In Santa Monica, CA last week, Digital Hollywood Los Angeles gathered the digerati to debate the issues of making, monetizing and marketing interactive TV, dsc003113D movies, broadband, mobile and social networking.

The last year has shown further growth in broadband TV, with the success of Hulu and the growth of channels such as My Damn Channel and Funny or Die; continued inroads of mobile content particularly as a marketing platform for Hollywood films; and increasingly innovative ways to use all digital platforms for delivery of content and advertising.

A fascinating panel on how celebrity media is transforming TV, broadband, mobile and social media was moderated by Hollywood Reporter editor-at-large Alex Ben Block. Block traced the modern U.S. history of film stars to the early days of movies, when filmmakers sought to downplay the actors and their identities. That changed in the early 1920s with people like Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. “That began creating the brand of the celebrity,” he says. Flash forward to the future and the growth of reality TV, he says, and today’s celebrity is famous for nothing more than driving content about themselves to as many platforms as possible.

“Now the celebrity is a bigger brand than ever,” he says. Rather than reaching a celebrity via layers of distribution (that is, the studios), the fans can reach out directly to the star’s website or branded merchandise.  Monetizing everything related to these celebrities can be a “delicate dance” says David McMahon, director, digital, NBC Universal Television Distribution (for Access Hollywood), since the stars themselves wants to monetize their own brands.

Packaging the celebrity is where networks, studios and others come in. Sibyl Goldman, VP, Yahoo! Movies, TV, omg! and shine, notes how they will do things like bring in group of celebrity moms and “add a packaging aspect that brings the fans closer to the celebrity. We work closely with our advertising partner to make sure it’s on brand for them.”

Social media can cover the space by publishing as much information as possible on each celebrity; sometimes celebrities themselves participate by blogging or providing photos or other information. The revenue associated with this is not insignificant, says Tyler Goldman, CEO, Buzzmedia. “There’s a component of commerce, but we monetize largely through advertising,” he says. A site like Comcast Interactive’s is a huge destination for over 10,000 TV shows, providing previews, clips, highlights and aggregating the latest news about the shows. Todd Gold, managing editor, says viewers have relationships with the characters and the celebrities who play them, both of which they cover. This site is also monetized through advertising.

A for-profit, presided over by president Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, is a “character/celebrity devotion site,” says VP Angie Shelton. This “community destination” features over 13,000 sites focused on TV/film characters from Homer Simpsons to Luke Skywalker, and receives about 20 million viewers per month.
The beauty of these kinds of sites is that the fans create much of the content; fanatics add 1 million words per day on Wikia’s sites.

Likewise, over 140 million unique visitors come through the RockYou we sites every month, says Ro Choy, chief revenue officer. Sites include social media, live streaming video and a lot of applications with virtual goods and content from celebrities from Paris Hilton to Snoop Dogg.

Some of these heavy-hitter sites for celebrities are beginning to create mobile applications. Buzzmedia’s Goldman reported that paparazzi use his company’s blogs as a way to distribute photos. With a GPS component, the company also offers a way to track celebrities via the GPS off the paparazzi’s cell phones. “If you look at what people are searching for and provide them more of what they want, you’ll be getting more and more readers,” he says.

In another panel on “The Mobile Platform 2.0: Establishing the Personalized Video, Music and Communications Experience,” panelists talked about the best way to create successful mobile advertising. Banner ads are now old-hat, even those with rich media. The concept now is to provide a “deep” experience with local search, mapping and coupons, all within the ad. Although people still complain about ads, said the panelists, when faced with paying for mobile content or watching it for free with ads, they still pick the ad-supported model.

Though the 3-screen model hasn’t yet blossomed, panelists pointed out evidence that it’s beginning to happen, although they believe that people won’t be watching identical content on the TV, PC and mobile phone but  “bit of experience that follow you around in the usage conext.”

As to the often-heard complaint that no one will watch content on mobile’s small screen, one panelist related that, after sitting in on 50 of his daughter’s hockey practices, he’s happy to have a screen available to watch something on.

The issue of how content owners obtain rights for all these different screens is something being addressed by DECE, the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem consortium. Panelists also pointed out that the mobile platform included many devices that aren’t phones, including Kindle, Nintendo DS and netbooks. Automobile manufacturers are also working on putting wireless content devices in cars. Location-based services will also boost mobile, not just for providing local content but for geo-targeting advertising.

In another panel on “Movies, TV and Video for Mobile,” panelists from Disney Channel, MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment, MediaFLO, MobiTV and QuickPlay Media talked about how “the industry is experiencing its first steps in the fusion of marketing, entertainment and content.”

Madeline Herdrich, vp of mobile, North America for Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment Group, said the next step for movies is people watching full length-films on their devices. “Content will be just like Apple, where there’s a cloud of content that people can access wherever they are, whatever device they’re using,” she says. “That’s where the future is going, although it’ll take some steps to get there, and a lot of competition. A lot of stores are opening up on the mobile phone; PC manufacturers are getting into the mobile business, and mobile manufacturers getting into netbooks.”

QuickPlay’s Mark Hyland agreed that the “TV everywhere idea” is coming although issues of entitlements have to be sorted out. “Premium content will continue to be a big part of the revenue picture, even if there is tons and tons of advertising,” he says. “There are lots of people launching ad-supported services on mobile, which is great, so people can learn they can watch video on mobile. But as a business, you need to see services that are paid for in some way.”

Disney Channel’s Katharine Linke says their service is a subscriber model, especially since advertising is more restricted for children’s programming. “Our goal is to let kids know this video is available for them, let them know they have Disney Channel content on any device,” she says.

Subscriptions to mobile content is currently limited by the number of mobile users in the U.S. that are even watching video on their handsets. At this time, there are 10 million subscribers, says MTV’s Jim Eadie. “It’s been a slow curve to adopt, but 10 million is nothing to sneeze at,” he says.

MediaFLO and MobiTV, both of which aggregate broadcast content within a subscription model, are both facing competition from the U.S. broadcasters who have standardized a mobile broadcast standard and intend to begin mobile casting by end of 2009. Both of these companies remain, at least on the face, optimistic. “We continue to build our relationships at the carrier level,” says MobiTV’s Jack Hallahan. “We’re in deep discussion with Verizon and we’re also looking overseas.”

What will push consumers into watching video on the mobile device? Herdrich points out that 30 percent of iPhone owners watch video on it. “Screen size dictates,” she says. “People realize it’s a really enjoyable experience. With every new phone, the screens are getting better, the phones have better video quality and memory.”

Part of the gap is generational. Disney Channel’s Linke notes that they don’t have to train their audiences to watch video on the phone, since they’ve been doing it “since birth.” She reports “huge growth” in successful pre-school content on the mobile phone.

Future content on the mobile phone will be a mix of short clips and long form, said all the panelists. But peoples’ behavior in viewing content may be quite different, as they interrupt a 22-minute sitcom to take a couple of phone calls or Twitter a friend about what they’re watching. “It’s too early to see the impact it’ll have on the culture of TV,” says Hyland.

Content on the mobile phone doesn’t necessarily compete with TV, notes Hallahan. At MobiTV, they’re seeing people catch up with TV shows they weren’t initially aware of. For Mad Men, MobiTV added a functionality where the viewer could click on the character and get more information. “So, we’re adding value,” he notes.