Live from nextMEDIA 2008: Canada’s Digital Media Giants

All of Canada’s heavy hitters are in this panel session: Maria Hale from Telus, Stephan Argent from CTV, Dominique-Sebastien Forest from QMI, Steve Billinger from CBC/Radio-Canada, and Kevin Bartus from Rogers Media. The moderator is Claude Galipeau from Astral Media.

What are you seeing in the economy at the moment? How are ad sales?

  • DSF: Haven’t seen much softening in Canada. Lots of inventory.
  • MH: Growth at Telus has remained very strong. Telus remains #1 in the space for digital mobile downloads.
  • SA: The video online business is actually doing really well. From an ad perspective, advertisers are getting more familiar with ads online.
  • KB: Traditional media properties in general have seen softening, but not online yet.
  • SB: No softening, though some movement away from men online – we’ll see more advertising targeted at women. Lots of interest in radio and podcasting.

What are your top priorities for the year?

  • SB: Streaming of all sorts. Lots of heavy lifting behind the scenes to provide the "want it, have it" kind of capabilities. Keen to become engaged with social networking tools. Jokingly: "we’re partnering with Rock Band to make a So You Think You Can Write a Theme Song that goes something like…<humming HNIC>" – audience laughs! Poor HNIC theme song.
  • MH: Focused on changing the dialogue from "what’s new on the web" to video-on-demand, because that’s what people really want.
  • DSF: Mobility is a priority. Content-wise, shifting toward localization of both the content and advertising. There’s lots of opportunity – Quebecor has 65 open online positions right now.
  • KB: Monetization, trying some experiments on the web. Behavioral targeting has become very important. Rogers hasn’t launched a major online property in about ten years, going to try to change that.
  • SA: The Olympics is a huge initiative. Work on some legacy sites, such as the redeployment of TSN. Also need to look at analytics. The way numbers are calculated right now is questionable at best. Engagement and length-of-time spent are going to be most important long-term.

Who are the best companies in the space that you’d like emulate or work with?

  • MH: It’s about allowing the space to grow. Like Google, where employees can spend a percentage of their time on other projects. There needs to be that empowerment.
  • DSF: I love Sxip. Identity is the next big thing. Viigo, Overlay TV, and Vantrix are also really interesting.
  • KB: It’s hard to innovate in a large company, while still leverage the genuine assets that large companies offer.
  • SA: Jaffe Juice. Such a free thinker.
  • SB: Without question, Apple. The world is full of innovative ideas, but Apple delivers. A second company that’s really interesting to me is BetFair. They allow you to bet during the game, based on a stock market model. Analytics will become a form of game play.

Clarifying inventory: banner ads, that sort of thing. How many people are going to the page is what generates the inventory.

Question from the audience: What about geo-blocking like at Hulu? Will that change?

  • SB: The moment that the US can make more money in advertising than in licensing fees, it’ll happen. They’ll dump their content into this market like they do everywhere else. It’s just a question of economics.

Interesting discussion and comments from everyone, but I think Steve Billinger sort of stole the show!