Keeping a watchful eye on digital at TIFF

What makes web content and startups so valuable? Execs discuss programming strategies and viewership analytics.
September 11, 2014

Programming for the web is a blend of art and science — a familiar concept here at TIFF, which launched in 1976 as a “Festival of Festivals,” collecting titles that were previously shown around the world, and therefore vetted by audiences.

Algorithms, stats, and detailed analytics are integral to any digital content strategy. But so is human instinct, said one industry vet during a panel discussion at TIFF’s Digital Media conference on Wednesday.

“The kind of data that we collect is very important but it’s not going take away from the decisions that I make from my gut,” said Marni Shulman, senior director, content & programming at Rogers Media, who has been heading content acquisitions for upcoming Canadian streaming service Shomi.

She said that unlike their “red competitor,” the Netflix rival will share its viewership stats.

“We’re going to be looking at rankings based on genre, content type, studio, all of that. And yes, unlike others, we will make some of that information available, particularly to our content provider partners,” Shulman said.

She added that it has not yet been decided whether the company will share its SVOD analytics with advertisers. Presumably, media buyers would be interested in binge-watching stats and viewer profiles before placing ads against current seasons of TV shows running on traditional TV stations owned by Rogers and Shaw, who are the 50/50 investors in Shomi.

There’s no question this kind of data is valuable in the entertainment business, and it could be what’s driving up the valuations of digital media companies, said Duncan Stewart, director of TMT Research at Deloitte Canada.

He brought up Amazon’s recent $970-million acquisition of gamer network Twitch, which is just one of example of major companies paying stacks of cash for web startups. Some of these valuations just don’t make sense when considering traditional metrics used to determine the worth of a cable company, for instance.

“The meta-data must be what the premium is for,” said Stewart. “They’re still getting an audience, but how you justify those premiums, would be the meta-data.”

After all, information is what helps companies make sound investments, added Col Needham, founder and CEO of IMDb.

“The more accurate data you have the more sure you can be of the outcome,” said Needham, who sold IMDb to Amazon in 1998.

About The Author
Melita Kuburas is the editor of StreamDaily. You can reach her directly at press[at]streamdaily.tv or on Twitter @melitakuburas

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