The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world and I experience entertainment and consume media. I mean, who didn’t binge on a show over the past 18 months? By the coincidence of circumstances and design, people are consuming more content online and from the comfort of their homes. Major OTT platforms like Disney+ and Netflix have witnessed a major global subscription surge in the work-from-home economy. According to a PwC report, Disney+ recorded 60.5M paying subscribers in early August 2020, after earlier projecting between 60M to 90M paying subscribers by 2024.
Our appetite for digital media and entertainment is unquenchable and expected to keep growing as major studios make more content available direct-to-consumer (DTC) through streaming services. As streaming content consumption increases with time, content creators, broadcasters, and publishers are expected to diversify and personalize subscription services and implement more ad-supported models to cater to an increasingly cost-conscious audience base.
In this paradigm, organizations must look toward continuous and aggressive innovation to stay abreast with the current trends and adapt to survive. Convergence of technology will be the key focus, as modern consumers embrace the disruption and want to construct personalized media environments.
Systemic changes driving technology adoption
Post-COVID-19, the Entertainment and Media (E&M) giants are shifting to different commercial models like agreements for licenses. The entire industry is realigning its process and business models, looking to base themselves on operating rather than capital expenditure. E&M, in particular, must become more elastic to include both rural and urban populations during a pandemic and its surging digital demand to address expenses and appeal. In the age of social distancing and stringent guidelines, digital will be increasingly leveraged across publishing, entertainment, gaming, and media environments. These digital experiences will permeate our lives, using the technological advances that have accelerated from necessity, and reach into Retail, Hi-tech, and Education.
Industries are reimagining technology to design better, inclusive experiences, making way for personalization and tech interconnectivity we crave. An example that comes to my mind is the Epic Games-owned Fortnite that enjoys 350M users. They recently hosted a Travis Scott performance inside the game world. The gig, hosted in April 2020, witnessed more than 12M players watching his debut set. With this, Fortnite transformed the game world into a connected event space, equipped with disruptive tech to host major live music performances, cinematic displays, and other spectacles in a highly digitized setting.
Innovating a better experience
The entertainment and gaming industries are leveraging 5G and blockchain to craft better experiences in a socially distanced world for their audiences. Engineering immersive experiences have been their primary objective, and that’s where AR, VR, and XR, powered by 5G, come into play. Several sporting events have been leveraging these technologies to craft an engaging experience for their audience. They can video chat on their phones with friends while watching the live gameplay. By combining 5G with XR, companies can unlock newer opportunities faster, minus the interruptions. But, it’s not only entertainment gained from XR. As the pandemic closed school doors and opened the gates to virtual classrooms, XR helped students learn from hands-on experience by recreating the frog dissection as if in a biology class. Imagine the possibilities!
They are not only curating experiences but changing the marketplace in which these entertainers perform. Through non-fungible tokens (NFTs), ownership now lets anyone own iconic moments like the ‘Top Shot’ by just registering with an account on the NBA website. Although NFTs have been around since 2014, it’s only recently gained massive popularity with the advent of 5G and changing market dynamics.
Convergence: The reigning theme
The new marketplace is a convergence of different industries with people at its center. The conjunction of retail with entertainment, driven by agile technologies, has been a game-changer, with players bending the rules to give consumers what they want – an integrated marketplace.
Gaming is increasingly integrated into e-commerce and diversifying its reach even more so with the series of recently closed physical retail spaces giving room to innovate. The increasing appetite for convergence of gaming and e-commerce is a testament to the consumer’s desire for change.
Exploring the path forward
The business landscape for M&E companies has changed dramatically since the pandemic. Companies now have to gear up to adapt to new realities while simultaneously being innovative. As noted by PwC, unique mobile internet subscribers will expand to 3.4B by the end of 2020. 5G’s incredible speed and capabilities will push this number upward as content platforms like OTTs get set to witness the boom. From expanding VR/AR/XR experiences to simultaneous high-definition video streaming, 5G will push the boundaries of content providers and entertainers. 5G also opens up the avenue for mobile edge computing, which enables better localization. The cost of data storage and utilization can be lowered as users can store content locally. Operators and content providers can optimally deliver targeted, localized content, with the side benefit of strengthening the structure of a circular economic model, solidifying the path toward media and entertainment sustainability.
The pandemic has forced the M&E companies to be audacious, inspiring them to be storytellers of our future today. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has had a substantial impact across various sectors and made irreversible shifts in how they operate, think, and strategize. While consumer patterns today may be only somewhat recognizable, companies are implementing plans in the form of technological applications to transform their offerings, reduce costs, and reach wider audiences.
At this point, future-facing enterprises that have adopted innovation, agile technologies, and cross-platform technological intervention are starting to reap the rewards. The answer to continued, sustainable growth lies in leveraging the strengths of a few existing technologies and creating new business models around emerging technology that can anticipate market deviations, threats, and openings.
Redefining technological paradigms, HCL cultivates a unique and innovative ecosystem – consisting of start-ups, venture capitalists, and trade missions from across the globe – to generate solutions that our clients can ultimately leverage. Within our Enterprise Technology Office (ETO), this group and their platform, eSTIP, brings together industrial-strength innovation and fosters deep collaboration among various stakeholders through a systematic and scaled approach for nurturing what is new – from idea management through prototyping, deployment, and commercialization. After watching the ever-increasing rate of adaption for innovation, I rely heavily on this internal group, taking ‘timeouts’ with them to recalibrate my thinking as our individual, and collective success ultimately lies in our ability to be open to that which is new and embrace it.