Sunday, October 31, 2010

You Can Be The Next Entertainment Mogul, If You Act Now

We are about to experience the most profound metamorphosis the entertainment industry has seen since the commercialization of television.  It is a huge opportunity for anyone who is willing to jump in with both feet, but you need to start now.

Since the introduction of television into the living room around 1948, the broadcasting industry has been controlled by a virtual handful of people.  Even after commercial cable was deregulated in 1972, the number of companies that control your television has remained relatively small.  This paradigm is about to change in a big way. 

As we know, the Internet allows anyone to transmit content to millions of other homes and businesses around the world.  At first, the limited bandwidth made it suitable only for sending simple written communication.  But bandwidths and transmission speeds have steadily increased to allow for the quick transfer of larger and larger files.  We are now at the point where high definition broadcast-quality files can be transferred almost instantly. 

In this new environment, there are already several inexpensive choices for hardware that will stream high definition content from the Internet directly to a big screen television.  Apple TV, Google TV, Roku, Boxee and several other devices will already bring the Internet to your living room.  With some models priced under $100, a whole lot of those devices are going to be sold this Christmas.  Within a year, watching Internet content on a TV will be much more common than watching it on a computer.

But wait, that’s not all!  The success of the iPad has induced about 10 other major manufacturers, and at least as many minor manufacturers, to create their own version of the portable personal media device.  So, not only is Internet content migrating to TV’s, but it is about to also be in everyone’s hands – literally.  Hundreds of millions of media tablets will be sold in the next few years.  The consumer nirvana of watching whatever we want, whenever and wherever we happen to be, is about to become the societal norm.

The obvious opportunity is that anyone can now be in the broadcast business.  The barriers between content creators and consumers are gone.  We can sell premium content, individually or by subscription.  We can sell advertising and product placements.  We can create entire networks or distribute films, all with virtually no borders or limitations.  The door has been kicked wide open.

What strategies and business models will work?  All of them.  Anything that worked in the tightly controlled entertainment business can work in the new broadcasting democracy.  The scale might be smaller (as the multitude of choices creates a buyer’s market), but the opportunities are there. 

Here are the two keys to success which need to be accomplished as soon as possible.  First, establish strategic relationships with strong players.  In the early days, it will be much easier to get distribution through major platforms as they will still be expanding their offerings.  But as things fill up, this will become much more difficult and costly. 

Second, find your audience and start earning their loyalty.  Consumers will develop viewing habits and favorite outlets.  Establish your style and find the audience that responds to it most passionately.  Keep them happy, and they will tell their friends.

A whole new frontier is opening up right now.  Go stake your claim.  Big players like Tom Hanks, Ben Stiller, Michael Eisner and many, many others are already doing it.  You can do it too, but if you wait another year to get started, it could be too late.  Do it now.


filmutopia said...

As ever, this is a great post and I truly believe you are right. Now is the time to make these moves.

Where I think the problems will come is that there is still a schism between content producers and people with the business of how to capitalize on these opportunities.

Without a meeting of great talent and great business skills, these opportunities are going to be hovered up by people within the existing industry.

This chimes with my own predictions, which is that the digital and 2.0 revolutions will create more platforms and business opportunities for established talent, than it will for unknowns.

I'd be interested in hearing your take on how we bridge that gap.

Roger Goff said...

Clive, as you mention in your most recent post on your blog (which is excellent, by the way), now is not the time for conventional thinking. You are probably right that more established players than newcomers will benefit from these changes. But these times of upheaval are still the best opportunity for new players to emerge and seize a piece of the real estate.

And newcomers always have the advantage of having nothing to lose. They can try anything under protection of anonymity. They need to move forward boldly, fail quickly and try again.

As you know, I'm not a writer or a director. I am not a filmmaker in any sense of the word. My skill set is on the business side. It is up to people like me to facilitate success in the new paradigm for the truly creative folks like you.

While you guys are cooking up great new stories, I'm spending my time envisioning the new frontier and figuring out business models that will sustain the creative output. (Although, it appears that you do plenty of that kind of thinking as well! You're truly on both sides of the formula -- a genuinely creative business mind.)

Honestly, that's why I write about it. It's part of my process of figuring out the answer to the question you have so astutely raised.