Victor Harwood

Digital Hollywood, east and west, have become must attend events for working professionals in the entertainment and media business.  This year’s Los Angeles Digital Hollywood takes place October 17-20, 2011 at the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey.  

A quick look at this year’s Program shows some 75 sessions from iPad games to Hyper-targeting audiences to Social Advertising to Maximizing Content Value to Legal Issues to . . . get your own copy at and plan your sessions and register.  And the panelists are amazing, representing every major and leading edge company from Google to GameStop to . . . you know, read it for yourself in the Program.  I covered it last year and had to make hard decisions as to what sessions to attend, there were so many good ones.  

During the past two decades, the founder of Digital Hollywood, Victor Harwood has developed and produced over two hundred conferences and events for artists, professionals and top executives. Mr. Harwood is considered a leading authority on the convergence of the entertainment and technology industries, founding and organizing such conferences as Digital Hollywood,    Politics 2008:   The Media Conference on the Election of the President, Media Summit New York,   Building Blocks, Advertising 2.0,   Digital Hollywood Europe in London, the Entertainment Globalization Initiative, Multimedia Expo, Production East at Lincoln Center, the International Business in Space Conference and the New York Writers Conference. He coined the now ubiquitous expression "The Digital Revolution."

Digital Hollywood debuted in 1990 and has from its start been among the leading trade conferences in its field with over 15,000 top executives in the film, television, music, home video, cable, telecommunications and computer industries attending the various events each year. Keynote speakers at various Digital Hollywood events have included: Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, News Corporation; Steven A. Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft Corporation; Jeff Zucker, President and Chief Executive, NBC Universal; Philippe Dauman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Viacom Inc.; Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company; Leslie Moonves, President and Chief Executive Officer, CBS Corporation; Barry Diller, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IAC/InterActiveCorp; Ivan Seidenberg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Verizon Communications; Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO, Comcast Corporation; Bob Wright, Vice Chairman & Executive Officer, General Electric Company; Sean "Puffy" Combs; Courtney Love; Chris Blackwell, Chairman of Sputnik7, and founder of Island Records; Bob Wright, Vice Chairman & Executive Officer, General Electric Company and Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, NBC Universal; Mel Karmazin, Chief Executive Officer, SIRIUS Satellite Radio; Scott Marden, President, McGraw-Hill, Information & Media Services; Joel Katz, Managing Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig; Brian E. Becker, Chairman & CEO, Clear Channel Entertainment; Eric Nicoli, Chairman, The EMI Group; Josh Sapan, CEO, Rainbow Media Holdings LLC; Rob Glaser, Chairman & CEO, RealNetworks; Sam Donaldson, Co-Anchor, "This Week With Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts, Anchor; Christie Hefner, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Playboy Enterprises, Inc. and Chairman,; Kevin Wendle, CEO/Co-Founder, IFILM & founder of CNET; Mads Lillilund, Vice President, New Media, Lucent Technologie; Dick Wolf, Emmy Award Winning Producer, Law & Order; John Sculley, Chairman, Sculley Brothers, Carl Bernstein, Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist & Executive Vice President and Executive Editor,; Mika Salmi, founder & CEO, Atom Films; Avram Miller, Vice President, Intel Corp.; Chris Kitze, CEO,; Michael Ramsay, President, Silicon Graphics; John C. Colligan, President & CEO, Macromedia; Scott C. Marden, President & CEO, Philips Media; Danny Goldberg, President & CEO, Warner Bros. Music Group; Charlton Heston, Actor; Glenn R. Jones, Chairman, Jones Intercable; Michael Fitzpatrick, President & CEO, Pacific Telesis Enterprises; Bernard J. Luskin, President Jones Digital Century; Trip Hawkins, President & CEO, 3DO Corp.; Satjiv S. Chahil, Vice President & General Manager, Apple Computer; Stuart C. Johnson, Group President, Bell Atlantic; Kay Koplovitz, President & CEO, USA Networks and Gregory Hughes, President, AT&T Network Systems.

Additionally, Mr. Harwood has conceived and produced such events as the International Business in Space Conference, the leading international conference on space commercialization with NASA and its affiliated companies and Petroleum InfoTech for the Oil and Gas Industry. He also founded and produced the New York Writer's Conference with celebrated writers such as Norman Mailer, George Plimpton and Jay McInerney and published New York Writer magazine with over 100,000 readers nationwide; the Fashion Video Awards with sponsors such as Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Oleg Cassini, Levi's and Bloomingdales and Production East at Lincoln Center, a leading event for the film and television industry in New York, with such celebrities as Christopher Reeves, Frank Perry, Susan Seidelman, Zack Galligan, Lisa Bonet, Michael Fuchs, Phoebe Cates, Liz Smith, David Brown, David Picker, Alan King, Martin Charnin, and L.M. Kit Carson.

