Inside the Media C-Suite, Issue No. 44

Inside the Media C-Suite, Issue No. 44

It’s Sunday, the 3rd of March, 2024.

Welcome back to our deep dive into sometimes enigmatic and esoteric matters that … well … matter.

For executives, investors and entrepreneurs who are focused on the global Media & Entertainment industry, a deeper understanding of the materially arcane can provide an unfair (okay … entirely fair) advantage over the competition.

That is precisely what anyone sitting on any board or occupying the C-suite of any media company, investment house or startup is entrusted to do.

This is the raison d’être for Inside the Media C-Suite.

Let’s get started

This past week has seen several dramatic events unfold across the screens of over 5.6 billion internet users around the world that highlight a particularly powerful human trait that we’ll discuss further below in this Issue.

The most noteworthy event is the fact that over 5.6 billion people around the world actually did use the internet! That means that 5.6 billion people looked at a screen of some shape or form to either read, watch or listen to something of interest to them.

This was no record.

This is the number of people around the world that are on the internet.

In board-room-speak, this population of 5.6 billion consumers is a basis of the “Total Available Market” for internet services and all commercial interests that make use of it. For the purposes of our Media & Entertainment industry this means all forms of digitally available creative content, news, discussion and of course, advertising.

To put this number into context, the most lucrative digital marketplace is the United States with an estimated 311 million internet users in 2023, according to data from Statista. That’s just 5.55% of the total digital population. The US is ranked 3rd behind China’s 1.05 billion internet users and India’s 692 million.

Is it any wonder that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video changed everything when they began exploiting this inherently international digital market and paved the way for video-on-demand and the business model of streaming?

The second noteworthy event is that those 5.6 billion internet users were told, one way or another, everything they (meaning, we) think they (we?) know about the world from that screen.

This begs the question: Told by whom?

Pop Knowledge

According to data published by Statista, the great majority (5.04 billion) of our fellow humans are “social media users” as of January 2024. The term, “social media” is generally considered to mean widely-populated tech platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and X (formerly known as Twitter). But, the term includes content distribution platforms such as TikTok and messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Technically, any internet-based service that receives and feeds back user-generated content can be considered social media.

On the most popular of these channels, highly sophisticated algorithms determine what any particular user is focused on (intentionally or not) and will feed them similar content. A sizeable population have their lives filled with stories, images and sounds of kittens, puppies and baby creatures of all kinds. Bliss, perhaps. But the vast majority of “mainstream” social media users are fed an ever deepening pool of anxiety, fear and conflict.

The reason for this is highly complex, but not necessarily complicated.

It all comes down to psychology. Put simply, ugliness is much stickier than cuteness.

It’s a survival mechanism.

Our ancestors benefited from a heightened sense of awareness of those things that can kill us:  lions, leopards and poison berries, for example. The power of “ouch” is more immediately persuasive than the power of “aww”. The irony of this is that the same survival mechanism that allowed our ancestors to avoid being eaten might actively come back to bite us.

Fortuna’s Favourites

Passive awareness works wonders for the gazelle. Lions, however, need to be more proactive. That fundamental predator trait is inherent within humanity as well. The duality of our species, part predator and part prey, has given us something neither gazelle nor lion has fully mastered. A superpower, really.  God-given many might say.

Our superpower is the ability to identify an objective and construct detailed, complex and long-term plans to achieve it.

“Commenting about a world being transformed by new technologies, and the anxiety such change evoked within the minds of the establishment, Helen Keller is reported to have said, ‘The only thing worse than being blind, is having sight but no vision.’ “

Media C-Suite Issue No. 37

Those who plan tend to be those who get ahead in life. Planning can be as simple as figuring out how to get from home to the cinema. Navigating from point A to point B is a perfect illustration. How to get from here to there. For our ancestors, the answer meant survival, or not. The key to its application is identifying the target and when to hit it. For the lion, it would be the gazelle; right now (or that lost human). For an audience, that would be the cinema; before the movie starts.

For executives, entrepreneurs and investors, the objective is money; asap and for as long as possible.

