Screentime Wrap: Key Takeaways from Bloomberg’s Media Conference

Media executives from Ted Sarandos to Ari Emanuel and reality TV stars like Kris Jenner told attendees at the inaugural Bloomberg Screentime conference where they see entertainment heading in the coming years.

(Bloomberg) — Media executives from Ted Sarandos to Ari Emanuel and reality TV stars like Kris Jenner told attendees at the inaugural Bloomberg Screentime conference where they see entertainment heading in the coming years.

The growth of streaming, the Hollywood actors strike, a company-by-company report card and artificial intelligence  — all were topics of discussion at the two-day media and pop culture event in Los Angeles. Here are some takeaways.

Read More: Hollywood Studios, Striking Actors in Standoff as Talks Crumble

  • Superagent Emanuel likes where Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.’s David Zaslav and Walt Disney Co.’s Bob Iger are headed. Not so much Fox Corp. or Paramount Global.
  • Netflix co-CEO Sarandos said contract talks with striking actors broke down over their demand for a “levy” on streaming customers.
  • Hybe founder and Chairman Bang Si-Hyuk said the globally popular K-pop band BTS is working on a 10th anniversary album and will reunite.
  • Kris Jenner, matriarch of TV’s Kardashian family, worries about the impact of social media, particularly on her grandchildren. She’s not alone.
  • There are too many sports documentaries, according to Bill Simmons, founder of the sports and culture site the Ringer.
  • Actor-writer-producer Issa Rae calls artificial intelligence “terrifying.”
  • Ghostwriter, an anonymous producer and songwriter, sees record labels eventually embracing AI.

Netflix Inc. co-Chief Executive Officer Sarandos said talks with striking actors broke down after the union asked for a “levy” on streaming customers on top of a bonus plan for successful shows that the media companies had already offered.

The ask “just felt like a bridge too far to add this deep in the negotiations,” Sarandos said.

The Screen Actors Guild has been on strike since July, seeking improved pay, a share of streaming revenue and restrictions on the use of artificial intelligence. A separate strike by writers just ended.

Sarandos said that a sound editor working on the company’s first original series in Israel, Lior Waitzman, was among the victims of the Hamas attack over the weekend. His credits include the series Fauda and Tehran.

“Our hearts are out to Lior and his family and anyone else who may have lost somebody in Israel on Saturday,” he said.

Separately, Netflix announced plans to open two new permanent stores in the US in 2025, with the goal of opening more physical locations globally with restaurants, stores and activities tied to its TV shows and films.

AI Booster Ghostwriter Sees Label Cooperation Coming (7:10 p.m.)

Ghostwriter, the anonymous creator behind the viral AI-generated track Heart on My Sleeve, said record labels will soon find a business model around synthetic voices.

“Everything has to start somewhere and it’s always rough when you kick it off,” he said Thursday. “It takes time to acclimate, to figure it out, to build the business model, and then once that happens it’ll find its place.”

Ghostwriter foresees a future where labels officially license artists’ voices and share in the revenue made from songs using their sound.

The artist — who took the stage in an all white outfit and goggles to mask his identity — said he’s a producer and songwriter. His viral song was meant to be an experiment and was wholly human-made, apart from the AI-generated voices of Drake and The Weeknd. Streaming services eventually removed the track, though people can still find it online.

“This is bigger than me or who I am,” he said.

Bill Simmons: Too Many Sports Documentaries (6:25 p.m.)

One of the most successful sports podcasters, Bill Simmons said there are too many sports documentaries and he’s concerned that to get access to the best athletes you now have to cooperate with them on the productions.

“A lot of the ideas have been done,” said Simmons, creator of The Ringer sports and culture network. 

Simmons also said regional sports networks are over and that Walt Disney Co. should sell ESPN to Apple Inc.

Writer-Actor Rae Likens AI Debate to Sci-Fi (6 p.m.)

“It feels like a Black Mirror episode,” writer-producer-actor Issa Rae said. “There has to be consent for your likeness.” 

Calling AI “terrifying,” Rae said a person’s likeness is what they bring to the table. While it may be cost efficient to use technology to fill people in as extras, actors need to participate in the success of their productions. 

Rae, who was featured in the blockbuster film Barbie, said her goal is to add to her music company Hoorae Media with a production studio to promote creators of color.

AI negotiations will be an ongoing process, she said, and that studios and guilds need to work together to prevent technology companies from using existing scripts to train AI models.

Lakshmi Says Mideast Conflict Hard to Talk About (4:45 p.m.)

Padma Lakshmi, the author, activist and Emmy-nominated host of the Hulu food show Taste the Nation, said she found it difficult to comment on the Israeli-Hamas war on social media.

“It’s one of those issues that’s really hard to talk about, especially online in short format in social media, because anything you say is going to be a platitude,” she said. “If you express empathy for one group that means you’re an anti-Semite. If you express empathy for the horrible, horrible thing that’s happened right now then you don’t believe that these people over here, the Palestinians, should have a homeland.”

