SXSW Day-Three Notebook: New Rules, New Rides and One Great Session Title

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"Did you get an earlier flight home?" joined "How's your Southby going?" and "See anything good today?' as a conversational staple as word spread of the coming blizzard in the Northeast. Emails and texts from airlines urging travelers to keep an eye on the weather and waiving their change fees set attendees scrambling -- or debating the merit of getting "stuck" past the interactive tracks and into SXSW's live music showcases. -- Nat Ives


Can't find an Uber? Mazda's got you. Trying to make up for the ride-share confusion in Austin – where Uber and Lyft stopped operating since last year's SXSW -- Mazda was giving free rides to anyone from pick-up spots downtown to anywhere within a couple miles. Festival goers without their typical options made for easy marks. Mazda's hires on the ground, drumming up sign-ups, were told not to mention "those other guys" by name, but everyone knew who they were talking about. In the car, drivers were supposed to talk up Mazda and its many features.

So it was more like a time-share than a ride-share. -- Garett Sloane


"Just what Google needs, more data," said one SXSW attendee as YouTube scanned the 2D barcodes on attendees' badges as they entered the company's pop-up. -- Jeanine Poggi


A distinct laugh could be heard in the entryway at the Four Seasons in Austin on Sunday. Seth Rogen was in the hotel just blending into the SXSW scenery, with a bushy, greying beard. He was mingling with three other people, and a dog. Rogen was at SXSW to discuss the second season of his AMC show "Preacher." -- Garett


Twitter, Comcast and regional network Monumental Sports discussed the future of mainstream sports in the age of cord-cutting. Twitter of course is one of the platforms making it possible to stream any event, anywhere, including through its growing experiments in streaming live sports events. The top sports leagues and TV networks are concerned about dwindling audiences for traditional cable, which makes expensive network carriage deals even harder to justify. Also, everyone is talking about the "skinny bundle," where niche services stream a smaller mix of content, fragmenting the audiences and making all the pieces less lucrative. But that was not a fear for Rob Simmelkjaer, of NBC Sports and Comcast Ventures. He discussed how NBC is using streaming strategically. "The cable bundle is the most lucrative business proposition that has ever existed in entertainment," Mr. Simmelkjaer said. And 80% of households subscribe to cable -- a market penetration any SXSW startup would sign up for in a hurry. --Garett


Meanwhile, as if to hammer home the point, just next door the Drone Racing League was showing off its success. The league is one of these new types of specialized entertainment -- like e-sports or League of Legends -- and one might expect it to look for a new way to reach homes, over the top through a digital streaming service. But no: It has gone through the traditional broadcast model. The newbie league, which features drone pilots facing off in exotic locales, reaches tens of millions of people, and it has cable deals with ESPN and Sky Sports. Founder Nicholas Horbaczewski came to discuss this new, growing form of entertainment while in Austin, and his ballroom at the Four Seasons was not fully packed, but he drew thunderous applause.

"The possibilities of our sport are endless, and we are working on all of them," Mr. Horbaczewski said. Weaponizing the drones is one of the innovations under consideration, which would mean pilots could blast each other out of the sky, if they get the shot. The league also wants real-time tracking of the drones from space, and to experiment with augmented reality on the courses. The future is here, and it's pretty close to the apocalypse we all imagined. -- Garett


"They're Going to Hate This & Think I'm Full of Shit"

Runner-up: "Covering POTUS: A Conversation With the Failing NYT"


"17 Ways Breakfast Is Transforming America"


The Austin Convention Center changed its rules since last year's SXSW to make it harder for people to camp out all day in the venues big enough to host the most popular speakers. An emphatic volunteer explained the new system. "You are part of the mir-a-cle! You made it!" she told everyone who was getting in. But even miracles aren't just unregulated.

"First rule!" she said. "There is no in and out under any circumstances. So anybody, if you're with your best friend, if you have to use the restroom, guess what, best friend, you've got to use the restroom too! 'Cause if I can't stay, you can't stay."

Later on Sunday, The room, capacity 2,100, would later on Sunday host the "Game of Thrones" showrunners. -- Nat


I tried more VR again today, this time Google's Daydream. While the headset was lighter than the Oculus Rift and it didn't make me sick, the content wasn't anything special. I thought coming to SXSW would convince me that VR will not go the way of 3D, but so far I'm still highly skeptical. -- Jeanine


Amazon Prime hosted a Playboy party, not at the Playboy Mansion with the actual Hugh Hefner but at SXSW to promote its streaming original series "American Playboy," based on Mr. Hefner. His son Cooper Hefner was in attendance -- as was one of the company's delivery drones, which it said had not previously been set up for public viewing like that. -- Garett


It was a great feeling walking into Create & Cultivate's pop-up event and seeing such a large group of women share ideas, inspire one another and discuss how to be leaders in today's world. Some marketing advice from Sophie Kelly, senior VP-North American whiskeys portfolio, Diageo North America: "Think about brands like people, everyone has a story." -- Jeanine

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