Chris Saad: The Innovation Interview

Chris Saad, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder of Echo shares his thoughts and insights on Social TV, Streaming Content Companies and the 2nd Screen.

Chris brings over 10 years of entrepreneurial excellence to Echo, having founded over seven workgroups, non-profits and start-ups over the last 14 years. Most recently, Chris co-founded the Data Portability project, an initiative supported by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, MySpace and Plaxo that enables web users’ identity, photos, videos and other forms of personal data to be discovered and shared between chosen tools and vendors. Chris also co-founded the APML (Attention Profiling Markup Language) Workgroup, promoting an open format for describing a user’s ranked interests for ‘Attention Aware’ applications. Chris has also co-founded the Media 2.0 Workgroup, Faraday Media, RedShift and Radioactive, where he set strategic direction and championed the advancement of the real-time social web.

Chris’ role at Echo is to track trends in the marketplace, listen to and participate in the community and translate those needs into actionable and product direction.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation is when you create something that looks like nothing before it, and it affects the way everything looks from that point on. To me it means a chance to change the world for the better.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

No industry can avoid innovation. Either the established players innovate or (more likely) they will get disrupted by startups.

Also, of the best opportunities for innovation is not just in products and services, but governance. By improving the process (both in the private and public sector) you can affect all the outcomes at once.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

Pay Attention. Why? Attention is one of the most powerful human cognitive functions. It determines what we see, what we hear and what we act on. Attention motivates us. It compels us. We are drawn to those who have it while we ask for others to give it. In an age of abundance the key economic driver of the coming decade will be Attention. Measuring it, learning from it, managing it and sharing it.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

It’s not a ‘thing’ I’ve created but rather a skill I’ve learned:

Learning the technique to, as often as possible, maintain objectivity, perspective and rapid learning for continuous personal and professional improvement.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?


How is Echo building great real-time experiences for the consumer?

By understanding that household consumer brands like Disney and ESPN know more about delivering great experiences than Silicon Valley tech companies. As such we build tools that enable these great companies to quickly build, scale and deliver first class real-time, social experiences for their audiences.

What is the future of Social TV?

Much like the future of everything, Social TV will be seamless, multi-screen, personal, bi-directional and we’ll soon forget the word Social. It will start earlier in the process (concept and script phase) and end much later (in the post-game, behind the scenes wrap-up phase).

As Social TV grows, can you see a point in time when consumers will have say in the story line to create a truly social “crowd sourced” television series?

That will be a form of entertainment – but it won’t necessarily be the way ALL shows are made. In a very real way shows are already co-created with the audience. Show runners, writers and actors are clearly reading and responding to social media and discussion forums every day.

Also very pragmatically (and not very social), TV is old enough now that the young fans of yester-year are now running the shows.

When will we reach the tipping point in terms of streaming vs cable? Consumers perceive streaming companies as cool and cable companies as greedy. Will the consumer eventually force the cable providers into a la carte pricing?

Increasingly the lines are being blurred. Cable is just a content delivery pipe. The only question is, is the content being delivered on demand via IP or using the old school appointment/broadcast model.

A range of business models will continue to make sense for a little while – including subscription, rental and purchase of shows or seasons. They fit different consumption patterns and budgets.

When do you think we will see a demand for the 2nd screen at sporting events? Will venues such as baseball stadiums eventually add a screen to the seatbacks, which would allow a fan to watch instant replays, check stats and follow the social conversation?

I believe in the Steve Jobs school of thought that suggests consumers will demand something awesome once they see it. A stadium or sports franchise needs to take the leap and show the fans something new/innovative – then the demand will drive it’s broader adoption. The group that takes that first leap of faith will be handsomely rewarded.