Lakshmi also shared how she uses Taste the Nation to talk about political issues through stories about food.

“It’s really about giving communities that have never had mainstream exposure and sort of an A-List treatment like that,” she said. “That’s what we strive to do and I always wanted to do that because I think those stories are interesting, and I think they’re interesting to other people in the country.”

BTS Works on 10th Anniversary Album (4:10 p.m.)

Members of the K-pop group, which is on a short break from performing, renewed their contracts in September, with plans to reunite in 2025, Hybe Co. founder and Chairman Bang Si-Hyuk said at the Bloomberg Screentime conference.

Read More: K-Pop Mogul Behind BTS Is Building the Next BTS in LA

Bang also said his 10-year goal is to establish a plan for the company to be sustainable without him.

“I’m not announcing my retirement,” he said. “The ideal plan is that the company should be running and sustaining itself without, you know, any single person.”

Maria Sharapova Cites Tennis’ ‘Untapped Potential’ (3:40 p.m.)

The former No. 1 women’s tennis player, Maria Sharapova pointed said there remains a significant pay gap between men and women tennis pros outside of the sport’s four major tournaments. 

“The disparity is insane,” she said at the Bloomberg Screentime conference.

Media reports have suggested the Women’s Tennis Association may merge with the Association of Tennis Professionals, which could alleviate some of that gender inequality, but Sharapova said she doubts it will happen anytime soon.

Byron Allen Says Disney Isn’t Ready to Sell ABC (3:15 p.m.)

Media mogul Byron Allen said he texted Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger with his offer to buy ABC and other channels but that the executive isn’t ready to sell. 

“They’re not there,” Allen said, adding he won’t have any trouble raising money to fund the purchase and he is more likely to get regulatory approval because he doesn’t own as many stations as other bidders. 

“When Bob is ready I’m going to chase it down like a lion chasing a gazelle,” he said. 

Allen, a former stand up comic who now owns a string of TV stations and the Weather Channel, said NFL owners need to change limits on borrowing and minimum investment requirements so that people of color can buy a team. 

“I’d love to put a half a billion, a billion into an NFL team,” he said. “It is the true religion of America. It’s the highest rated television content by far.”

Kris Jenner Discusses Move to Hulu (2:55 p.m.)

The matriarch of the Kardashian family discussed the move to Hulu from E with their flagship TV series, now called The Kardashians. 

“I really felt like streaming was in the cards for us,” Kris Jenner said Thursday at the Bloomberg Screentime conference. “We wanted to elevate what we were doing and streamline the show and have it have a new audience.”

She also discussed the plusses and minuses of being social-media celebrities.

“I mean, it’s just an negative place at times, but then it’s a great place at times,” she said. “And it’s an amazing focus group, a built-in focus group. It’s such a tool, but it can be a little scary too.”

Jenner wears an Oura Ring that measures sleep quality, and she competes with her daughter, Kim, for the highest score.

“Now it’s become this little obsession,” she said.

YouTube Live-Sports Focus Is NFL (2:20 p.m.)

Neal Mohan, chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube, says that when it comes to live sports competition his focus remains on the NFL, not the NBA.

In December, YouTube TV outmaneuvered rivals to win the right to broadcast the National Football League’s Sunday Ticket games, starting with the current 2023 season, in a deal valued at more than $2 billion per year over seven years.

Meanwhile, there’s been growing speculation over who will televise NBA games when the league’s deals expire in 2025.

Asked at the Bloomberg Screentime conference about the NBA, Mohan said “they have been longtime partners” and operate “one of the largest channels on our platform.”

But “in terms of our focus right not,” he added, “it’s about this NFL experience.”

YouTube Draws 1.3M Fans to Sunday Ticket (1:45 p.m.)

Die-hard fans of live sports are migrating online in big numbers, responding to the multibillion-dollar investments by major technology companies, the research firm Antenna suggests in a new report.

The NFL Sunday Ticket, now distributed by YouTube, has attracted an estimated 1.3 million sign-ups, Antenna said Thursday. That exceeds the 1.2 million customers the service reportedly had under its old distributor, DirecTV.

The package, which lets fans watch games not shown on local channels, is also driving new subscribers to YouTube TV, a $73-a-month online alternative to cable television. About 41% of Sunday Ticket subscribers are new customers to YouTube TV.

“It’s a really great win-win for the NFL and YouTube,” Jonathan Carson, Antenna’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said in an interview.

Superagent Ari Emanuel kicked the event off Wednesday evening with comments that touched on the hostilities in the Middle East, rival Creative Artists Agency, as well as his assessment of some of the largest media companies including Paramount Global and Fox Corp.

EA May Still Seek FIFA Partnership

Electronic Arts Inc. executive Laura Miele, speaking at the conference on Thursday, said her company may seek to reengage with global soccer body FIFA even though the two organizations failed to reach a new agreement over the company’s use of the brand in its video games.

“We will look to potentially do World Cup partnerships,” she said.

Tune in here for continuing coverage of the Screentime event.

(Updates with employee’s death in sixth paragraph.)

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