The first day of SCAD’s seventh annual aTVfest in Atlanta included a schedule packed with workshops, panels and press junkets. One of the panel discussions, “The Evolution of Content Development,” explored how new network divisions are forming in a climate where “content is king” and distinctiveness is more important than ever.

Ilyssa Goodman, an independent producer and director with credits such as “A Cinderella Story” and “The Standoff,” commented that through short-form content such as web-based commercials, people are trying to reach viewers and change those viewers into purchasers. Attention spans have shortened with easy access to multiple mediums of content, mostly because the technology that allows such access is evolving rapidly, Goodman said.

“That has changed what people are airing,” Goodman said. “There’s the short-form content that’s used in marketing and advertising but there’s also more short-form content for Netflix; I used to develop a series, and you would walk in and you would have a bulk of thirty episodes with arcs and then season two and season three. Now you go to Netflix and they say, ‘Well, can we just have eight episodes,’ and that’s all they want. So all of a sudden everything that we’re doing is breaking down into these little bite size movies.”

Goodman said she has pitched movies to studios, and they have responded asking for the story as a series. Binge-watching has changed the game of content consumption, which has altered the way viewers buy content, according to Goodman.

“For me as a producer, I have to walk in and I’m selling everything from five-minute webisodes to YouTube Red to eight-part series to Netflix and movies,” Goodman said. “It’s almost like there’s so more because there are so many places to find it.”

Maureen Timpa, vice president of production at FX Networks, added to that sentiment by expressing concern that an abundance of content makes it more difficult for a brand to be distinct in a saturated market. According to Timpa, in order to build a brand from nothing, it is imperative to figure out what is unique and specific about the brand, because just having content is no longer enough.  

“It’s everywhere,” Timpa said. “Everybody has so much of it, and I think people are looking how can we use content to elevate our brand, and not just make an ad. I think consumers are very savvy, and they’re like ‘I want to be entertained, don’t just shout in my face and say, ‘Buy this.” Nobody likes that…The demand for distinctiveness has gotten even more pronounced and puts a lot of pressure on creatives to say why is this different than this other person.”

Miguel Hernández, senior writer and creative lead at Otterbox, acknowledged that the consistent theme in their conversation is the phrase “content is king.” It does not matter whether that content is coming from a network or a brand, because either way, it must be intriguing and insightful, according to Hernández.

“It has to resonate [and] connect on a level that’s real,” Hernández said. “I really appreciate the questions we launched this [panel] with, because one of them was how you keep all the unnecessary stuff out. That kind of goes back to that flow you’re looking to achieve. In our discussion last night, we said it evolved way back then and it’s evolving now. That’s why these moments right here are so potentially magical, because everyone in this room is going to bring those ideas from advertising or writing or directing or tech or whatever it is. Tech has influenced the way content is all coming together.”

Hernández said while he studied film at Columbia College in Chicago, one of the biggest challenges he constantly faced was the desire to be creative and make work that satisfied his artistic energy. He shared a quote he has used to reinforce how to harness effective concepts for content development.

“‘Don’t begin with an idea, begin with an insight,'” Hernández recited. “The insight will energize and keep you going and help you find your flow. And your idea will come.”

Written by Emilie Kefalas.