At Variety‘s Entertainment and Tech Summit Presented by Twitch on Thursday, big names from both industries gathered to discuss the future of the business at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, discussing topics like virtual reality, music streaming, video games, and television.
Here are our ten biggest takeaways from the summit:
Voice Commands Are a New Chapter in Streaming
Amazon Music’s global head of programming and content strategy Alex Luke emphasized Amazon’s commitment to voice interaction via the company’s Alexa and Echo. Where other music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora were created with smart phones in mind and rely on visual interfaces, Amazon noticed a tendency in its customers to ask for music in a different way, requesting novel combinations of music like “pop music for cooking” or “classic rock for running,” for example. Luke said that voice commands, in addition to the machine learning of the Alexa-enabled devices, are the “beginning of a new chapter in streaming music” and that “the focus on voice is where we have all our energy and resources planted.”
No Virtual Reality for Nintendo
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Reggie Fils-Aime, president and chief operating officer of Nintendo of America says that VR is not in the company’s immediate future. Although the company first experimented with virtual reality in the 1990s with the Virtual Boy, the “problem with VR is that there aren’t a lot of experiences that are truly fun,” said Fils-Aime. The company has had much more success with augmented reality (AR) which debuted with the 3DS handheld console. The potential for more games with AR capabilities is much stronger considering the company’s experience with the medium, and although there are no plans to experiment with VR, Fils-Aime said the company may consider it in the future.
Home Consoles Still Have a Future
Fils-Aime also said that Nintendo does not believe that the home console platform of playing video games, as opposed to on a PC, is dead. The massive success of both the Nintendo Switch and “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” indicate that fans are still engaged with the company’s products and IP, he noted. Despite initial investor skepticism, the Switch has outdone projected sales and Nintendo is no able to guarantee enough product to meet the demand of the upcoming holiday season.
The New Living Room is Driving OTT Consumption
The consumption of over-the-top (OTT) programming is transitioning from mobile platforms and is being driven by the popularity of “the new living room,” according to Jack Rotherham, chief marketing officer for Comcast Advance Advertising Group. New options like Roku and streaming over gaming devices are creating a “new renaissance” for television consumption that will see a return to the living room as a place to consume entertainment, said Rotherham.
Future of Advertisement Lies in Viewer Engagement
Ralf Jacob, president of Verizon Digital Media Services, emphasized a change in the future of advertising. Much online content features unskippable advertisements, which Jacob said is “false advertising because we’re forced to watch those ads.” He said the future of successful advertising is encouraging viewers to interact with the advertisements and capture their interest, such as integrating ads or product placement in AR experiences.
Dell Thinks Location-Based VR Is the Future
Members of Dell’s “Tipping Point: Innovating VR for All” panel projected a rosy future for virtual reality. Although much of the free content currently available has lowered the value judgment of VR in many places around the country, Gary Radburn, head of VR/AR at Dell, emphasized the importance of location-based experiences for the development and popularity of the medium. Radburn related it to early video game arcades and how the quality of arcade machines drove the interest and demand for the same level of gaming at home.
Studios Are Beginning to Experiment with VR
Members of the VR panel also agreed that the future of virtual reality is more promising with gaming than with cinematic or less interactive content, mainly because the developers have had more experience working with the technology. Studios are experimenting with more ways to engage audiences with the medium by developing content around titles like “Planet of the Apes” or “Star Wars,” which is experimenting with an episodic Darth Vader series developed by Lucasfilm. Monetizing such content, said multiple members of the panel, is likely best way to ensure that quality VR content continues to thrive and will encourage improvements in the technology.
Pairing Social Media With TV Shows Helps Engage Viewers
TV companies are experimenting with ways to engage consumers across devices and draw them back to viewing programs in the living room using interactive fan experiences on multiple platforms, like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Kay Madati, president of BET Networks, said that a second screen experience is being developed on Snapchat to complement one of its traditional linear shows and that the company is exploring the technique of telling stories in ten-second bites on the app.
Viewing Patterns are Changing the Way Studios Advertise
In the “Generation XYZ – Building TV for All” panel, TV executives spoke about the changing world of viewers’ habits and how they affect the industry. Many viewers will wait until the end of a season to watch a show, which presents a hardship for studios and networks who are unable to monetize on the weekly views. YouTube’s global head of content Susanne Daniels said that with the recent influx of a massive volume of diverse content, studios are now forced to spend a minimum of $25 million dollars in order to make a splash in the market and attract sufficient viewer attention. The instantaneous access to content has caused nonlinear streaming services like YouTube to wait until a program is ready to stream before advertising it rather than marketing the show in advance because viewers now want to be able to click and view a show as soon as they see an ad.
Podcasts Are Only Becoming More Popular
According to the panelists for “Mic Drop: The Big Business of Podcasting,” the main factors that cause a podcast to succeed are clear audio quality, its conversational nature, friendly hosts, and seamless integration of advertising into the show. Podcasts are beginning to be recognized as a successful from of media and many are being developed for television projects. Brenda Gonzalez, creator of the “Tamarindo” podcast, said that while podcasts are not currently popular among minorities, the inclusion of podcasts on larger platforms like Spotify has helped introduce the medium to newer demographics like the Latino community.