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Published 19th April 2020

Technical innovation, market evolution and the changing face of entertainment.

The world today is heavily characterised by always-on connectivity. And, more than ever before, we are free to choose the source of our entertainment, be it video (film, TV and new short form), video games and other interactive media, anywhere, at any time, on a plethora of different devices.

This power to chose what, where, when, and how to consume entertainment, means that traditional attitudes and behaviours governing our attention span are no longer valid. The ability of a specific medium to retain our focus, such as live tv programming (except live event coverage), that once kept us glued to the single screen in the house, is rapidly becoming obsolete.

The consumer is empowered with choice. We are always one click, one tap, one voice-activated trigger away from an alternative.

Fragmentation of our attention across geography and devices has also brought about an evolution in entertainment platform and format.

Video entertainment now manifests itself through traditional (terrestrial) TV, satellite & cable, OTT platforms, social media channels – on TVs, PCs, mobile & tablet – in the form of shows, series, documentaries, vlogs.

And then there are videogames (and similar forms of interactive entertainment)… The recent ‘Fortnite effect’, in particular, represents the medium’s coming of age and migrating from the bedroom to a ubiquitous form of entertainment, with a more balanced demographic across age and sex. Aside from ‘players of games’, consumers of gaming content are now also represented by content creators and spectators – and not only in the e-sport category.

However, alternative entertainment media are not the only possible interruption to our attention span. Other than media fragmentation, our lives are increasingly interrupted by digital messaging and social interactions (email, IM, VOIP, social networks, etc.).

All this is revolutionising another industry which is symbiotic to (and often grouped with) the entertainment industry. The media of Marketing and Advertising.

As our attention span shifts and mutates, so does the balance of power between advertising, commissioning of content and consequently programming. Diminishing eyeballs for the traditional 30-second ad, coupled with the advent of streaming technology, VOD, OTT platforms means that traditional TV is in a struggle for its life.

According to a recent Neilsen report, 2/3 of viewers switch to another channel when a commercial advertisement comes on*.

Budgets have migrated at least in part to digital media and formats. In addition, trust in traditional advertising is diminishing (earned media, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, is preferred above all other forms of advertising – such as consumer reviews, influencer-led social media).

If traditional advertising and content commissioning enjoyed a long time symbiotic relationship, that is no longer the case. The new business models that have emerged across video and interactive entertainment, such as subscription-based consumption or on-demand snacking (premium & freemium models) are self-sustaining ecosystems with little or no place for traditional format advertising. The battle for eyeballs has shifted to a new front – Content is king.

In the content rush, therefore, the challenge is to stand out from the crowd. To retain audiences, more than ever before, we need to evoke strong emotions and thus create memorable experiences; We need to return to captivating storytelling first and foremost.

Marketing and advertising have a role to play too. There are opportunities for product placement and story integration provided that supports a richer storytelling experience for the consumer. Additionally, where brand awareness is more the objective, rather than explicitly driving sales, brands have the opportunity to help fund the content creation process directly.

Technological advances are giving us access to content creation tools that enable richer storytelling though process and methodology efficiencies, empowering storytellers with real-time information and learning-based decision making; democratising the marketplace to give new participants a space to have their say.

However, we must remember that innovation and technology is a means to an end and should not just act as a novelty factor or fad. The best technology is hidden, letting creativity take the driving seat. Putting the consumer first.

— Marc D’Souza | Founder & Lead Consultant