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OnHollywood 2006: Tech and Entertainment Worlds Collide

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“The old TV model is over.”

“We’re entering a new bubble.”

“It’s a collision of content delivery and community that represents a huge opportunity.”

“A client of mine told me that online gaming is now bigger than porn.”

These were the kinds of things heard at OnHollywood 2006, the “digital media and entertainment market for executives,” a conference that throws tech innovators, Silicon Valley-based venture capitalists, and Hollywood entertainment execs together to discuss the frighteningly fast-paced convergence of entertainment content and the Internet.

The real focus of the day on Wednesday, May 3rd was “top innovator demonstrations,” in which a CEO or CTO or C-something would trot up on stage – one after the other – and make an impassioned six-minute pitch about why their product of service would by necessity shake the industry (video-based search, mobile content platforms, uploading and sharing rich content, for example) to its molten and venture-backed core.

While Google remains the undisputed powerhouse when it comes to search, that hasn’t stopped dozens of start-ups from jumping into the “hot space” of targeted search: audio/podcasts, video, blogs, and social networks. Blinx displayed a search engine that allows users to search for both audio and video conceptually; that is, the more you search, the more the search engine understands what you’re looking for. A downloadable Blinx Pico application allows searching for content (audio, video, blogs, wikipedia pages) from multiple desktop applications.

Interactivity with rich media content was a theme throughout the day. Click.tv put on perhaps the most impressive demonstration of the day, showing off video web technology that is dubbed as going beyond the “play/pause interface.” It was easy to assess that this product will provide real value to users in that it provides intuitive yet advanced interactivity with video content. What that translates to is that users can create their own “highlight reels” with video footage, which lets viewers easily click to different places within video clips, adding comments as they go. Clips can then easily be shared or transported, which is now a requisite component in this age of YouTube and MySpace. Blowing up the traditional notion of passively watching television (or clicking play and pause), Click.tv was hailed as a “dynamic Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

During one of the brief panel discussions that followed a set of product demonstrations, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch fame brought up the need for compelling and “professionally produced video content” to be created in order to provide value to the many start-ups who are hoping to cash in on the bourgeoning volume of rich media content to be found online today. Arrington added that “companies need this kind of content to make it in the long-term.” I chatted with Mike briefly in between sessions, during which time he added, “I love what you’re doing with Blogcritics, you did it first.”

Some of the other concerns brought up throughout the day were DRM (digital rights management) and monetization (the age-old Silicon Valley fancy-word for conjuring forth revenue from products and ideas). DRM is a concern for video content in much the same way that popular services such as iTunes are grappling with how much control to yield to a purchaser once a song is purchased and downloaded. This issue is further complicated because while some videos are copyright protected, others are open source. DivX, which presented on its rather nifty “home theater experience” online, attempts to navigate this territory by allowing users to burn video content to DVD while maintaining some use protections.

Kelli Richards, President and CEO of the All Access Group, cautioned start-up companies to focus on both the innovation and monetization aspect of their businesses. “I advise companies to have a two-minute pitch, a six-minute pitch, and a 30-minute pitch,” he said. This need for precision was apparent as at the exact moment when the six-minute pitch mark was reached, demonstrators were cut off – at times mid-sentence – with an Oscars-like flourish of music as Kathy Brooks, the day’s MC, rushed on stage to keep things moving.

In slight contrast to Richards’ comments, Morgan McLintic, Vice President of LEWIS PR, complained that the word “monetize” should be banned. “If it’s not obvious how companies are going to monetize,” he said, “you shouldn’t have to talk about it.” Ed Lambert of Bridge Bank, however, was generally bullish on the tech economy. He sees value in the “living dead,” companies that squeaked through the hard years of 2001-2003 and are now both profitable and seeking funding to reach the next level.

Social networking, likely not on the radar for most technology and media executives several years ago, is now – in light of the MySpace Phenomenon – not far from any discussion of technology or social media. Vincenet Hsieh, CEO of Aleric (a combination of his son’s names, Alex and Eric), “sees the social networking experience getting both more personal and professional.” Hsieh demonstrated Aleric’s ability to become an “instant virtual office,” tapping into a global peer-to-peer network.

While the day’s events ran very smoothly, there were consistent problems with Internet connectivity that plagued both presenters and attendees trying to connect. A nice touch to the high tech angle of the event was that a large display screen featured OnHollywood’s chat room conversations, lending the stage and the darkened room something of a Matrix effect.

OnHollywood 2006, held at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood, California, wraps up its two-and-a-half day run on Thursday, May 4th, 2006.

Check out Justine Adamec’s Day 2 report.

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  • Dawn

    Great job Eric B! Thanks for representing BC to greater tech and media world!

  • Eric Olsen

    yes, thanks for representing, EB! Great report and much to be pondered

  • Thanks to both of y’all!