To be fair, business is typically a process of plans within plans. As with navigation, the destination and time of arrival defines all of the choices. The destination provides a distance, from which the speed of travel can be calculated based on when arrival is desired. Avoiding obstacles, obtaining fuel and hitting convenient waypoints along the way are all intermediary objectives that, when achieved in sequence, result in arrival at your destination just on time. Objective achieved; as planned.

The long-term objective in business is to generate profit. Few industries are as sensitive to well-constructed plans, or as lucrative, as the Media & Entertainment industry. Its annual revenues hit records consistently each year, topping an estimated US$2.5 trillion in 2023 according to PWC’s annual survey of the industry. Like most industries, there are a lot of failures. Most are failures in planning; or failing to plan at all. But those that plan well understand the intermediary objectives and hit them in the right sequence to make it big. 

How big?

The Media & Entertainment industry possesses some of the highest paid senior executives on the planet. The founders of every major social media platform are billionaires many times over. Apple and Microsoft are both tech companies that incorporate the Media & Entertainment industry into their business models to achieve trillion dollar valuations. Creative talent alone can generate billions of dollars in personal wealth; just ask Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift.

Media billionaires dominate nearly all lists of the world’s wealthiest individuals. The rate at which wealth is generated by means of the Media & Entertainment industry, which includes social media, is staggering.

According to a recent report on global inequality by Oxfam International, billionaires with media businesses such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerburg and Larry Ellison have become wealthier by a collective US$1.6 trillion since the height of the pandemic. The same report, released to coincide with this year’s Global Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland predicts that one of these media-billionaire-types will become the world’s first trillionaire within the next decade.

The ability to achieve such an outcome is the result of another human survival mechanism: Strategy.


Our Take

Because of the survival mechanisms buried deep in the human psyche, social media users are more easily tempted to linger and engage on topics that induce anxiety, such as feuding neighbours, than they do on kittens. The same conditions exist for films, television shows and news coverage. This is a basic tenant in the science of marketing. Even luxury goods are aimed not at inducing a desire to own something so much as the fear of missing out or being inadequate. That social anxiety also induces a strong desire to find a community and fit into it.

The infamous algorithms integrated into social media and streaming feeds that suggest what we might like to experience next are now super-powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). These digital agents know that increasing the number of “interesting” stories at a personal level translates into more profits for the media companies we spend our time with. A downward spiral for the users, and society as a whole, perhaps, but major dividends for the shareholders.

That result is not accidental. It has been carefully crafted over time and for a purpose.

No media billionaire has become a media billionaire by designing an altruistic social media platform. Or the “metaverse” for that matter. The purpose of business is to generate profits. Those profits pay for sustaining the profitability of the business so that its employees, executives and shareholders can receive money.

In this context, one of our earliest articles might be of interest.

Meta vs Media

Meta Versus Media

Journalists, industry analysts and investors alike seem at once enthusiastic and deeply confused by what the metaverse is supposed to be, what it actually is or what it will one day become. 

If profit is the motive, then profit is the objective. Without that objective, there could be no planning for it. No intentional steps to achieve it. No strategy.

Yet profit need not be the singular objective. How that profit is acquired matters.

This is where the love of kittens comes in. Yes, it may be more lucrative to cater to base instinct. However, there are enough kitten-lovers out there to turn a considerable profit on kitten-love. Hello Kitty is a successful brand and highly lucrative business that springs to mind.

After all, being a trillionaire may not offer any more benefits than simply being successful. Any business that offers its people a sustainable lifestyle, its investors a healthy return and its customers a great product is a success by any measure. If having enough money to be comfortable, safe and happy is the objective, then the number of avenues open to entrepreneurs for exploiting the Total Available Market in Media & Entertainment is wide open.

Finding the right balance between what is enough and an ever-increasing need for more might actually take the pressure off and allow true quality and sustainability to prevail.

What our ancestors learned along the way is that hunting that gazelle might (just might) offer a respite from immediate starvation. Domesticating it, however, provides a much longer-term benefit that doesn’t lead to extinction. There are smarter and more sustainable ways to live. And while there is an excitement in competing along-side the lions and tigers and bears, there is much to be said for the contentment of running with the herd.

