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August 12, 2015 | Tom Ballard

Panel discusses challenges, opportunities for sector during “MediaWorks Demo Day”

MediaWorksBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

As reported in a post yesterday, this year’s “MediaWorks Demo Day” was a celebration of a 12-week journey by nine entrepreneurial start-up teams as well as the Knoxville community’s rich tradition in media.

Bob Bradley, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Newsbreak, a company previously profiled on, moderated a panel of seasoned executives discussing key trends in the industry. The panelists were Vikki Neil, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Scripps; Mark Hickman, North/South’s CEO; Joy O’Shell, Vice President of Business Affairs for SFX and KEC’s new Director of Marketing; and Kevin Grosch, CEO of Made In Network.

“We do media and coding really well here,” Jonathan Sexton, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the sponsoring Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, said as he introduced Bradley, asking, “What is Knoxville’s role to play in the future of media?”

All of the panelists but Grosch live in the Knoxville region. He is based in Nashville after moving from St. Louis, and his presence signified strong ties between the two cities.

“That I-40 corridor is burgeoning,” Bradley noted as he cited several dozen enterprises located in one or the other.

Knoxville is cited as being the third largest video production center in the nation after Los Angeles and New York City.

“We’re underestimated,” Neil said in relation to that distinction. “There’s plenty of talent in this area, but it’s also easy to recruit here.”

Hickman agreed with her points, noting the company he co-founded that has offices in New York City as well as Knoxville.

“Twenty years ago, there was a greater need to be in New York or LA,” he said, but added that “creativity is not geographically bound.”

For O’Shell who just returned to the region after being away 18 years, it was an eye opener.

“I didn’t know everything you just read (before returning),” she told Bradley of the list of media companies. She left Roane County for stops in Chicago, Denver, Seattle and New York City. During that period, O’Shell said that “it’s always in your mind if you are in media (that you might) have to pick a coast.”

As far as the media sector, Bradley pointed out how dynamic it is.

“Things are changing and changing quickly,” he said, citing recent losses of value for many media companies as consumers pull the plug and shift to alternative sources for content.

“If anybody has figured-out the new model, let us know,” Hickman said. “It’s a great time to be starting something new.”

At Scripps, Neil said the question that is constantly asked is this: “How do we grow quickly in every platform in every way.”

O’Shell cited one of the most difficult challenges for the media sector today.

“Millennials are really dictating what’s going on in the content space,” she said, quickly adding, “But they don’t want to pay for it.”

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