Eisner On Online Video And What ‘Works’: Sex And Sarah Palin; But ‘Story’ Is The Thing

imageVeoh founder Dmitry Shapiro climbed on stage at a small theater in Manhattan to introduce a discussion on the changes online video have been experiencing. For its mini-conference, the Veoh Insights Series: Watching The Web, first up was a Q&A between Michael Eisner, the former Disney (NYSE: DIS) CEO and, more recently, founder of The Tornante Company and backer of Vuguru and Veoh, and AdAge’s Brian Steinberg.

What do people want to see: Are we talking about all video? Sex seems to work. User-gen, sports, news, anything with Sarah Palin works. At the end of the day, like in all the other industries from movies to TV, long-form, story-driven content is what ultimately works. But it’s still in the experimental stage. At ABC, we started America’s Funniest Home Video — so this isn’t the first era to watch a man get hit in the groin with a bat. Most of the studio video is repurposed, like Hulu. It makes NBC and News Corp (NYSE: NWS) feel like they’re doing something — I’m not sure it’s the right thing, but they’re doing it well.

Defining quality: Lasting quality starts with script. But it depends on the medium. South Park’s a radio show, basically. Big superhero movies like Batman and Iron Man work great on the big screen. Would it translate to the computer screen? Maybe it would. You can create videos that look like they have production values that are comparable to those big studio projects.

The good old days: When I was a kid on 89th St., the RKO Theater near me had on their marquee, “Don’t watch TV.” But eventually, the media companies got together and TV and movies coexisted. The same when cable came into being. TV and cable started repurposing content, particularly movies and old radio shows. Then, they began to form distinct identities and created their own individual content.

Lead the advertisers: MySpace could dominate video if they figured out how to do it. Part of figuring it out involves attracting the advertisers. It’s easy to get advertisers to move over from TV to Hulu. But for original content, that remains the challenge. But it will come. You can’t let the advertisers lead you, it has to be the other way around. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. When we passed on All In The Family, I thought, so what, there’s only three networks — where are they going to go? That didn’t go over well. More after the jump

Hold off on 30-sec pre-roll: I can’t stand 15-second overlays, but 30 seconds is too much to stand. Product placement is fine, as long as it’s entertaining and doesn’t disrupt too much. The 30-second post-roll is dead too — it’s like watching the credits. No one will stay around for that. Targeting is key. Appointment TV is gone. Targeted audience are here to stay. If you can make an interactive commercial, that would be the way to go. It wouldn’t be annoying and you’d get the people who are interested.

Exclusivity (and back to Palin): Mass audiences are still possible, even on the internet. If I were at ABC, I’d sign up Palin and put her on a show the day after she loses the election. With that wink, she can go a long way. You could put it on Veoh. Why would it not be bigger than on ABC or NBC? It would be on instantly all around the world and if you put it on for just one week and then it was gone — it would be big. When that happens, and you get 200 million people in one week, there will be an exodus from the networks on onto Veoh and Break and others. And the cat on a skateboard? That would just be a small part of it.

One more thing about Palin: The most interesting thing to me about the Katie Couric video, was not the interview, but the comments on it. And some people thought she did fantastic! That’s really interesting. Anyway, those comments can be commercialized.