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TV is not dead, it’s just moved house. Interview with Giorgio Stock

TV is not dead, it’s just moved house. Interview with Giorgio Stock

31/10/2019

Giorgio Stock

Television isn’t dead – it’s just moved house. As the broadcast programming model declines, television production is having a renaissance thanks to multi-screen platforms. The increased demand for new stories and local content is an opportunity – explains President of WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks, Distribution and Advertising Sales for Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific, Giorgio Stock – that Italy should seize, not only to showcase its art and culture but also to offer a vibrant, modern product to those young international viewers who are potential tourists and consumers.

How is the television industry changing?

The world has changed enormously over recent years, and so has the media sector. The analogue business model offered limited choices and set line-ups, and TV networks couldn’t count on consumers to be tuned in according to a set schedule as much as they could with small children and school kids: a two-hours of scheduled programming a day. 

Today there are 20 linear channels – those with a scheduled program line-up – just for kids, in addition to on-demand platforms such as Netflix or our HBO Now and other options such as YouTube that offer still other content and modes. In other words, the consumer has become the master of the situation.

Consequently only companies willing to change have a future, because the future is being dictated by the younger consumers and by platforms. WarnerMedia, for example, can no longer be considered a broadcaster, thanks to its strong presence on non-linear platforms: CNN has more viewers on screens other than traditional television sets than not, and the same goes for 40% of the youngsters watching Cartoon Network.

So, television is not dead?

Certainly not, on the contrary, there is a veritable renaissance going on in television production. Ten years ago, 100 television series were produced annually in America – that’s up to 500 today. Once upon a time television had to struggle to attract the best screenwriters, actors and producers.  Talent is choosing TV today because the increase in production has improved quality, and television series are able to tell stories that cinema cannot and no longer wants to tell.

This explains why the new platforms are putting so much into stories and local content. Investments are rising not only in the United States or England, but also in countries once peripheral to the television industry, like Spain and Germany. Consumers, especially younger ones, are looking for stories and content that are different from the usual international programs that have to then be tailored for local markets.

What can Italy offer?

Italy has moved more slowly than other European countries, because there are no local investors capable of making substantial commitments. There was a strong industry in other countries that wanted to tell local stories that had seen in international actors a chance to increase investments.

Yet there is room for improvement. An important market such as Italy’s attracts attention. In a widening sector that is seeing rising consumption, anyone who can write a good screenplay in Italy will have a line at the door; others are trying to break in at the level of A-list of production, where an investment of 1.5 million dollars or more goes into a single episode. That’s the way to make a strong product for a local market that can be exported abroad.

Too small to be competitive?

The problem is not only an Italian one. Today’s investments at both product level (with platform technology and user experience) as well as content level must aim for a global reach. Even the American market on its own is too small to generate satisfactory returns alone. And yet, the specialization and variety of the operators of a segment of the value chain makes for interesting solutions. This is also true in Italy, which is an interesting market when inserted into a global context. What is important  for Italian and international operators is that they keep an eye on the future.

Strategic decisions cannot be made solely in terms of the business model of the moment. Years ago, when we invested in YouTube there was a lot of skepticism, since our revenues were in traditional programming and Pay TV. That decision has paid off today because it helped us get to know an audience that was growing and whose tastes and user modes were entirely different: for a child, an “unboxing” video in which a toy is taken out of a box, assembled and displayed can be more engrossing that a 5-minute animated fairy tale. Understanding this, and, as a consequence, offering the content that this new audience is seeking, means keeping up both with the times and with the future of the sector.

Can successful television series be a driver of tourism?

Of course, that’s always been true. How many of us have travelled to New York, Los Angeles or Monument Valley because we grew up watching that world on TV? Italy has every reason to project the image of a country not only great for tourism but also contemporary and vibrant. Attractive, in other words, not only to professionals or to pensioners with a passion for art history, but also a younger more dynamic audience. Television can and must play this role along with the other operators that interface with the sector, such as phone companies – a major market in Italy in light of both population size and rate of consumption. The demand for new stories to tell to local and international viewers is high – and the opportunity is there for the taking.

 

 

Giorgio Stock is President of WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks, Distribution and Advertising Sales for the regions of Europe, Africa, Middle East (EMEA) and Asia Pacific. former Executive Vice President & General Manager di Disney Consumer Products, Publishing and Retail (EMEA) and  Corporate Vice President of Bertelsmann AG at its German headquarters. He earned a degree in science from New York University and a double MBA (Master of Business Administration) and MIA (Master of International Affairs) from Columbia University.