It's been one year since the COVID-19 outbreak and consumption patterns in the entertainment industry have undergone a sea change. Post-COVID content viewing patterns seem to indicate a paradigm shift in business strategy with rapid digital disruption in the segment.
The surge in online content consumption has resulted in studios like Disney and Warner adopting a streaming-first strategy. While the launch of Disney+ has been a resounding success, Warner's decision to release all movies in 2021 on HBO Max signifies the shift in online consumption patterns. Along with premium content, home viewership of high-quality library content is also in demand, leading to studios like Universal (Peacock) and Viacom (Paramount+) establishing their own streaming presence.
But these trends have posed significant challenges from a studio, theatre and network perspective. Blockbuster releases such as James Bond have had to be rescheduled several times with dates conflicting with other major releases. These delays and cancellations have significantly impacted theatre chains like AMC, reaching a bleeding point.
Gearing Up for an Unfamiliar Order: Taking the Digital Approach
Entertainment companies must reimagine their business models, digitalize content operations, and leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for improved relevance and profitability, in view of the evolving content viewing patterns.
Here are eight ways in which industry players can leverage technology in the entertainment industry to thrive in the new world order:
1. Leveraging cloudification and virtualization technologies for production and post-production
With the advent of cloud storage, studios have had greater control over remote post-production having moved their digital storage to the cloud, cutting back on significant operational expenses too. In addition, access to compute and processing infrastructure on cloud has enabled post-production teams to collaborate virtually and produce quality content speedily in a cost-effective manner.
2. Harnessing augmented reality (AR) / virtual reality (VR)
Leveraging virtual platforms in the production process enables filmmakers to take the advantage of a combination of immersive technologies. These include VR and AR, as well as computer-generated imagery (CGI) and game-engine technologies, that empower filmmakers to visualize their scenes as they are being composed and captured on set.
3.Maximizing distribution revenue leveraging simulation-led analytics
While big budget films might still need the theatrical market, studios are embracing ‘straight-to-home’ as well as premium release of new movies on online platforms. At the same time, theaters must reimagine their operating models to become the first choice for movie releases. The Universal/AMC deal on joint early VOD release is a significant step in this direction.
4. Harnessing virtual marketing events to maximize outcomes
The pandemic has driven various marketing events to virtual platforms. Sony Pictures’ LA screenings and the Daytime Emmy Awards are just a few examples of events that have gone virtual. Integrating virtual experience as a primary mode of engagement and acquiring requisite technology capabilities to deliver such engagement will be key to success - capabilities like state-of-the-art streaming services, 5G and AR/VR-led innovative and immersive experiences, analytics-led mechanisms to capture feedback, and the ability to track conversions and creation of prospects.
5. Building ML-driven library mining by content owners
Now, more than ever, the entertainment industry needs to mine its library and maximize revenues out of its IP. AI and ML-driven mining techniques can help create product packaging for networks and digital platforms and predict user affinity.
6. Predicting and enhancing customer journeys
It is important for media houses to focus on continuously enhancing the customer journey and experience to prevent churn. Leveraging digital twin-based mapping of customer experience would be key to retaining the customer base as well as revenue.
7. Analytics-driven advertisement planning
Advertisers emerging from the pandemic are bound to look at deep returns on advertising spend, as opposed to bulk buying of ad spots. It will be important for linear and digital players to leverage analytics-driven models to provide customers with an efficient marketing plan, providing maximum value for their spends.
8. Consumer-centric release strategy for streaming players
Streaming players should look at redefining traditional release windows and align digital releases with the needs and demands of consumers. Leveraging the power of digital machine learning models based on current viewership patterns to determine maximum viewership potential of a new release should drive the new release strategy. The distribution groups of these companies should evolve from traditional modes to driving decision based on data.
To Sum It Up
Entertainment companies cannot afford to delay the adoption of new business models given the rapid changes in consumption patterns. Leveraging technology in entertainment is the answer to better understand and predict consumer behavior, accelerate content creation, provide new experiences to effectively engage with consumers, and increase revenues. It is also vital that entertainment companies drive their business strategy by rapidly maturing their digital technologies as the competition from born-digital companies intensifies.