Editor’s Note: To describe Victor Harwood as dynamic would be a gross understatement.  He is totally a part of the fabric of the conferences he has created.  He knows all the people who will create the right dynamics as a panel member or keynote speaker.  He has a sense of what people are inventing and knows how to get them to participate and share their knowledge with the attendees.  

SOCAL: What was your background that led you to develop the technically meaningful conferences you are known for?
Victor: I’m a technology guy.  I came out of technology think tanks in the 1970s where we were studying all of the technologies that impacted communications, telecommunication, and the entertainment industry.  This happened at a TV station in Boston, WGBH, which is the PBS affiliate.  We were studying cable TV, satellites, home computers . . . all that stuff was just beginning.  It was a great background where we were under no pressure to do anything commercial with the information, but rather it was a complete think tank with the objective to learn as much as we could about everything we researched.  It gave me a very strong foundation about all the basic technologies that got us to where we are today.  

Once I left there, I was looking for an appropriate job and since I had been attending and participating in many industry conferences, I thought that might be interesting to do.  The first conference I did was running the conferences for the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) which was known as The International Business and Space Conference.  That was NASA’s official conference on the future of space industrialization.  I was running this conference in Washington, D.C.  That attracted the European, Japanese, Chinese, and all the other space agencies from around the world, plus all of the technology and hardware companies that made the things that made space exploration happen.  That conference continued until the Challenger space shuttle accident/  Actually our last conference was two weeks prior to the incident in 1986.  That conference ended essentially because the space program went into a state of shock and everyone affiliated with it lost their jobs, including me.   

SOCAL: Please tell us about the early conferences, post-NASA.  
Victor: In 1987 I ran the first Mac Fair in NYC that about 10,000 attended.  Then I ran the first HyperExpo in the same year, which was based on the HyperCard from Apple.  That was me entering the next phase of my doing this as my life’s work.  Hyper Expo became what we now call Digital Hollywood.  The first one was in San Francisco for 1,000 techies – remember there was no video on a computer at that time – so Hyper Expo was all about linking – the beginning of HTTP.  Hyper Expo became Hyper Media Expo that became the Multi Media Expo.  Eventually CD ROMs came along.  All this technology began to find homes in companies that applied them to new ideas.  Then the entertainment industry embraced the CD ROM and all the studios and TV stations started making CD ROMs and video games of their content, most of which were designed for PCs.  By 1993 we sought a ‘cooler’ name for our conferences and thus came up with Digital Hollywood.  So we continued to be a CD ROM conference through 1996 when the CD ROM business went bust, but lo and behold the Internet and the web came to pass.  So in 1997-98 Digital Hollywood became an Internet and web oriented conference and began to become a pretty sizable event with conferences in L.A. and New York.  

SOCAL: As your reputation has grown, you have expanded to support other conferences as well.  Please tell us about that.
Victor: We joined up with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 1999 where we run many of the conferences for CES and are now going into our twelfth year of that collaboration.  When you register for CES you’ll see that there are tracks produced by Digital Hollywood such as the Smartphone/Tablet track, we produce the Cable Conference, and so on.

SOCAL: The speakers and panel members at your conferences are of uniform high quality.  Please describe the selection process you have to put together these programs.
Victor: No speaker is paid.  What happens is, since I’ve been doing this for so long, I have a fairly good idea of who the speakers for a given topic should be.  I put together a conference to address the digital technology issues for the entertainment media industry.  When I look for speakers, smart is not good enough, there are a lot of smart people, but we want the people who have been empowered by the companies they work for, or their own company, to make things happen.   

Thus you can’t help but meet all the people who’ve got projects that are ongoing which are either new, dynamic ideas, or they are studios or networks, broadband networks, or whomever, who have the ability to make things happen.  So if you have been there for one, two, or four days you will have been in the right place, at the right time, to not only learn, but you will be in a position to empower your company or group to get something done.  

