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HK FILMART 2014: mining old stories for new meanings (part 1)

FILMART`s conference programme offered nothing new in its choice of topics, but plenty of interesting insight from players drawn from across the region.

Three major conference panel sessions dominated the programme, one on each of the market`s first three days. They delved into the challenges of monetising online content, Asian reality programming, and – in a session much-lauded by attendees – digital storytelling.

Monday`s “Multiplying Your Revenue: the Power of Online Media” session addressed the dominance of mobile devices as the preferred form of online access across the region – and the implications of that dominance for content creators and distributors.

Four experts discussed monetising opportunities for film companies online.

“Everyone is moving to mobile. Proliferation and low costs compared to the PC are driving a massive change,” said Andy Green, COO of online film distribution company Distrify. His company works with traditional publications to insert footage alongside existing content, creating a viral distribution point for film.

Green suggested users relied increasingly on phones to discover content, often through social media, although – in Europe and the US at least – many still prefer to watch longer form content on smart TVs.

With more than 500 million people on the Chinese mainland accessing the internet through mobile devices, mobile traffic on the mainland last year outstripped PC traffic by two to three times, Allen Zhu of Chinese video website Youku Tudou explained.

On the mainland, advertising and pay-per-view remained the two most popular models for revenue generation. Gong Yu is CEO of online TV and movie company IQIYI.com, similar to US providers Netflix or Hulu. He told the audience how the Chinese mainland’s adoption of internet-based movie and television channels has eclipsed traditional television viewing – and advertisers love volume.

“Advertising online will replace TV commercials,” he predicted.

Yu also shared that Youku Todou has followed the strategy of Netflix by beginning to invest in original content. Productions made in-house have since been acquired by local and national broadcasters, such as CCTV.

The company also acquired the rights to foreign films such as the Oscar-nominated Dallas Buyers Club, which did not release theatrically on the mainland. How successful that move will be longer term, now that the mainland censor has taken over responsibility for all online video won`t be known for some time – especially for content that`s potentially controversial in China.

FILMART panel members set the online world to rights

FILMART panel members set the online world to rights

US-based Mark Scarpa, founder of Simplynew, a multi-platform content producer, said there has been a sea change in what media buyers are seeking.

Five years ago, television and digital buyers were different people and had to be dealt with separately. Now, teams are integrated and are demanding all-media experiences, a content plan that will engage audiences on multiple devices.

“It is more work for the storyteller,” said Scarpa, but he believed viewers wanted to be a part of the experience. Scarpa noted that in the US “tipjar”, or pay-what-you-like models, were also taking off.

In China, the PPV model is problematic, as mainland banks restrict automatic monetary collection. IQIYI had found success with monthly subscriber packages, especially those built around tentpole titles.

Success hinged on users feeling “a need to pay”, according to Yu, and a market large enough to make it worthwhile. Still, if you can`t get a million people in China to watch a good film, you`re doing something wrong.

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