go into virtual reality, society will connect even less. But he conceded that VR can have value as a tool for building empathy.

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When asked about distribution windows, almost all said it’s a fad, except for Suniewick.

Earlier in the discussion, Sullivan said that the early content business model in the U.S. content turned to windowing as a solution for having limited distribution points to sell to. If he could have gone back in time, Sullivan said that the U.S. government should have deregulated broadband and then he would have encouraged programmers to not break up their content, because “we’re now all trying to bring it back together again and it’s really painful.”

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