Writing the Future: Consumer Electronics Show in LA 

By Tamara Krinsky, WGAW New Media Program Manager 

Photo credit: Eric Charbonneau/Le Studio
L-R: CEA Sr. VP Karen Chupka, actress/2012 CES Entertainment Matters Program Ambassador Eliza Dushku, and WGAW member/writer Jane Espenson (Once Upon A Time) at CES in LA: Writing the Future kick-off event at the WGAW. 

When it comes to getting the Internet to your television, there are a lot of buzzwords floating around – “Smart TV," “Convergence,” “Over the Top (OTT) delivery” – to name just a few. But what’s really happening with this new technology and, more importantly, what does it mean for writers?

On October 27, the WGAW co-presented a panel discussion with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) to talk about technology’s effect on the content community. CES in LA: Writing the Future examined the expansion of opportunities for delivering content to TV sets, highlighting the ability of content creators to get around the traditional television and network gatekeepers who have long controlled what consumers can watch in their living room. These technological changes are facilitating new creative and entrepreneurial opportunities for WGA members.

CEA produces the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the industry’s largest consumer technology tradeshow held every January in Las Vegas, and CEA Sr. Vice President Karen Chupka framed the importance of this discussion by noting that the devices that their manufacturers make “would be nothing without the content you create.” The panel included speakers Neil Davis, Head of Corporate and Digital Development, Blockbuster; WGAW member Jane Espenson, whose credits include Once Upon A Time; the web series Husbands; Caprica; Battlestar Galactica, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and Shawn DuBravac, Chief Economist and Director of Research, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Brent Weinstein, head of Digital Media at United Talent Agency, moderated the conversation.

Photo credit: Eric Charbonneau/Le Studio
CEA’s Shawn DuBravac showing off the latest Smart TV technology at WGAW’s CES in LA launch event on 10/27. 

According to DuBravac, 20% of televisions sold now have Internet connectivity, a development that is expanding viewing options for consumers who can now choose from an array of applications and services delivered via Internet to their TV screen. He demo’d an LG Smart TV to the crowd, showing the numerous options for finding and watching both broadcast and online content through the television’s built in applications. He then walked the audience through watching video via a Roku box, one of the Internet-connected set-top boxes currently on the market. If you do not have an Internet-connected television, you can hook up a Roku box to your set and stream movies and shows from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle.com, and many others, including blip.tv, the main distributor for Jane Espenson’s original web series Husbands.

For Espenson, an accomplished television writer, the Internet gave her the opportunity to create a project that she herself would want to watch – and then to take it directly to audiences online. “The Internet offers democratization of content,” said Espenson. “People who can’t get their work out can now. You can create and produce a show that might be a challenge to sell in TV but by going online first, you can actually show how the content will look and that an audience exists for it.”

When it comes to the writing of online content, she said that content needs to be more interactive and “snackable” online. She found it an easy transition from writing half-hour comedy to writing short-form episodes for the web, joking, “Writing for new media is like TV, and you get to swear!”

Photo credit: Eric Charbonneau/Le Studio
Blockbuster exec Neil Davis demos Blockbuster’s new Facebook initiative at CES in LA launch event. 

Espenson’s story highlights the potential opportunity online distribution offers to Guild members who work in an increasingly consolidated television and film market where a small pool of buyers exercise their creative and financial control over the business. Technological developments that bring Internet content to the television offer the potential for Guild members to create new routes to the consumer, outside of the few companies that control traditional entertainment.

The panel also discussed other positive developments that will further the growth of Internet delivery of content including increasing emphasis on the user interface for new online platforms and devices, as finding content can be a challenge. Blockbuster executive Neil Davis noted that his company may move into acquiring distribution rights for independent films as a way to offer unique and differentiated content.

As Internet delivery of content matures, look for the Guild to continue to facilitate discussions with new content outlets and distributors to expand opportunities for WGAW members.

The 2012 International CES is being held January 10 – 13, and has a special program called Entertainment Matters aimed at helping entertainment professionals navigate the show through a variety of exhibits, keynotes and special events. For more information: www.EmatCES.com.

For more information on new media, please click here or contact WGAW New Media Program Manager Tamara Krinsky at (323) 782-4688 or Tamara Krinsky.