8 key changes in entertainment

I have been thinking about entertainment recently, including reading Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture.

As I discussed in this previous post, in many ways entertainment is the religion of the 21st Century affording us a shared experience that connects us to our fellow man. The blockbuster still reigns supreme as the means to share entertainment at the box office, music store, bookshop or on TV as this recent article in The Economist argues.

However technology is providing new ways for us to share entertainment experiences. If brands can understand that change, they can find ways of playing a meaningful role and collaborating with the entertainment industry to cut through the clutter and better engage consumers.

Here is my summary of the 8 main changes underway.

1. FROM the explosion of content choices TO content on demand

We are surrounded by more choices of entertainment than ever before. And now added to that proliferation of choice, we can demand our favourite entertainment whenever we want it with services like Itunes, Hulu or BBC Iplayer. And although the predictions about On Demand viewing as a share of behaviour seem to be conservative for now this is sure to change rapidly as the technology and service improves.

But true content on demand will happen when the entertainment industry learns from other industries and realizes that it is crazy to deliberately hold onto inventory and wait to sell it later – that just ties up cost that can’t be turned into revenue or profit (e.g Vs. Dell Computers). Luckily the internet provides a near frictionless and instant distribution platform. The challenge of course is how to monetize that content, and more on that later, but a good start is to truly satisfy ever more demanding consumers.

2. FROM Leisure time as a limited, set time TO Leisure time as expansive and intertwined with work time

It used to be that you worked 9-5 (or more) and then had some leisure time in the evenings and at weekends. But in the same way that work time respects boundaries less and less as we are permanently connected to work through laptops, Blackberrys etc, digitally connected consumers are more able to consumer entertainment during traditional working hours.

That means entertainment is not limited to being a set specific leisure activity linked to an appointment to view. There is increasingly the opportunity to infuse peoples lives with entertainment, rather than restricting entertainment to being a discreet activity limited to a particular type of leisure time.

3. FROM convergence of device functions and divergence of media TO Divergence of device usage and convergence of media.

I must confess that this one is a direct lift from Jenkins. We have been through a period of device convergence, my phone is now my music player, camera, email and internet device etc etc. But what we see now is that device usage is diverging. I choose from a diverse range of devices the one that is best suited to the task. So I may well have a 5 megapix camera phone for ad hoc snaps, but I also have a 12 mega pix Digital SLR for when I am in “taking pictures” mode.

Media on the other hand has gone through a period of divergence where new channels emerged to provide specific entertainment e.g Sky Sports. Now we are seeing media convergence where my choice of media is available on any channel I choose. So I can consume my favourite shows on my Sky box at home but also through my Sky account on my computer or mobile.

And that means that all entertainment brands compete with each other. To push the argument to the extreme, imagine you are bored with the goal-less monotony of a live conference football match? – well you can fire up your Iphone and catch up on the latest Top Gear.

4. FROM Passive consumption TO immersive and interactive experiences

Last year the gaming industry made more money than Hollywood. Modern Warfare 2 has just stormed the charts. Yeah sure 20 something blokes have more disposable income than the rest of us and Hollywood still touches larger numbers of people, but these days my Mum knows what a Wii is. Entertainment used to be about sitting back and watching, now it is very often about leaning forward and participating.

Immersive and interactive experiences will become less geeky and niche and more mainstream. Technology improvements make it is easier and easier to interact and so as the barriers come down the audience will broaden.

5. FROM Storytelling in new media TO Transmedia storytelling

Not really going to write too much about this one as “transmedia storytelling” is the buzzword du jour and tonnes has already been done to build on Jenkins’ work. But in short, entertainers have more channels with which to entertain these days, and increasingly are combining those channels to tell stories, where different elements of the story exist in different channels and an engaged consumer can piece it all together to get more rewarding experience than simply just consuming one element.

Marketers have been really fascinated by the concept partly I think because integration across channels has been such a hot topic in recent years, when it come to communications campaigns. The “worlds” created by movie franchises lend themselves to readily to the type of integrated campaigns that brands and their agencies aspire to.

Whether you are talking about an entertainment franchise brand or an FMCG brand, consumers love exploring new worlds and will dive into those worlds through multiple “windows” in whatever way suits them.

6. FROM linear and controlled TO Networked and devolved.

Simple one really, this is about less control for entertainment producers. In the days of broadcast where the entertainment industry controlled both the means of production and the means of distribution, consumers had take whatever was dished out to them. But now the industry no longer has that control. They can’t be certain how or when the entertainment will be consumed.

7. FROM Brands integrating into entertainment TO Brands distributing, hosting and curating entertainment

Brands have always played around the margins of entertainment but too often the brand’s role has been to shout a commercial message in return for funding entertainment creation and distribution. There are more opportunities than ever for brands to have a more central, active and positive role. Brands can facilitate the distribution of entertainment, play host to entertainment and curate the best entertainment, engaging consumers and adding to their experience.

8. FROM Consumers paying for traditional formats TO New business and revenue models

The cost of distributing digital formats is very low, and so consumers are less willing to pay for those formats as the music industry has discovered. We have already seen lots of interesting new approaches to generating revenue from entertainment, a great example is Spotify. Ad revenue is sure to play a role, but revenue can also come from consumers paying for new formats as I discussed in this previous post. Kevin Kelly has come up with a great list of ways to innovate to add value to media so that it is worth paying for.

So that is my list, I am sure there are many more, love to hear about it if there is something I have missed…..

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