How will the way we consume media and keep ourselves entertained shift in 2016? Canvas8 sat down with Zack O’Malley Greenburg, senior editor of media and entertainment at Forbes, Barry Hertz, film editor and deputy arts editor for The Globe and Mail, and leading TV industry analyst Alan Wolk for an insight into the way the industry will change in the coming year.
Zack O’Malley Greenburg is the senior editor of media and entertainment at Forbes – where he's investigated topics from pension fund scandals to Justin Bieber's venture capital career – and the author of Jay Z biography Empire State of Mind.
I think we're going to start to see some clarity around the streaming situation. There's no doubt that streaming is the present and future of the music industry, but what remains to be seen is which services are going to win out and how many the industry can actually support.
They're generally not profitable right now, so we're going to see some dominos fall. We saw that earlier in the year with Rdio declaring bankruptcy and getting bought out by Pandora. Pandora has acquired a ticketing company, too. A lot of streaming services will be doing things like this in order to differentiate themselves – moving into live events is one way to do it. There are a lot of these interesting partnerships happening; Spotify has that deal with Uber where you can get into your Uber and play music from your phone as well. We’ll see a lot more of these in 2016.
There's no doubt that streaming is the present and future of the music industry, but what remains to be seen is which services are going to win out and how many the industry can actually support
Spotify will no doubt stick around because it's the market leader. Apple Music is one to watch, too. But if it didn't have Apple's dollars behind it then who knows? It made a huge investment in making this work and a big part of that $3 billion acquisition of Beats was to bring over not just the headphones, but Beats Music, which had the necessary infrastructure. It was also about bringing Dre and Jimmy over, which is another key component. If they weren't involved then that deal may not have happened – you could almost say that was an acqui-hire.
Google's music streaming services just haven't caught on, but it does have YouTube, which is the biggest music streaming platform in the world. It’s almost happened accidentally – obviously it wasn't initially intended as a music streaming service, but that's what it's turned out to be. I don't know what’ll happen with YouTube Red, though. On the one hand, people are prepared to pay for services like Spotify, but YouTube has been free for so long, and advertising has only increased in recent years. So why we should we start paying? I'm not optimistic that it'll make a big dent.
Streaming services are the present and future of the music industry
TheSpedster (2015) ©
For people to pay for a subscription, it’s got to be vastly better than the free trade-down. That's why streaming has done so much towards killing piracy; because Spotify and services like it are so much easier to deal with. People were tired of downloading files that weren't the right songs or were terrible quality.
Just as Pandora is moving into ticketing, there are a lot of start-ups attempting to aggregate all aspects of the experience of music – the shows, the albums, the merchandise – into a unified platform. But the question will always lie in how you get people to adopt it.
It's annoying cancelling subscriptions and re-subscribing to something else; that's a deterrent and it keeps people where they are
I've seen a lot of start-ups that talk about becoming the one place where people consume music, but it's easier said than done. Even companies like Apple have a hard time taking on new subscribers. So I would be more likely to bet on the big players sticking it out and finding ways to integrate other aspects of music into their existing platforms.
The funny part is that it’s not even about the service or the quality or the user experience. There's tremendous inertia; people don't want to stop doing what they're already doing. If they've gotten used to listening to a certain quality of music on YouTube for free, they don't feel inclined to go and pay $10 for Spotify. It's annoying cancelling subscriptions and re-subscribing to something else; that's a deterrent and it keeps people where they are.
The cinema will continue to be dominated by big-budget blockbusters and franchises
International Film School Sydney (2012) ©
Barry Hertz is the film editor and deputy arts editor for The Globe and Mail, where he helps oversee entertainment coverage online and in print.
There’s been a shift towards branded properties in cinema. We've seen this happen over the past few years with Marvel building shared universes; these interconnected stories between superhero brands; building huge blockbusters and spin-offs to continue those tales.
We'll see other studios adopt the same measures; Disney is trying to do a very similar thing with that revitalisation of the Star Wars franchise and and Universal has done it with Fast and Furious. Universal’s also hoping to build an interconnected universe based on the old monster properties; Frankenstein, Dracula, things like that.
Part of the success of blockbuster franchises is based on the fact people actually want to see them on as large a screen as possible, with the best technology and the best presentation
All these things are in development right now, but with the success of Marvel this year and Warner Brothers prepping its DC line for next year, the big thing that we're discovering here is that audiences are very interested in recognisable properties or recognisable names, while becoming less interested in the traditional model of star power; seeing a movie for the actor or the director.
It's a more perilous situation for indie studios. Part of the success of these blockbuster franchises is also based on the fact people actually want to see them on as large a screen as possible, with the best technology and the best presentation. Smaller dramas or comedies simply don't need any huge technological presentation, so audiences will happily discover and watch them on their home entertainment systems.
