22 August 2013 - 8:00pm | posted by | 0 comments

Edinburgh International TV Festival: "The risk takers are rewarded", Kevin Spacey delivers MacTaggart Memorial Lecture

Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey delivered this year's MacTaggartHollywood actor Kevin Spacey delivered this year's MacTaggart

"Things are changing and changing fast," remarked Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey in his MacTaggart Memorial Lecture, addressing the changing nature of the television industry and audiences' desire and hunger for great content and storytelling across the board.

Netflix series 'House of Cards', in which Spacey starred, was made available online in one go, and marked a shift in traditional television broadcasting, no longer at the mercy of scheduling and audience ratings. The two-season Netflix deal has paved the way for a number of online-only shows with many still to come.

In his address at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, Spacey said: "I've come here today with no ideology - and I'm not viewing today's event as a television event. It seems to me since audiences are no longer making those kinds of distinctions, why should we?"

Discussing working with Netflix Spacey said its model proved one thing - "the audience wants control...if they want to binge then we should let them binge."

He added: "I think we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn't learn: give the people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they'll be more likely to pay for it rather than steal it; well, some will still steal it, but I believe this new model can take a bite out of piracy."

Innovation is a key theme running through Spacey's speech, innovation in both storytelling and broadcasting. "We might not change the status quo overnight, but we can mould structures at the centre of our businesses," he said.

Of course in discussing Netflix Spacey touched upon the monumental success of Breaking Bad - "a slow starter ratings wise" but for which the "biggest gains came after the series debuted on Netflix in 2011."

According to Spacey Breaking Bad is a prime example that "shows need to be treated as assets, to be nurtured, protected from the quick network trigger that can bail on a show before it has the chance to find its feet".

He continued: "If an audience is bonding to a show, however small that audience is to begin with, isn't it worth investing time to help it find its true potential? And if that means ripping up the rulebook and scheduling in a different way, or playing with windows to build excitement and availability, then we should be prepared to try anything."

Spacey's lecture furthered that the success of "Netflix and other similar services" is due to the fact they have managed to "marry good content with a forward-thinking approach to viewing habits and appetites".

"For kids growing up now there's no difference watching Avatar on an iPad or watching YouTube on a TV and watching Game of Thrones on their computers. It's all content. It's all story...The audience has spoken: they want stories. They're dying for them," he said.

In summary Spacey concluded: "We are no longer operating in a world where someone has to decide if they are an actor, director, producer or writer - these days kids growing up on YouTube can be all these things; we have to persuade them that there is a home for them in the mainstream."

Finishing with the words of Orson Wells: "I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I just can't keep eating peanuts."

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