As the New York Television Festival opened its 13th annual event in New York City, an opening panel posed the question on everyone in the TV business’ minds: How are digital, audio and television content converging?

“This name, the New York Television Festival, is probably becoming a bit antiquated, so we came up with the idea of this panel to mix it up,” said Marc Chamblin, partner and chair, Loeb and Loeb, LLP, who moderated.

“Digital, audio, traditional television and live performance — we think all of these are part of the content industry. It is now so much more non-traditional and so much more multi-faceted where different elements mix and match.”

Featured on the panel were Lisa Leingang, senior vice president, programming and content, First Look Media; Dean Capello, executive vice president and chief of content, WNYC/New York Public Radio; and Justin Wilkes, president of media and entertainment, RadicalMedia. RadicalMedia, which is co-producing David Letterman’s upcoming six-part interview series for Netflix, is one of the first companies to work in the digital content space.

The common denominator between the three represented companies, even in today’s world of employing a magnitude of unique verticals to tell stories, is that connection to the audience.

A Universal Theme

“We began in 1993 as a commercial production company in advertising and promotion, producing 30- and 60-second commercials and working with many major advertising agencies and brands,” said Wilkes. “But more so than just the actual physical product, it was a home for creative talent, directors and producers, and a combination of the advertising industry and the entertainment industry. And that has not changed.”

“Then and now, content is all about telling stories and engaging an audience,” he added. “Whether that is done in 30 or 60 seconds in a podcast or an audio stream, as a feature film or a series, it is still about telling great stories.”

“We don’t have anything except audio to keep you glued to your seat, which means that our storytelling has to be spectacular,” said Capello, who is responsible for the production and development of local, national, broadcast, online, mobile, and live event content for WNYC-FM, WNYC-AM, New Jersey Public Radio and

“With the ubiquity of technology, the fact that we can be in every corner of your life, we can now actually go back to the timeless techniques of storytelling and characters and understand what the audience wants. Creating platforms for people without platforms is one thing that we are doing.”

Connecting Different Elements

One of the merging content streams represented at the panel was National Geographic’s limited series Mars from RadicalMedia, which combines scripted elements and visual effects with documentary-style interviews.

“The balance between scripted drama and documentary was a tightrope walk that was highly complicated,” said Wilkes. “On a basic level, you don’t want to watch a scripted drama that is going to be interrupted by a documentary, so the trick was to make each piece support one another. At the end of the day, it is still about how are we unpacking this narrative for the audience.”

“It starts with the story we are trying tell, the people we are working with,” said Leingang, who heads up the development and production of scripted programming. including short-form and episodic digital content, and long-form programming for TV and streaming for First Look Media “You have to always figure out what is the way to weave things together so they complement each other. And you have to find the right creative people to assist in making the convergence of all types of media platforms a seamless flow.”

“Presenting content today can be a challenge, but the bottom line is, and will always be, the connection to the audience,” she added. “Everything else is secondary.”

[Image courtesy of Marc Berman]


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