The reason I hold so many panels is that I have inverted what a trade show normally is.  In the old fashioned days, you had booths and people stood there and addressed people who walked through.  Over the years, people found that getting together and talking to one another in bars and hotel rooms, over breakfast, and in different ways, a better way, certainly an important way to meet one another and exchange ideas.  Therefore the more panels I have, with all of the companies represented by their empowered employees, rather than have 500 booths (with 500 one on one speakers) representing all the different ideas to lots of limited audiences,  I put them in workshops, panels, and dinners, so we effectively create that same momentum with larger audiences.  Then on top of it, you find some companies still will take a booth to show their products in greater detail.  

What we’re doing in booking in the most famous, influential companies with their top executives.  Thus we get the labyrinth of ideas that make Digital Hollywood so valuable for any serious participant in our industry to attend.  And it’s always fresh.  A good 20%-30% of the topics that will change from one show to the next so there is always something new and valuable to learn, new people to network with.

SOCAL: Over the years you have had many amazing people in keynote and panel roles.  This year, for instance, you have Mark Burnett, producer of The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice, to name a few.  Please tell us about some of them.
Victor: We have many people who always make news like Rupert Murdock who was a keynote speaker.  He was covered in real time all over the media.  Same thing with other keynote speakers I’ve had; Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, Jeff Zucker of NBC, Bob Iger of Disney, Les Moonves of CBS, and Barry Diller, all are newsmakers.  They’re all very exciting.  If they even make a slip of the tongue, within minutes it is reported.  In one case a movie executive talked about the making of a sequel.  Less than five minutes had passed when I got an email on my cell phone from the producer saying that the deal hasn’t been completed and was still in negotiation.  So we’re covered in real time, don’t know exactly how but certainly with all the smart phones in an audience it is easy to see how messages are texted to their friends and media.  

SOCAL: Please talk about the networking aspect of Digital Hollywood.
Victor: We run events that operate on multiple levels.  One, of course, is communicating through the press but then you have the face to face communication which is where gigs come from.  This is how you build your business.  I mean continually meeting people, month after month after month at all the primary events.  That is critical to doing business.  We definitely see ourselves as playing that role.  We provide a networking environment that has few equals.  

SOCAL: In your opinion, what are some of the most important issues facing digital content production and distribution in the short and long term?
Victor: Digital content distribution has become the core of the entertainment and media industries today.  People are receiving content to all their platforms, principally over the Internet, is what this is all about.  What we are seeing is the transformation of primary distribution companies such as HBO and other cable operators who will be seeing their subscribers getting content to their tablets and smartphones as well as their televisions and everything in between.  

We help facilitate the explosive growth of content of all kinds:  books, magazines, newspapers.  In my mind there really is no difference between these companies and that will become increasing evident over the next few years.  All of the content becomes multi-platform content.  Consumers are embracing every form of content delivery.  Add to that the layering of social networking and you can see we’re in the middle of significant change in the way people consume content.  On top of that you have the machines, the hardware – unbelievable HDTVs, tablets, cellphones, or PCs – all of this is breakthrough stuff.  It impacts people’s lives, it changes education – students are going to be getting their textbooks and information through all these different kinds of platforms – partnerships will be formed with the textbook publishers as they reinvent what a textbook is.

Everyone will be communicating in social groups what we now call classrooms.  This is as good as it gets.  We are entering new phases of the integration of social technology into all phases of our lives.  Digital Hollywood is the metaphor for the entertainment and tech industry.  We’re well aware of and touching all the other ones.

SOCAL: Marketing and monetizing these new content delivery concepts represents a real challenge.  Please share how some of this is being addressed.
Victor: We don’t have all those answers yet but there is no doubt that content creators who spend millions of dollars on product need to be protected and have ways of being justly and predictably compensated.  There will be some winners and some losers.  I’m not 100% sure of how it all plays out.  I don’t see it as a foreboding disaster, I see it as something that will surely find good solutions.   

SOCAL: Your unbridled enthusiasm for all aspects of this digital revolution is contagious.  Any last thoughts you’d like to share?
Victor: Digital Hollywood is a concentrated experience, four days and nights that are as powerful as ever.  It’s exciting to be part of it.  It’s stimulating to me every single day.  I keep inventing new things, I can’t help myself, but I think that is just the nature of everyone involved in our industry.  They can’t help themselves from innovating.  Continuous innovation and it will never stop.  It will never stop.  We have new people joining us all the time and it is really exciting to have them walk in the door.  We’re not at the end of the road, we’re just at the beginning.


Digital Hollywood

Wednesday, February 28, 2024