Banff ’15: Blue Ant reveals OTT move, JP gets (Mc)fly

The conference kicks off with a keynote speech from CRTC chair Jean Pierre Blais and the first hint of a new global strategy from Blue Ant. (Blue Ant CEO Michael MacMillan pictured.)

Michael MacMillanBlue Ant Media is going over the top.

Not over the top like bringing a skateboard up to illustrate your Back to the Future metaphor for the regulatory policy change, as CRTC chair JP Blais did in his opening keynote, but over the top of vertically integrated BDU giants that gatekeep the industry worldwide.

Michael MacMillan,  CEO, of the Toronto-headquartered media co revealed during a “View from the Top” leaders panel at the annual TV conference and market that the company is soon to launch a standalone OTT TV product in the U.K.

The move will see the company’s Love Nature channel go global in app form in a direct-to-consumer model for GBP3.99 per month (with a first-month free trial period). The app will launch on multiple platforms, including Samsung Smart TVs as well as Android and iOS tablets and is set to roll out “shortly,” according to a Blue Ant spokesperson.

The direct-to-consumer app model is the first step in a global strategy for Blue Ant on the mobile stage, said Raja Khanna, CEO, TV and digital, Blue Ant, after MacMillan’s reveal during the panel discussion.

The move follows Blue Ant rebranding its Oasis specialty channel as Love Nature this January. Blue Ant’s ‎SVP of original content, Marcia Martin, told Playback at the time that the company was amping up its original content creation, some of it in 4K.

The OTT reveal was part of a larger conversation during the View from the Top panel on the opportunity direct-to-consumer poses, with both panel moderator Peter Sussman (managing director, Aver Media Finance) and earlier, CRTC chair Jean Pierre Blais, stressing that the model, on a mass scale, offers a new, previously unattainable solution for producers to skip traditional channels and sell their product directly to consumers.

It’s a nice notion, panellist and Lionsgate TV Group chairman Kevin Begg quipped, but argued that the traditional studio-distributor model (in the U.S.) is necessary to monetize – and finance – content over the long term in today’s complex global distribution market. “It’s great for an investor meeting but they [producers, agencies] don’t have the bench strength to manage that process over many years. More often than not, [it] results in insufficient economics and it shows on screen,” he said.

However, MacMillan’s OTT announcement surely would have pleased Blais, who opened Banff 2015 with a speech designed to rouse the producers in the room with reassurances that “it will be okay” and repeated pushes for producers to aim globally with their content.

“The world is waiting for you. The best shows will travel high far and wide,” he said in his closing comments.

After using a Back to the Future montage as an analogy to compare his 2013 speech to his 2015 speech, complete with the aforementioned skateboard as a prop, Blais chose specifically to focus on two areas: “mass creates revenue” and “click to retail.”

Of the first, he offered the analogy of selling a show to a consumer directly for a penny, pointing out that no one in the room would do so.

But when “four billion” consumers have smartphones and will buy shows for a penny, he noted, it’s an entirely different proposition. And of click-to-retail: he pointed out that it’s no coincidence that Amazon is investing in content creation with the weight of e-commerce behind it, and predicted  the world will see “clickable” e-commerce content happening in the near future.

“That is the next big thing in media,” he said.