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Television's Content Providers: Their Plans For Digital Future

CNBC.com

At the Future of Television conference Tuesday my attention shifted from the tech players to the content providers. Transitioning from traditional revenue streams of TV commercials and theatrical movie distribution, they're all trying to figure out how to monetize digital distribution.

Translation: they're trying to get their content in front of you in whatever way you want to consume it (pick the format, pick the timing, etc), and they want to make sure they make money. So far, there's absolutely no silver bullet, and all the giants--Disney ,Viacom , News Corp--are themselves trying a range of approaches.

I spoke with the head of Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment division, Thomas Lesinski, and it sounds like his approach is to bring content tailored to specific consumers, right to their environment, with payment model that fits that group. It sounds obvious, but I'm not talking about putting a show on cable instead of network TV. I'm talking about taking Paramount Pictures content into social networks, virtual worlds. Lesinski said he wants to make sure that they provide legal ways to do things that customers are trying to do illegally, and then monetize it.

Take Paramount's strategy with Facebook. It's the first of the studios to make its movie clips widely available on Facebook. An application on the social network called "VooZoo" allows users to access clips from Paramount (everything from "Beverly Hills Cop" to "Indiana Jones") and to send them to their friends, for 25 cents a pop.

It also functions as a marketing platform for promoting dvds and upcoming theatrical releases. (They give away VooZoos for free at first, and I'm guessing when it's promotional, they'll give those away too... it's certainly in their interest). And soon this function will be available on mobile phones.

And then there's Paramount's strategy with long form content--movies. For the most part, made-for-the-web content has been short clips, but Paramount produced a full-length movie, "Jackass 2.5," to debut first on the web. Paramount's first ever direct-to-broadband movie rolled out world-wide earlier this month, and will also be available on DVD. And Paramount says this strategy of going to consumers where they are (teen boys who love Jackass are online) was a success and they say they'll make more.

Paramount is even taking its brands into a virtual world, called Habbo. (If you're of a certain age you've probably never heard of it, but it's a popular virtual hangout for teens). Instead of having teens avatars decorate their rooms with generic designs, now they can pin up posters from Paramount movies. Why not pin up that Indiana Jones picture in your virtual room? Paramount loves it, as it's free marketing for their products.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.