Media C-Suite Week No. 51, Issue No. 37

The Week in the Media C-Suite, Week 51 Issue 37

A Week in the Media C-Suite  

It’s Sunday, the 17th of December, 2023.

At 10:30 in the morning on this day in 1903, atop a small grassy dune a few miles from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville Wright crawled into a contraption of wings, wires and metal tubes and lay prone at the controls as his brother, Wilber started a small combustion engine in the back. The noise meant nothing as he was lifted into the air and became the first man to truly fly.  

Orville and Wilber Wright would take turns that day, flying four times in front of a handful of witnesses and offering the world a practical path forward, and upward, into a new age. Within a few years, these two brothers from Ohio had toured the US and Europe to expand their dream and take it global.

The Wright Brothers were visionaries. They could see in their minds that which had not yet materialised in reality. They built things. Tinkered. Learned. Improving on the printing press, building new bicycles and inventing better mechanisms for both. But it was the idea of building something that had never been seen before that drove them.

Taking Flight

Like all creatives, the Wright Brothers did not limit their imagination to dreams. Rather, they used their dreams for inspiration and put their imaginations to work. It is the defining characteristic of the artist, the writer, the inventor and even the investor.  A human trait that far too few of us learn to embrace.      

A contemporary of the Wright Brothers, Helen Keller managed to use this same superpower to transform herself from a blind and deaf child from Alabama into a global icon of her day with a degree from Harvard.

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.”

We couldn’t agree more.

The key word for the week to come is “vision”.

Our Take

Just as most of North America and Europe begin shutting down for the Christmas Holiday and a short leap toward New Year’s Eve, creatives are still hard at work. There’s no real choice; creativity is not something that takes vacation.

While many creatives in Hollywood were out of work during the Hollywood Strikes, few were idyl. The strikes themselves were devastating to many in the Media & Entertainment industry. It cost jobs. It cost homes and placed so many who could not afford it at risk. For many creatives, that vulnerability has prompted a call for change.

An end to the strikes, officially the week before last, marks the potential for a new dawn in Hollywood. That is where the money, experience and pedigree is, right? The writers and performers didn’t stop creating, they only stopped getting paid. The number of stories written, polished and ready to be produced has increased to dizzying numbers.

Now that the strikes are officially over, it is the Studio bosses who have to prove themselves up to the task.

In Hollywood, that may mean simply falling back on old habits. 

But for the creatives, both in Hollywood and around the world, those old habits simply no longer appeal. New ideas are taking shape.

Global connectivity has made lucrative media markets more and more accessible to creatives directly. Digital visualisation technologies have made increasingly high-quality content production more affordable. Dedicated entrepreneurs and risk-capital investors in Europe, the Middle-East, Asia, Africa and South America are determined to establish new production centres around the world. Huge reservoirs of writing and performance talent from within generations raised on global entertainment content pursuing ever widening opportunities far from Los Angeles County.

Hollywood’s Studio bosses may believe that they have never lost sight of the prize. That prize, for them, has always been control over what content is delivered to audiences; keeping everything local. That control has always been exercised with the power to dismiss the fantasies of two brothers from Ohio with no real connections. Or a girl from Alabama who could neither see nor hear.

What those bosses may have lost sight of is that the future belongs to those with vision and that vision is global.

Just Catching Up?

The 2023 Game Awards were held in Los Angeles on the 7th of December. It took a week to sink in before Variety took note and alerted Hollywood this week. What was shocking to the film and television capital is the size of the audience.

118 million people around the world live-streamed this award ceremony.  

In context, the 95th Academy Awards in March were watched by 18.7 million people live, according to Nielsen.  The Grammy Awards were watched by an audience of 12.5 million people.  The Super Bowl, the most-watched television event in the US, had a live audience of 115 million.

Being Seen

The fundamental basis for the Media & Entertainment industry is that audiences pay the bills. For an industry breaching a record-breaking US$2.5 trillion in annual global revenues this year, another fundamental principal is on every media exec’s mind:  size matters.

There are two ways in which audiences generate revenues.  The first is by directly paying for a ticket or purchasing a subscription. The second is by charging advertisers access to an audience. Both are at work across the entertainment space. These revenues then pay back debt used to produce content and, hopefully, reward writers, performers and producers out of profits.

In theory, the better the content the bigger the audience; the bigger the audience the better for everyone. 

What It Means

For Hollywood, which has traditionally focused on film and television content, video games have always been a source for ideas. Hollywood has also always been fixated on spending other people’s money. What a 118 million-viewer audience means to Hollywood is that video game publishers are now a source for both.

Video Game publishers are amount the most profitable businesses in the Media & Entertainment industry with both Sony and Microsoft working very hard to consolidate the sector.

See

The interaction has been a long-time coming. Popular video games can attract tens of millions of simultaneous players from around the world all day, every day. The technology developed to deliver fantastic, interactive fictional worlds has led to graphics-engines that now power real-time, in-camera VFX for film and television production, as well as virtual stages that allow anything filmed at Hollywood studios to be filmed nearly anywhere with an internet connection and a few LED screens.

For film and television producers, the established audiences inherent within successful video games increases the appeal for adapting a story or characters into films or television shows.  Great films also inspire successful video games, or drive audiences back to older ones. The mutual advantages and increasing integration are driving clear momentum toward some very interesting deals.

Looking Forward?      

It’s how we get ahead!

Alternate Realities

One thing that Studio bosses have telegraphed to their investors is that tent-pole productions and dramatic fiction has lost its appeal, at least to Studio bosses. For a whole host of reasons, delivering an ever-increasing percentage of reality-shows and sports has surfaced as a strategic play to offset an apparent lack of audience appetite for never-ending sequels, prequels, expansions and reboots of expensively-acquired franchise IP.  

Reality shows helped fill the hole in content delivered during the Hollywood strikes. Documentaries, and now docu-series, have developed into a viable prime-time alternative to fictional drama, at least in the eyes of TV commissioning agents and network execs. 

But it is gaming and sport that has captured the attention of the top brass.  While live action sporting events are the first licensing objective for many within both broadcast and streaming boardrooms, it is the offshoot documentary or reality-show around players that are quickly filling the minds of those in charge of filling streaming libraries and programming schedules.

Anything sport- or video game-related is hot right now. Expanding the spectator experience through technology has become a primary objective intended to secure the bottom line at the largest media conglomerates. It also has the attention of some of the world’s largest investors.

It will be surprising if, by the end of 2024, we don’t see a lot of M&A activity between gaming publishers, sports franchises and mainstream Hollywood companies.

Watch this space.

Preparation is the Key.

For investors and entrepreneurs alike, the increasing interest in using technology and competitive spectacle to build audiences is compelling. The difficulties lie in knowing where to start.

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

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