Everybody’s falling under the spell of technology.
Even Kelsey Grammer, TV’s Dr. Frasier Crane, has a Web site. He talked about it at this year’s Banff Television Festival, where he received the Sir Peter Ustinov Comedy Network Award.
Grammer says he tries to get online once a month for a live chat, complete with Web camera images, but that lately he’s been having trouble finding the time.
One thing you can always do at his site is buy an autographed photo of him ($14.95 US, $24.95 if you want it personalized.) He’s also unloading Cheers mugs online for $13.95.
|Photo courtesy of John Bonner photography|
|Kelsey Grammer tells an audience at the Banff Television Festival about his online strategy.|
While this may seem pretty crass, Kelsey defends it, saying that he was angered by people selling merchandise with his image on it, and “making a living by coat-tailing on the success of a perfect stranger.”
He donates the after-tax profits to charitable causes. After all, he probably doesn’t need the money!
Technology has significantly changed the venerable Banff TV Festival itself. In years gone by, an official photographer took hundreds of shots, then left several copies of each for the media to fight over in the media room.
Of course, the best photos were taken by the swiftest journalists. Now, the photographer fires off hundreds of digital images, and the media room has the thumbnail images. Reporters pick the ones they want, and, bang, they arrive in electronic mail, ready for printing or publication. It’s a win-win-win for the festival, the reporters, and the environment, and something I wish more conference organizers would consider doing.
On a deeper level, more and more of the Banff TV Festival seems to be focusing on things other than traditional TV. New Media, Streaming Video, Interactive DVDs, Web sites and combinations of them are becoming important draws at the festival. Bell Globemedia announced $5 million to fund a new Canadian “content innovation network.”
“The purpose of the network is to develop innovative new training programs for students who want to marry content and technology,” says Alain Gourd, Group Executive VP of Bell Globemedia.
He admits that the money is flowing as a result of Bell’s purchase of CTV, as part of the so-called “benefits package.”
The network will involve three institutions including the Banff Centre and, Gourd says, it will use virtual education technology to allow students to take courses from Banff, Toronto and Montreal without having to travel.
“Everybody knew something needed to be done, and we kind of provided the spark plug,” he says.
Sara Diamond, the Banff Centre’s key contact on this project, says that the network “will give us a very natural way to move projects across the country, and I also hope it will allow us to do more work with aboriginal people.”
The fund will initially support six creative projects.
I had the privilege of chairing a session at this year’s festival on the provocative theme of “Reaching the Next Generation.”
Seng Wan Tan of Pandora Interactive Studio in Singapore demonstrated his interactive online content and talked about pushing it out on to the mobile devices that are flooding his country.
That’s definitely where you’ll be finding young people in the future, sending and receiving short messages on their mobile phones and PDAs.
On the same panel, Larry Weinstein, one of Canada’s most honoured TV music producers, teamed up with multimedia guru Mark Bishop to show off a five minute “domestic opera” called Toothpaste.
Starring Barbara Hannigan and Mark McKinney (of Kids in the Hall fame,) it’s a funny five-minute exploration on what happens when a wife leaves the cap off the toothpaste tube one time too many.
The creators passed out DVDs at the session, but don’t worry if you weren’t there to get one because it’s all available online at their Web site.
You can even take virtual reality tours of the rooms used in the shoot; learn obscure facts about opera, and play an operatic quiz show hosted by wisecracking goldfish.
If that all sounds too weird, get used to it, because it may well be the future of media as people try to bring new life to time-honored formats like opera and quiz shows.
There was good news/bad news for fans of regular old TV. With the proliferation of channels, you may eventually see a “me TV” that’s specially tailored to your own wants and needs. That was one prediction of Lee Hunt, vice-president for media and entertainment of Razorfish.
Of course if things get too fragmented, advertisers won’t buy ads, and producers will have no budgets. So they’ll be nothing worth watching. Even worse, the new PVRs – Personal Video Recorders, like TiVo and Replay TV – allow you to zip through commercials completely.
The Banff TV Festival is still about creativity and deal making, and some of the old timers were chuckling about the “dot-com meltdown” and all those uppity kids who couldn’t afford to come to Banff this year.
But the smartest old hands, like Larry Weinstein, were out there meeting up with talented dot-com survivors, just in case there is something to this whole New Media Thing.