The Hollywood IT Summit got started with an insightful keynote by Darcy Antonellis, President of Warner Brothers Technical Operations, moderated by David Cohen of Variety. The keynote speaker was greeted by close to 250 people coming from a range of IT companies within the Hollywood content ecosystem.
Cohen got started with a brief question to the audience about what kind of tablets were in the room. A large percentage of the room had tablets with them, and Cohen remarked that here is an explosion of a category that didn’t even exist just a few short years ago. Antonellis discussed the current and expected impact of those connected devices (smartphones and tablets) and the extremely high connectivity rates of new TVs, and how entertainment will be impacted in the next few years.
Cohen shifted the discussion to the cloud, and Antonellis stated that every entertainment company needs to have a cloud element to their IT strategy to manage peak demands and the fast pace of the changing entertainment landscape — including production companies. Antonellis went on to describe that it was often the network that was the limiting factor in new deployments of applications and experiences to the business and to consumers, describing how her phone dropped on the way to the session four times and the impact that level of network connectivity challenge has on larger data problems.
When Cohen asked Antonellis what the next big thing might be, she pointed him to voice input and the revolution Siri is likely to bring to our children in the near future, describing a day when the primary input to computing devices will shift from the keyboard to voice. As Cohen questioned the impact of Silicon Valley on the entertainment industry, Antonellis deftly described her respect for their innovation and understanding of the consumer, and described their mutual respect for Hollywood’s ability to make great content.
Cohen came back later in the discussion to the theme again, asking Antonellis what her wish list was from Google or Apple. Her answer was a strengthening of the partnership in a joint view of the consumer as entertainment experiences evolve and change with technology. When he pressed for where the tension lies, she described the need for Google (as an example) to improve the efficiency and relevance of their searches to consumers, but when that result is a link to pirated Hollywood content, there is obvious tension.
Antonellis did delve into Ultraviolet for a few minutes, describing where the industry has come from in the sense of a digital locker that the consumer can manage and what is now possible as consumers purchase new content and upcoming use cases for consumer to manage a conversion of their existing physical libraries. Finally, she touched on the progress that Warner Brothers and other entertainment companies need to make in regards to improving the ease of mobility for their own employees as the current needs of the business put more and more people in remote working conditions. A very insightful discussion across a wide range of topics — all of which drive home a need for IT management in Hollywood to be on top of their game to keep up with the rapidly changing industry and consumer entertainment experiences.
Antonellis and Cohen were immediately followed by a panel of current studio CIOs, moderated by Leo Collins (formerly CIO of Lionsgate). The panel touched on a wide range of current studio and entertainment problems from big data analytics to managing residuals and even promoting innovation within their own companies.
Derek Smith, SVP of Operations Strategies at Fox, gave some incredible insight into how Fox is leveraging IT to create new business models and new opportunities for creating value within various parts of the wider Fox organization. He discussed the impact that Fox's IT department has on everything from organizational agility to react to new opportunities, to their ability to specifically rise to the challenge with discrete opportunities like their expedition into commerce and second screen with their Sons of Anarchy television series. He even described the impact social analytics are having on their theatrical campaigns, allowing them to test various methods for Planet of the Apes before the major campaign for the movie began so that the impact was honed for the right demographics they wanted to attract to the movie.
The panel moderated by David Cutbill on residuals management took the entire room back to earth and reminded us that much of the IT support is required on mundane, but incredibly important things (ie getting actors and other cast members paid). There is so much of the drudgery that most of us take for granted that it needs a session like this not only to help us re-prioritize our own efforts in our business endeavours, but also reminds us to thank the unsung heroes who man the help desks, deal with software upgrades, and manage through major application changes to support the core of our businesses every single day.
The other major topic of the day was delivered by the platinum sponsor, with Eric Iverson from Sony moderating a panel to discuss the progress of EIDR implementations within the various studios. For those of you who are new to this, the concept of an Entertainment ID Registry is to build a consistent approach to unique identifiers not only for the final versions of consumer-ready entertainment products, but for the assets that comprise those final product (language tracks, audio tracks, scenes, clips, images, metadata, etc).
While the topic seems quite ethereal, Iverson was pretty successful at bringing the panellists to real examples of projects they had put into place in a relatively short period of time (and for reasonable costs) to deliver on this concept which will improve the industry’s overall ability to manage the entertainment value chain across organizations.
The rest of the day was comprised of smaller breakout sessions on a number of key issues affecting the IT industry, covering topics ranging from the cloud, to second screen and to the secrets of unlocking your metadata potential in your enterprise.
A lot of ground covered in a single day, starting with great insight with one of the entertainment industry’s most respected technologists and ending with short, detailed presentations on current IT challenges, and interlaced with networking opportunities throughout.