Streams of Thought: The European Sensibility

Streaming Media Europe, held each October in London, is often overlooked on the American side of the pond, what with many companies returning from IBC in September. As a member of the ragamuffin band of travellers that covers, moderates, or speaks at multiple events throughout the year in Asia, Europe and the U.S., I have to say I like the size and sensibility of the Europe show for three basic reasons.

Even back in the heyday of the late 1990's dot-com hype around online media, the Streaming Media Europe shows offered a sensible incredulity and reflection point. For all the hype shouted so blatantly from the U.S. streaming industry, the European approach is to test the claims before jumping on the bandwagon. Today, this continues to be true, and even the U.S.-based speakers walk away with a sense of how Europeans are adopting streaming as a complement to, rather than in spite of, traditional broadcasting. This plays out in a balance between content from networks BBC and Sky, for instance, where U.K. viewers will just as enthusiastically watch a BBC period piece or situation comedy online as they will the latest Hollywood movie.

Streaming Media Europe offers a chance to watch trends through the lens of a geography smaller than the U.S. but far more diverse-and divergent-in terms of language and cultural footprint. From host country the United Kingdom to select companies and representatives from key European Union states, Streaming Media Europe showcases public TV, premium content and social media upstarts on an equal stage.

One of the best sessions from the 2009 show was a keynote from Myles MacBean, vice president and general manager for Disney Online EMEA. MacBean is essentially responsible for Disney's online brand in a staggering number of countries, each at a different level of maturity and receptivity when it comes to the Mouse House and other Disney properties.

MacBean talked about the variety of mediums and the diverse target audiences that Disney must reach across EMEA, but he also reiterated Disney's focus on strengthening the brand and staying on message, tying in how streaming and community building can help drive the overall vision.

This reason might better be titled "How to stand out in a crowd," except for the fact that the attendance level is the proper balance between intimacy and scale. The U.S. companies that have attended the event tend to get more face time with key decision makers than at a larger show such as IBC. But they also find themselves in a position to take advantage of ad-hoc opportunities with potential customers in London or nearby Paris.

Even the keynote speakers offer time for those with potentially complementary ideas to pitch concepts, something we don't often see in the to-the-minute executive schedules in the U.S. This year's event was no different, and there were government and nongovernment organisations open to new ideas, including representatives from the Dutch Media Hub and Luxembourg for ICT, both of which provided insight into opportunities and challenges that face digital media businesses looking to get into-or expand their current reach in-the European market.

It may be too late for the 2010 show, but I'll continue to challenge my U.S. colleagues to attend the show in 2011. It's well worth the effort.

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