For many parents, Hollywood is a glorified babysitter
Mother Love (2015) ©
And if they're not flocking to the theatres, those kinds of films won’t make their money back after launch, meaning that less studios will pursue them in the future. There’ll always be a market for smarter, more adult films, but it won't be the market that existed ten years ago. Certainly not in the coming years – I think that will be eroded and it will be lesser budgeted productions and it will not have the nearly the exposure that it does now.
The cinema itself is changing, too, as prices continue to increase, but theatres don’t necessarily increase in terms of the quality of the experience. In turn, there are attempts to create more luxe experiences, with extra comfortable seats, reserved seating and in-screen bar or dining options. But those are also reflected in the price, with tickets sometimes ending up being two or three times the cost they were for a normal screening.
Minions may have received poor reviews, but it was two hours of supervised entertainment for families during the summer; that’s a service Hollywood can provide and it's very profitable for them
A lot of the movies that are launched in the cinema are geared towards younger audiences. The cinema is still considered to be a domain of young people. But it’s also because family friendly films still make for such a large industry. Children's films and animated films make a ton of money, often regardless of concept. You'll see that Universal's Minions broke all kinds of records, even though it's the third film in that series and the reviews were predominantly poor. But it was two hours of supervised entertainment for families during the summer; that’s a service Hollywood can provide and it's very profitable for them.
The Netflix factor is, of course, a huge influence in the North American market right now. It's where a lot of people are discovering films, it’s where a lot of people are spending their screen time and it's an extremely cost-effective option for them. It provides unlimited entertainment because it's not necessarily about new material, it's about having access to archives of material. It’ll be interesting to see how the industry responds to that in the coming years.
TV is everywhere, now – on any device, at any time
Satoshi Kawese, Creative Commons (2014) ©
Alan Wolk is a leading TV industry futurist and analyst, as well as the author of Over the Top: How the internet is (slowly but surely) changing the television industry.
Networks hadn't previously pushed for digital viewing, because anytime someone watched something digitally it didn’t get counted towards the ratings so they wouldn't be getting paid for it, it was affecting ratings; ratings would go down; they'd make less money. Now that Nielsen’s measuring digital views, that’ll change.
So the networks are also more open to the fact that the more places they give people access to content, the higher the ratings are going to go. In turn, time-shifted viewing will continue to grow. People are watching things on their own schedules and taking more control of their viewing situations. They’ll start seeing television more how they see other mediums like film or even books, where it's something you consume at your own pace on your own schedule.
People will start seeing television more how they see other mediums like film or even books, where it's something you consume at your own pace, on your own schedule
It's viewing on as many devices and platforms as you like. You don't have to be at home anymore – although there's still a greater desire to watch TV at home. You see more snackable, YouTube-style content on mobile devices than on big screen TVs, although tablets are going both ways. For a lot of people, tablets have replaced a bedroom television, so in that space, long-form is being watched on tablets.
More networks are starting to rethink their deals with Netflix. They've realised that everyone's just watching their programmes on Netflix, so they’re taking control of the OTT viewing of their own programmes. It's why Netflix has gotten more aggressive with its original content it’s producing and why it’s bringing in a lot of content from other countries; UK shows in the US and vice versa, stuff like that.
Why would you watch TV on anyone's schedule but your own?
Netflix (2014) ©
Hulu has been doing a lot of exciting things for television. In the last year it’s gone from being a relative unknown to a real competitor to some of the big players. It’s introduced loads of really interesting features for advertising in particular; you can pay $4 and get an ad-free model, for example. Viewers also have the option to watch one ad that they select at the beginning, and then they won't have to watch any during the programme itself. It's also producing more original content, really positioning itself as a competitor to names like Netflix and Amazon. Those companies are doing some great stuff, but Hulu is the one to watch as a disruptor.
Facebook will begin to play a larger role in television. People tend to focus more on Twitter when it comes to TV, but it’s set to decrease in significance. The main reason for this is that live viewing is decreasing – although numbers suggest this is more prevalent in the US than in the UK at the moment. But as a real-time platform, Twitter will become less important as live viewing decreases.
We’re going to see more YouTube stars in the mainstream with much more structure, scripts and formats for their shows
Facebook is also important when it comes to the way networks publicise content. It's a place for networks to drive engagement. They can use it to find all the people that like Empire and pay to have a spot on their newsfeed to remind them the show's on tonight. When everyone’s watching Netflix, it’s important for networks to make people aware of their shows – especially new titles. Snapchat will be important here, too, especially when reaching Gens Y and Z.
YouTube will also prove to be increasingly important. We’re going to see more and more YouTube stars in the mainstream with much more structure, scripts and formats for their shows. We've already seen it on YouTube Red, with PewDiePie's exclusive Red content demonstrating far more structure than anything we’ve seen from him before.
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