The Future of Entertainment

A Panel Discussion

Web 2.0 2005
42 minutes, 19.4mb, recorded 2005-10-06
Mark Cuban, Michael Powell, Evan Williams, Reed Hastings

The increasing availability of broadband, as well as the rise of "user-created content" is changing the nature and distribution of entertainment. This panel from Web 2.0 brings together some of the major players in new entertainment media - Mark Cuban of HDNet, Reed Hastings of Netflix, Michael Powell, the former chairman of the FCC, and Evan Williams of Odeo.

Much of the debate about the future of entertainment revolves around the ability to use downloading as a delivery method but this panel delves more deeply into the reality of downloadable media. The high cost of current commercial media does not derive from distribution, and even creating free distribution would barely effect costs. While technological changes are indeed bringing down the cost of creation, the costs of marketing remain high. This discussion debates the issues of downloadable versus physical media and commercial producers versus "prosumers" - users creating content with pro-level tools. The panel members also talk about how changes to hard drives - particularly portable hard drives - are changing the face of the home entertainment world.

Mark Cuban, who grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, was an entrepreneur at an early age. He began with several small businesses that he launched as a teen, and then put himself through Indiana University by doing everything from providing disco lessons to starting a chain letter. He always seemed to be selling what people wanted. Soon after college, Cuban started his own computer consulting firm, MicroSolutions. By 1990, after seven years of non-stop work, the company was grossing $30 million a year. It was then sold to Compuserve. Cuban retired, but not for long.

In 1995, he and partner Todd Wagner co-founded, an Internet service that provided streaming audio and video of live news, radio, television, and sporting events. went public, and was then purchased by Yahoo in 1999, making Cuban one of the wealthiest people in the country.

In January 2000, Cuban fulfilled a dream by purchasing the Dallas Mavericks NBA franchise. Today, Cuban's passion is high definition television, and he firmly believes HD is the next step in TV's evolution. His company operates two 24x7 all-HD networks, HDNet and HDNet Movies. HDNet, the leader in high definition broadcasting, produces and televises more hours of original HDTV sports, entertainment, and news programming each week than any other network. HDNet Movies also features movies produced and finished in true 1080i high-definition. Cuban has partnered once again with Todd Wagner to create 2929 Entertainment, an entertainment holding company that owns 100% of Landmark Theaters, Magnolia Pictures Distribution, and Rysher Entertainment, and holds a stake in Lions Gate Entertainment. 2929 has also created 2929 Productions to produce television and theatrical releases and HDNet Films to produce high-definition movies.

Reed Hastings founded Netflix in 1997 with one goal in mind - to put the joy back in movie-watching. Recognizing that due dates and late fees had tarnished the movie rental experience, Reed set out to turn the existing rental model upside down. He built what is now the world's largest online DVD rental service and one of the most successful and influential Internet companies in the entertainment industry. Earlier in his career, Reed founded Pure Software, which he built it into one of the world's 50 largest public software companies. After a successful public offering and a number of acquisitions, Pure was acquired by Rational Software in 1997.

Reed is a vocal and influential education advocate, championing charter public schools and passage of local school bonds. He has served as President of the California State Board of Education and was previously the CEO of TechNet, the high-tech industry's foremost political advocacy group. Reed was also a co-founder of Aspire Public Schools, NewSchools, and EdVoice.

Reed earned a master's degree in computer science from Stanford University and a bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College. Before embarking on his business career, Reed served in the Peace Corps at a rural high school in Swaziland.

Michael K. Powell is the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Powell was nominated by President William J. Clinton to a Republican seat on the Commission, and was sworn in on November 3, 1997. He was designated chairman by President George W. Bush on January 22, 2001.

As chairman, Powell set out to bring FCC regulations into the 21st Century and to recognize the move of voice, video, and data technologies away from limited analog platforms to powerful digital applications that bring more value to the public. He focused on initiatives that encourage market-driven solutions that promote consumer interests. He supports new methods of deploying advanced services through the use of new alternatives such as power lines, unlicensed wireless devices, and other technologies that will expand affordable broadband options to all Americans regardless of their geographic location. From campaigning for the right to keep your phone number when switching wireless carriers to fighting to allow the choice of avoiding telemarketing calls with a Do-Not-Call list, Powell has put consumers on the forefront in this exciting and dynamic marketplace.

Powell graduated in 1985 from the College of William and Mary with a degree in Government. He earned his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and currently serves on the Board of Visitors of both the College of William and Mary and the Georgetown University Law Center. He is also a Henry Crown Fellow of The Aspen Institute.

Evan Williams co-founded Pyra Labs in 1999 and led the team that created Blogger, a major player in helping pioneer the blogging phenomenon. In early 2003, Williams sold Pyra Labs to Google, where he led the Blogger group until October 2004. Prior to Pyra, in 1994, Williams started an early internet company in Nebraska, his native state, and later worked for O'Reilly Media, Intel, and HP as a web application developer. He now resides in San Francisco and is co-founding a new startup, Odeo, which is helping democratize media in new ways.


This free podcast is from our Web 2.0 Conference series.

For The Conversations Network:

  • Post-production audio engineer: Kristen Garceau
  • Website editor: Darusha Wehm
  • Series producer: George Hawthorne