Adventures In Broadband

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Posted by Charles on March 07, 2000 at 23:43:02:

I had an interesting experience this evening as I attended my very first Women In Animation meeting.

The meeting was held in a screening room on the main lot of Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank. Anytime I can get past the guards and walk about on that hallowed ground, I get emotionaly caught up in the excitement of the entertainment business and I'm reminded of why I came out to this town in the first place.

The meeting was the monthly gathering of the LA chapter of WIA and I have to tell you how disappointed I was. No, it's not what you think. I had this vision of being the only male among a roomful of bright, beautiful and talented professional women. Well, they were bright, beautiful, talented and professional all right, but imagine my surprise when I discovered that nearly half the crowd were men. I wonder if they had the same idea.

The room was filled to capacity and after a few formalities and the screening of an exceptional independent film from an animation jam in New York, a panel of experts gave their impressions and projections about broadband and how it is affecting and will continue to impact entertainment and animation in particular. After the discussion started, I realized that I foolishly forgot to bring a pen to take notes. As such, I'll do my best to pass on my recollections of the major points that were addressed.

First of all, broadband is here and it is spreading. Although a small percentage of households are connected at this time, a huge segment of the American workforce is online via high speed Internet access and many of those who are coming to the Internet for entertainment purposes are actually doing it on company time. There's also data that strongly suggests that many people are logging on for entertainment reasons during prime time hours in the evening, and that many of those who are seeking Internet entertainment are adults 35 years of age or older. Perhaps as a family thing.

Interactivity as opposed to linear story telling is what people are responding to. Pulling the visitor into your site by virtue of some sort of interactive experience, mostly with games, seems to be where many of the most successful Internet sites are scoring big. The "God and Devil" show on, for example, is set up so that a celebrity is interviewed by the two hosts of the show. The viewer decides after the interview is over, whether the show's guest should be sent to Heaven or Hell.

The distribution of entertainment is no longer a prohibitive factor as it once was for creators of content. Distribution is something of a non issue as anyone can get their product out today. The decisive factor in succeeding in web entertainment, aside from quality in content and bandwidth large enough for quick downloads, is marketing. That's where most of the effort will go once the animation is produced, towards making people aware of your property and letting them know where to find it.

We seem to be entering into a phase where independent films and projects distributed on the Internet will be generating income. Mostly from advertising. In my impressions, something similar to the way that Kellogs once sponsored Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Production budgets are typicaly between $5000 and $20,000 for a short, with a high of about $80,000. Although shorts the length of 3 to 5 minutes are not particularly suitable for television, they are perfect for the Internet.

The panel consisted of representatives from Warner Brothers Online (, STV Streaming Media, Macromedia (, and IBM. These companies are all approachable and are looking for content and some will even finance the production if they like what they see. Macromedia being one of them as well as Entertaindom. STV Media will help syndicate animated content on the web. AtomFilms will distribute via the Internet and also in traditional media, as I understood. They all seemed to agree that animated content at this time has a leg up on live action as streaming video technology works much better for animation by virtue of the software that's available for producing it. They also mentioned that 100 million households worldwide are currently set up to view streaming video as RealPlayer and Micorsoft's Media Player formats are commonplace on almost all computers sold today.

The point that all panelists made was that the Internet is the most powerful marketing and communications tool that the world has ever seen. The revolution in entertainment is only just beginning and that anyone with aspirations about producing entertainment for this medium should start to develop their franchise now while the game is still early and stick with it while you build your audience. Traditional media is watching the web and although it is an excellent way to build a following and pitch to networks and studios, it is definitely an entertainment medium all to its own where properties can develop and flourish independent of traditional media.

That, in a nutshell, is the lowdown on the pow-wow.

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