Q&A Interview with Todd Lituchy
Todd Lituchy has had an extensive media career, much of it in the international arena spanning three continents. His unique perspectives on international media make for a fascinating interview. Todd is the President of New Media Vision which helps clients expand their global footprints, develop new channel launches, and sell product globally.
In this interview, Todd talks about his background, the differences in international marketplaces, TV Everywhere, the internet’s impact on television viewership and offers some future predictions for the next few years.
CW: Todd, what is your background - how did you get to where you are today?
TL: I have worked in television for the past 20 years. My first job was in the NBC research department in NYC while still in college. After college, I had short stints at Lifetime Television, Viacom, and Nielsen. Then, after receiving an MBA from Columbia University, I moved to Los Angeles. I spent 5 years working for Walt Disney Studios in research and moved over to the programming side and ran Program Planning & Acquisitions for UPN. I was then recruited to run Viasat Broadcasting’s entertainment division. Based in London, I oversaw Program Planning, Acquisitions, and Commissioning for Viasat’s free and pay TV channels throughout Europe. After 5 years, I left to run the creative departments of News Corps’ Asian TV operations as President of Entertainment for STAR TV based in Hong Kong. I returned to London last year to start my own media consulting firm, New Media Vision. Initial clients include: Discovery Networks International, BBC Worldwide, and a number of production companies globally. It is a very exciting time for me.
CW: Tell me more about Viasat Broadcasting and what you did there.
TL: I was President of Entertainment at Viasat and it was a great job. I worked with people from all over Europe. We had free-to-air channels in a dozen countries and pay channels in roughly 30 countries. I worked on channels that were the highest rated channels in their markets as well as startup channels – talking them from pre-launch to launch to profitability. I also had the benefit of working on ad-supported channels and premium cable channels; general entertainment channels and niche channels (news, music, history, film, and factual programming). The job also allowed me to develop a strong track record in commissioning. In addition to working with the country CEOs and channel heads at picking strong local productions off of paper for our markets I pushed the company heavily into the format arena. During my tenure, we did the first local adaptations globally of Wife Swap, Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, You Are What You Eat, and others. Plus we did local versions of Pop Idol, Survivor, Deal or No Deal, and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. It was an amazing learning experience.
CW: What is the difference between the American, Asian and European media marketplaces?
TL: I have found that things vary more on an individual country basis than on a continental basis. Some countries rely heavily on local production; others are extremely competitive when it comes to acquisitions. In some markets there are volume an output deals and it is difficult to do ad-hoc acquisitions. In other markets, such as the UK ad-hoc acquisitions are the norm. From a production standpoint, the production values from the US studios are top notch, but you’d be surprised at how solid programs look on a $10-20,000 per hour budget coming out of Eastern Europe or Asia. I admire the risk-taking that comes out of the UK and The Netherlands. You see a lot of interesting concepts being tested on air.
CW: Tell me about New Media Vision.
TL: New Media Vision is my baby. I started the company at the end of last year helping international clients with format scouting and expansion of their channel portfolios. I have worked with start-up organizations as well as established global media companies with billions in revenue. Lately, I have started working with content owners helping them sell finished product globally and with producers to help them sell their formats across the world. I am working with interesting people and I get to choose the projects that are appealing to me. It is very empowering to hone my skills across a wide variety of disciplines, including: program development, research, format scouting, sales, channel management, acquisitions, production, and digital strategy.
CW: What do you think has been the most dramatic change in the industry in the past 5 years?
TL: TV Everywhere – the ability to watch TV shows online and over mobile phones. It is a huge game changer and is a fantastic advancement from a consumer perspective. In terms of programming and scheduling, it has made the industry rethink a lot of traditional practices. From a business side, we are still trying to work out how to monetize it.
CW: How do you think we can best measure TV Everywhere? Will the measurement differ across countries and if so how and why?
TL: I think media research companies will strive to measure television viewership however and wherever it is viewed. In addition to measuring traditional TV sets, it is important to measure streaming video on the Internet, inside and outside of the home, and to measure viewing on mobile platforms such as cellular phones and iPads. I think measurement will likely differ across countries for a number of reasons including technological differences and the cost required to capture the information.
CW: Please give me three predictions for the next 5 years.
TL: An increased commitment to co-productions: we have seen a spike in international casting in American programs over the past few years (House, Flashforward, Bionic Woman, Fringe, and Lost, just to name a few) and this will lead to the next step which is for international networks to co-fund series and take a role in creative decisions. Internet connected TVs: new TV sets will have internet connections allowing consumers to watch YouTube, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and other catch-up services on their main TV set instead of their computers. International formats will continue to appear on TV screens in the US and UK, but companies will start looking beyond The Netherlands and Japan for strong ideas. The world is full of great television content.
CW: How will Internet ready TV’s impact media usage?
TL: Overall, Internet ready TVs will cause an increase in media usage. Almost anytime consumers get new hardware for their TVs – whether it was cable boxes, VCRs, or DVRs, -- viewership increases. This will be the case with Internet ready TVs as well. You won’t see an across the board increase for all channels, so that makes the old guard nervous. You will see consumers watching YouTube, iPlayer, Hulu and other catch-up services directly on their living room sets and, in aggregate, viewership will increase.
Interview conducted by Charlene Weisler, a research veteran, member of the Set Top Box Collaborative executive committee, the CTAM Research and Research Planning Committees and a CIMM consultant. She can be reached through her blog www.WeislerMedia.blogspot.com or at WeislerMedia@yahoo.com.