What the 5.6 billion internet users out there offer are multiple options for the many entrepreneurs and investors in this industry to achieve success. So, while money may be the objective, how we plan to obtain it just might be the difference between arriving on time and getting utterly lost.

Wanting it isn’t enough. Hope won’t do it. Winging it works best for those who can afford to fail.

The executive power word for this issue is:  Strategy.

Just Catching Up?

We’ll help you get up to speed.

The Size of the Herd

Given the vast scale of this marketplace, the otherwise incomprehensible US$2.5 trillion in annual global revenues to the Media & Entertainment industry begins to make sense. To make that even more interesting, those annual revenues are growing at an estimated 4 – 5% CAGR.

Our industry’s revenues are divided between three primary streams. The first is what consumer audiences pay for access to content. The second is what advertisers pay for access to those consumers. The third is what Producers pay into content production budgets.

The lion’s share of the first two revenue streams are received by the largest of the corporate media conglomerates, what we at the Media C-Suite call the Media Majors. Consumer spending on access to content is estimated to be just over US$1.25 trillion a year.  But market share to the Media Majors is under pressure from upstart companies taking advantage of the low infrastructure costs of the internet to deliver content. What Netflix did to the Studios 20 years ago, Web3 companies are doing the Media Majors (which now includes Netflix).

Advertising revenues are growing steadily and poised to reach the US$1 trillion milestone within the next year or two. Again, the Media Majors reap most of this. However those upstart companies are attracting advertisers who are increasingly interested in demographic quality. Direct relationships between ad agencies and digital content providers, particularly direct to consumer channels, is beginning to erode the dominance of programmatic advertising.

This related article may be of interest.

Execs confused by clowns.

The Advertising Apocalypse That Never Was

Despite the predicted doom and gloom, ad spend has not cratered in anticipation of global economic collapse.  Quite the contrary.

The third revenue stream is the domain of the content creator. Production companies organise and manage content production budgets that pay out to the armies of SMEs and independent contractors who make up the writers, performers, directors and production crews behind what we watch, listen to and read. An estimated US$250 billion in annual production costs was spent last year supporting this sector of the industry. Technology, primarily derived from AI, is pushing those costs down. This situation allows for more creatives to generate more content at a more rapid pace. Again, smaller direct to consumer distribution companies are poised to benefit most from this.

Opportunity in the digital age of Media & Entertainment is based entirely on the size of the human population and its access to the internet. Connected audiences will always want more content. More consumers mean more opportunity for advertisers and a much higher demand from creatives. More video games, more movies and television shows, more music, concerts, sports events and the channels of discussion that unite us around the content. More than the Media Majors are designed to deal with. More than enough for entrepreneurs to find their footing.

Statistically, analysts assume that between 65 – 70% of the human population regularly access the internet. As of today, we are a global population of roughly 8.1 billion people (growing at roughly 1% a year). That equates to between 5.3 – 5.7 billion internet users as of today. Some statistics put this figure as high as 6.1 billion people, with another 800 million coming on line this year.

If you want to be completely mesmerised, and a little terrified, by meaningful numbers, see: Worldometer – real time world statistics (

What It Means

There is more than enough to go around.

Creatives are entrepreneurial by nature. So it makes sense that the vast majority of content production businesses within the Media & Entertainment industry are SMEs. The flip side is that media entrepreneurs are also under increasing pressure from Media Majors seeking to hold tightly to the control they have built over the distribution of that content. Technology is offering the means to challenge that hegemony.

While the Media Majors enjoy their legacies, a small army of next-generation media entrepreneurs are building companies that enable creators to produce more content and attract both audiences and advertisers away from the established Media Majors.

For M&E, this means disruption. For investors, this means a target rich environment.

Understanding how the Media & Entertainment industry functions, including its disfunctions, is key for both entrepreneur and investor alike to identify viable business opportunities that can be leveraged into successful companies.

In such environments, the unfair advantage will be with those companies in which both entrepreneur and investor work together in delivering what even a fraction of that Total Available Market craves most.

Looking Forward?      

Preparation is the Key.

Here are a few articles to get you moving in the right direction.

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