Digital thinking: Q&A with Virtual Screenings organisers Nicolás Smirnoff & Fabricio Ferrara

Nicolas Smirnoff

Covid-19 has seen numerous physical conferences move online, while new events have been launched specifically designed to connect executives unable to travel. Nicolás Smirnoff and Fabricio Ferrara of Prensario International discuss what their forthcoming Virtual Screenings 2020 will offer global audiences.

Why did you decide to launch Virtual Screenings (VS) 2020 and who are you expecting to attend the Autumn edition?

Nicolás Smirnoff (NS): We launched VS when we saw in March that physical events would be suspended by Covid-19 and that there were no good online options to replace them. Several customers told us to do it and we realised we had everything needed, including the relationship with the potential exhibitors and especially with the buyers, as Prensario is a buyer-oriented publication, as well as experience in online development. We didn’t know about online events, so it was an accelerated learning to do in two-and-a-half months what we should have done in six months.

The results were huge, though, with 4,000 participants from 101 countries, 1,300 buyers, and above all the hundreds of leads the exhibitors received. One of the secrets was the daily newsletters, which told the story of the event day by day, with rankings of performance and useful trends delivered by full analytics of the system.

In Autumn we expect to grow 15 to 20% across participants, buyers and screenings. This time we’ve had the experience of May and more time to prepare, so everything is improved: a new modular design; direct interaction with buyers at the booths; new sections; more analytics; and of course all the panels and conferences. These will be launched everyday to make people return each day and our slogan of ‘Live the experience’ will be much better and more complete this time.

You are offering a market element along with an array of online ‘conference sessions’ for delegates, will these be exploring all genres?

NS: Yes, the idea of the VS Next Sessions is to touch every region of the world and every segment of the market. We’ve made alliances with very good partners such as TBI sibling Omdia and have about 10 in total, helping to organise 15 panels with top acquisitions and business executives from Europe, Asia, Latin America, etc. Together, the panels let viewers see what’s next in the market, considering the pandemic scenario and the new hybrid pictures we see emerging in the near future.

Fabricio Ferrara

As you mention, TBI’s sibling analyst arm Omdia is presenting a deep dive into the world of streaming, what can we expect from this session?

NS: This will be one of our top presentations with Maria Rua Aguete, a key analyst of the OTT ecosystem and its evolution. To be premiered on 15 Sept (the first day of VS Autumn), participants include are David Urgell, SVP & head of streaming services for EMEA-Asia, Pluto TV; Jacob Ahlin, director of digital propositions at A+E Networks UK; and Filippa Wallestam, EVP & chief content officern at NENT Studios. It will be a key panel to better understand where the OTT business is going: competition, business models and internationalisation.

You also have a variety of sessions exploring Spanish-language content and the wider Latin American industry, can you let us know who will appear and tell us about some of the key trends set to be discussed?

Fabricio Ferrara (FF): Virtual Screenings is a global marketplace so we want to offer events, contents and data for all executives from around the world without excluding anyone. We are featuring four Lat Am paneles, two of them with key distributors including Globo (Brazil), RCN (Colombia) and Dori Media, organised by Prensario International; and another in partnership with MRM/Kiev Media Week with MGE (Chile), TV Azteca (Mexico), Fremantle Latin America, ViacomCBS International Studios America and Caracol (Colombia). This will premiere first in Kiev Media Week Global Marathon on the 14 September and then it will be hosted in our platform.

Another session involves key TV channels execs and producers from the region talking about trends, audiences and the return to production, then we have an animation focus in partnership with Platino Industia with key executives from Televisa, Cartoon Network and Planeta Jr. From Spain, we are featuring a full panel with the three top national media groups, public broadcaster RTVE and private groups Mediaset/Mediterraneo and Atresmedia, as well as Spanish drama legend Daniel Ecija (The Good Mood) and Bomerang TV’s Maria Garcia. It’s an unmissable panel if you are looking for doing business with Spain, whose drama is more and more sophisticated and gaining new global territories.

There will be focuses on Asia and in particular Indonesia too, which has attracted huge amounts of interest from the international industry over the past year or so. Tell us what viewers can expect from these sessions.

FF: We’ve partnered with Asia TV Forum & Market to bring two-Asia focused panels to Virtual Screenings, one for Singapore and another one for Indonesia. Souteast Asia is a key region to do audiovisual business and the panels will be featuring trends, buying concepts and top news from key broadcasters, pay TV networks and producers in two strategic markets from that region. As mentioned, we expect all VS Autumn participants to offer vital pieces of information from their various regions of the world.

Nicolás Smirnoff is director of Argentina-based publisher and events organiser Prensario International, while Fabricio Ferrara is international business director.

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