The New World of Immersive Entertainment
Are Hollywood execs finally ready to embrace the interactive digital future?
Today we bring you another special guest post from Jon Rogers, formerly the founding executive and global head of live-action franchise development for Walt Disney Studios.
Overpriced JPEGs has teamed up with Jon to create Blockbuster, a recurring series that looks at what is happening across Hollywood, the global media industry, and the blockchain.
Jon is a brand leader with 20+ years of experience in media/entertainment, consumer packaged goods, and most recently Web3. Prior to Disney, Jon was a member of the Star Wars brand marketing team at Lucasfilm where he managed theatrical campaigns, brand partnerships, and retail marketing. Earlier in his career Jon was a strategy consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton working with clients in media/entertainment, high tech, and oil & gas industries.
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In the latest episode of Blockbuster, Carly and I discussed a recent article I came across from global consulting firm Bain & Company, entitled The New Era of Immersive Entertainment.
Or I should say, Carly discussed. I raved with Overpriced Enthusiasm. See for yourselves:
Why was I so excited? When I read the article, I couldn’t help but feel that this marks a necessary turning point in the discourse from traditional knowledge brokers such as Bain and McKinsey regarding Web3 and NFTs.
Thought leadership is *finally* emerging that supports what those of us working in the space already know → that NFTs have much more to offer than funny monkey JPEGs.
Personally, I’m particularly interested in how blockchain technologies will support the next era of Hollywood.
How will NFTs enhance audience engagement with storytelling?
How will smart contracts facilitate deal flow?
How can blockchain be utilized by filmmakers in the production process?
These are the topics and questions that keep me excited during this bear market.
To date, the Hollywood trade press and key thought leaders have largely written off those kinds of questions and the opportunities behind them. The Bain article stands out as one of the first pieces aimed at C-Suite execs suggesting that there’s more to the blockchain beyond mere JPEGs. Is this a sign that we’ve bottomed out in the bear market and can see more clearly the promising opportunities on the horizon?
The authors envision a new type of engagement with storytelling content that they call “Lean Forward” entertainment. My colleagues at Feature call this Next-Generation Storytelling.
Two different terms, but the underlying concept is essentially the same: That blockchain technology will enable traditional forms of passive entertainment, such as film and television, to become interactive for those audiences who choose to participate. Critically, blockchain technology offers new opportunities in identity, commerce, social, and much more.
Here are my key takeaways from the article:
The business opportunity of immersive entertainment experiences is real and significant. The authors estimate the traditional media sector can grow its revenue an incremental 20% above the current projected industry growth by embracing immersive platforms. Isn’t this the way the media industry has always grown? Think about it. Feature film was hitting its peak in the 1980’s, and then home entertainment solutions such as VHS emerged driving growth by unlocking new revenue streams.
New forms of entertainment will also be unlocked. The opportunities with immersive entertainment are not limited to enhancing existing experiences. According to the authors, Gens Y & Z audiences are already spending 50% of their media time on “lean forward” activities. Blockchain creates opportunities to integrate those activities directly into the content creating new media formats.
The time to build is now! Carly and I have discussed at length my belief that blockchain technology is an architectural innovation. Among the many consequences of that is the risk for legacy firms to fall behind as early adopters gain competitive advantage. The authors of the Bain article argue the same point - that “recent disruptions suggest this could occur in just a few years.” The pace of change will be rapid and accelerate once it gets underway.
What’s There to Lose?
What are the next steps for legacy media companies who realize the time to build is now? As I have argued before on Blockbuster, experiment. Legacy firms don’t have to go all-in right away. However, beginning experimentation now for purposes of institutional learning is essential. Unfortunately, this is also where many legacy firms will struggle. Organizational fear of failure, paralysis from seeing other firms fail around them, or embarrassment will hold them back. Can any legacy media firm overcome that? I have some doubts.
The way I see it is what do they have to lose? Is broadcast television and feature film so successful that the legacy firms can turn their back on new opportunities? How is the business with the cable bundle going right now? There is very little to lose and much to gain.
The biggest challenge I see for legacy media when it comes to realizing the opportunities of immersive entertainment is organizational.
Big Media companies are not organized in a way that puts the audience first. Audiences experience franchise storytelling from a transmedia perspective, while the studios that create those stories are organized along the same silos as they were in the 1990’s. While the authors do not outright call for reorganization of the big media companies, it is clearly necessary in the coming years.
As the former head of a franchise department at a Big 5 Studio, I particularly enjoyed the section where the authors argue legacy media companies need to “build or enhance a robust franchise engine,” and I generally agree with them, with caveats.
Carly and I did an entire podcast series (and corresponding newsletter posts) focused on the three pillars of the film production value chain, including Development, Production, and Distribution. The bottom line is that blockchain offers content development execs new tools for how they create new IP and support existing IP.
As the Rogers Maxim states: Legacy media monetizes content through distribution.
Future media monetizes content through community.
Franchises become even more valuable in a world where content is monetized through community.
Teams are actively working right now to build the future of media and entertainment with blockchain technologies. For those teams, the opportunities have been apparent and worth pursuing even in the depths of a brutal bear market.
I’m both cautiously optimistic and hopeful that the Bain article is a sign that those teams’ hard work might soon be rewarded with acceptance and deal flow from the legacy media companies.
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