On the eve of the annual tech/film/music mega-conference in Austin, South by Southwest announces a big first step beyond live events.
SXSW announced Tuesday that it's launching something called SXSW On, a digital video network that will include not only streaming and archived conference presentations and concerts but also original programming. Available on Roku players and Roku TVs, as well as through sxsw.com and YouTube, the new content network is the first significant step by the renowned conference company to translate its business into the media realm in addition to live events.
"This is something we've been interested in for a long time," said Scott Wilcox, SXSW's director of technology and one of the executives leading the initiative. "And now we're excited to be able to bring South by Southwest into people's living rooms around the world."
The move reflects a wider convergence taking place between event production and media. Traditional media brands (such as, ahem, Inc.) have increasingly diversified their revenue streams by creating conferences, while traditional conference brands have diversified in the opposite direction (think TED).
As anyone who's spent time in Austin in March knows, the appetite for SXSW's content is large and passionate. One of the questions, of course, will be how much of that content to actually surface online. The conference puts on thousands of events across hundreds of venues, and Wilcox notes that producing high-quality video of every one of them would be prohibitively expensive and technically challenging. Instead the focus, at least at first, will be on headline-grabbing events--name-brand speakers like Astro Teller (Google's so-called Captain of Moonshots) and performers like Spoon.
In addition to the SXSW Live channel, the first two new series of original content will launch this week: "The Road" is a behind-the-scenes look at life for touring musicians, and "The Nom Nom" will feature artists connecting with up-and-coming culinary innovators.
If the purpose of the live-streaming content is to expand SXSW's footprint around the world during March, the purpose of the original shows is to make SXSW a year-round brand, Wilcox says. "The core of SXSW used to be industry professionals, but there's more and more interest from consumers these days," he says. "So this is about how we best serve that interest. How do we let people experience SXSW 365 days a year anywhere in the world?"
The SXSW Interactive conference runs March 13 to 17, 2015, while SXSW Film runs March 13 to 21 and Music is March 17 to 22.