Interview by Victoria Marchand
Natalia Tsarkova is Editor of HDTV iConcerts, a cross-media entertainment channel dedicated to live music, managed by Swiss-based Transmedia Communications. She has just set up a subsidiary—iCE or iConcerts Entertainment—for creating original content and integrating new media better.
Victoria Marchand: You completed your studies at the MIT Media Lab in 1998. Fifteen years ago, students there were already working on the idea of transmedia. Nowadays everything is “transmedia.” Is the concept still the same, or has it evolved?
Natalia Tsarkova: Well, you have to admit that the word is “in.” I receive applications for internships from people with all sorts of backgrounds just because the parent company of iConcerts is called Transmedia.
To answer your question, I think that people’s acceptance of the term today is rather limited. At the MIT Media Lab, transmedia wasn’t just seen as a tool, which could be reproduced across all media, but rather as a kind of architecture underlying media evolution of all kinds.
VM: What do you mean?
NT: Let’s take the field I’m in—television. The cornerstone is the information itself as well as the broadcasting rights for current and future distribution channels. That’s the problem! Ten years ago no one imagined the extent of social media or mobile communications in media consumption, yet, they should have been included in the contracts.
Also important is how the content is written. While it’s essential to format content according to currently available tools, you also have to think about future modes of consumption. That’s why I created iCE, with the challenging goal to enhance iConcerts to adapt to current languages and anticipate tomorrow’s new television formats at the same time.
VM: iConcerts offers 24/7 pay-TV and services on demand. Plus, you broadcast to more than 80 countries. How do you stay in touch with the different audiences and meet such diverse expectations?
NT: Being a mass media doesn’t mean you have to address audiences in just one way. At the MIT Media Lab I learned the importance of properly packaging content to address different needs. It’s obvious that you don’t watch a program in the same way on television, on a tablet, or on a mobile phone. Times and places are different and you have to take that into account when producing content.
In the record industry, linear consumption imposed by records’ format has given way to people listening to music and buying only what they want via iTunes and other online vendors. This goes along with music networks for sharing knowledge and co-creating, and other social networks that allow individual items of music to circulate rather than sets of related pieces.
VM: How will this fragmentation pan out in the future?
NT: Same as with press. As news alone is no longer enough, listening to music is only part of the experience. In order to offer more, I created ViPass, a digital production format that brings more reality and thus enhances the user’s experience.
VM: Artists such as Prince have decided to distance themselves from record companies and to pursue their careers with only rare appearances, one-off concerts with no broadcasts, and refusing to publish new albums. If this tendency continues, how can you offer more with less to work with?
NT: For the time being the artists are there, and it’s up to us as broadcasters to provide interesting news about them, to promote their records, tell people about their concerts, stimulate interest and get the fans going. Things that have value don’t necessarily cost, and things that cost don’t necessarily have value. That’s what makes it fun!