Being Mitch Hurwitz

Tomorrow, I am doing a presentation at the Media Summit in NYC.  (1:00-2:30 at McGraw-Hill Building, 1221 Ave. of the Americas at 49th St. [6th Ave].  I think if you say you are my parent, brother, sister, son, daughter, or cousin they will probably let you in.)

The title for the session is Developing the Next Generation of Entertainment, Media & Technology Thinkers and Visionaries – Science vs. Commerce vs. Theory. 

Anna Marie Piersimoni of the American Film Institute has set the theme which is, roughly, the   rapidly changing landscape of technology, ideas and behavior in entertainment media and its affect of these on the future of university education in the field.

We only have 10 minutes, but I am going to give a presentation called "Being Mitch Hurwitz: strategies for managing new media."

My slides:

Slide 1: We hold these truths to be self evident

that there are
new consumers
fragmentation of taste and preference
newly participatory, newly aggressive
new producers
cable outlets, video games, bloggers, fan fic, etc.
new media
DVD, internet, mobile phones, cable, etc.
that the entertainment industry is struggling to catch up
that the university world is well behind the curve
this is an opportunity to make ourselves useful
my approach: a Harvard Business School model
a transmedia model
Mitch Hurwitz has a problem, we can help solve it

Slide 2:

Strategy 1: a business model Mitch Hurwitz & Arrested Development
4.3 million viewers a week too small for Fox, not bad for TNT (e.g., The Closer)
a case of long tails, fat middles (& arrested development)
thinking technologies, i.e., more nimble business models
what we need, very precise measures:
the break even numbers for each production model
how much does it cost MH to make AD for PT, cable, DVD, etc.
the break even numbers for each channel
how many viewers/buyers does MH need for each channel
the momentum indicators
who is watching, how fast are they signing on, can MH wait?
loyalty vs. churn measures do we keep viewers or entertain new people every week?
loyalists, are they dense or distributed? informed or not? in or pending?
a predictive model MH could have used

Slide 3:

Strategy 2: Transmedia
what MH might have done in the first instance
transmedia as a way of building an audience
(e.g., Batman, several comics, several movies, fan fic)
Henry Jenkins.  Transmedia.  Cultural Convergence.  Forthcoming.
alternative ADs licensed or merely encouraged
fan fic, internet,
dividing the labor across several creative streams
let them run, unapologetic difference,
complete cocreation compliance
opportunities for engagement/participation/knowledge
solves the diffusion problem of strategy 1
MH doesn’t have to start cold, people know about it, and bec. they are coauthors they tune in to “see what you’ve done with the idea”
in the meantime, MH then scales up steadily to prime time AD starts small: internet, small cable, big cable, network, prime time

Slide 4: the academic contribution

1) to determine the alternative producing communities, how they work, how MH draw upon them
2) to build this knowledge into the curriculum so that students leave the academy with a fuller knowledge of contemporary culture, and how they can make a living in this culture
3) bringing business models to the liberal arts (yeah, right)

For more details on the conference here.

Session Participants

Moderator, Anna Marie Piersimoni, Director, Internet Communications, Director, Media & Technology, American Film Institute    
Allen Sabinson, Dean of Antoinette Westphal College of Media, Arts & Design. Drexel University     Carol Wilder, Associate Dean & Chair, Media Studies & Film, The New School    
Paul Levinson, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the communication and Media Studies Department, Fordham University    
Scott B. Barnett, Assoc. Director of Academic Computing, Sarah Lawrence College

5 thoughts on “Being Mitch Hurwitz

  1. dilys

    Very provocative. I hope you will give us a followup or transcript or MP3 of the lecture, since “Grant’s Remarkably Spry Godmother from Texas” can’t hop a plane today.

    Your transmedia ideas are appealing. As you note the real capital has been built in the characters, their interactions, their history, their strengths and, particularly, flaws. A maxim from a sit-com writing course has stayed with me: once you really, really establish the characters and their habitual intersections, the audience laughs (a) at their being themselves; and (b) in anticipation of their being themselves.

    The choice of media is the place for a sure hand, e.g. comic books probably not a demographic plus; short web-site, possibly animated bada-bings could be very good, possibly even funded with a product tie-in (though not an ad). How about faux reportage for airline magazines, e.g. an article series about Travels With Lucille tapping into Auntie Mame and Travels with my Aunt. The permutations are endless, and the AD demographic is quite literate, I suspect. It would be nice to have mild veto power centralized, so as to maintain some character consistency, and to obviate cheap transgressiveness.

    And I really appreciate your attention to break-even points. Ya’ think?

    So cool. I hope you get to team-manage this.

  2. Richard

    I second the request for a podcast. I’d love to be there but I’m on the other coast.

    Regardless, let us know how it turns out.

  3. Mitch Hurwitz

    I’ve always thought my show would work best as a series of illustrated cups — handouts from a fast food place, that kind of thing. It also works very well as a “tub decal” — I don’t know if that helps. I also should add that ten minutes might be too long to spend on being Mitch Hurwitz — I myself do it in very short bursts.

    I’m so flattered that you would even attempt to help me with my problem — although I would ask that you don’t mention the huffing.

    Let me know what you work out… and if I can help point young minds in a more successful direction than I myself have taken.

    Good luck with it!

  4. annie

    I just wanted to speak about the AD part. Your show won FIVE Emmys! Shouldn’t that prove it’s great success? I think a problem is that FOX is ALWAYS changing around their time slots for regular shows and giving seemingly shorter seasons. I personally have been unable to keep memorized the few shows I would love to catch all the time. Then think family into the equation. Not everyone eats dinner on time, all the time, or at the same time. Anyhow, with two children, and just a part-time job, I’d be lucky to catch any show on time anymore. I had decent luck the first two seasons though, when I was a stay at home mom and there was a more regular time slot I was used to every week. I do hope you bring this show back. The laughter it shared with the world is immeasurable:)

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