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Fireside chat with a former Fox executive about the new golden age of television

Posted by Betsy Farber on September 17th, 2013 at 11:59 am

To kick off iMedia’s Entertainment Summit in Hollywood, Calif., tech catalyst Lori H. Schwartz interviewed former Fox executive Lucy Hood. The chat covered not only where Hood sees the state of television heading, but also the part she played in where it is today.

Lucy Hood, president and COO at The Academy of Arts & Sciences, is no stranger to digital innovation for television. Around 2001, while at Fox, she was responsible for the mobile interaction that the popular show “American Idol” incorporated, which ended up revolutionizing how viewers interact with a live media event. How did she manage to convince her colleagues to take this unprecedented risk? “I had to knock some heads and break some rules to do new stuff,” she says. The challenge today for marketers is to get in front of advertisers, innovate around consumer behavior, while also getting management excited. This was her obstacle at Fox, and as history has noted, she was successful in her convincing.

This rule-breaking concept is how she is still approaching the television industry today, and she gives marketers the same advice by which she lives. Social media is “the water cooler” of today, she says, and having a tech sensibility is essential to survive. Consumers are still craving the best content and will watch it regardless of the format. Netflix has proven this theory, with the groundbreaking series “House of Cards,” which has been nominated for several Emmys. Another challenge is adapting to consumer viewing habits. Hood’s involvement in a USC think tank that researched the viewing habits in the digital home, proved that “cord cutting” is where television is heading. Basically, Netflix isn’t going anywhere. As consumers use migration across multiple devices to consume content, marketers and creators have to adapt.

Since a television broadcast model doesn’t exist anymore, showrunners are taking different paths to shaping the content that they create. She mentioned Matt Weiner, the creator of “Mad Men,” as a showrunner who worries only about the content, where someone like Shonda Rhimes, who used social media to launch her show “Scandal,” was equally as successful. The rules may have changed, but creating the best content is still the priority.

So as the television model changes, do we need to give it a new definition? Hood vehemently says no. Television is a ubiquitous term and still has the same values. She mentions that even though Silicon Valley and other tech giants have joined the Academy, their added interest is organic and will only elevate the possibilities for the future. “Don’t forget the traditional,” she suggests to marketers. Being authentic to your brand and to the consumer is even more important now, as fans have a voice more than ever now. Through the changes, her core mission has always remained the same: To celebrate, honor, and empower the makers of television. She emphasizes that when telling and creating great stories, it doesn’t matter where they come from. “Television is the universe,” she added, noting that it will work best for those that embrace the digital future.

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