Our world will be forever changed as a result of our collective COVID-19 lockdown, and the media and entertainment industry is no exception.
Here are 10 ways the biz will change, even after crisis has passed.
Prediction #1: Our global quarantine will accelerate many pre-pandemic in-home entertainment trends, including the “cord-cutting” of expensive cable TV packages and replacement by one or more premium streaming services. COVID-19 has been a boon for these streamers that now include major new entrants Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock, in addition to leading streaming players Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Fueled by these new media giants, expect Hollywood production to explode when it is safe to go back into the water, as all of these players desperately look to spend their massive content budgets to develop their own differentiating form of “must-see TV.”
Prediction #2: Hollywood’s exclusive theatrical release windows for major films have closed during the pandemic starting with Universal’s “Trolls World Tour” — and that’s here to stay. Expect more family-friendly and adult-driven feature films to be released for in-home streaming on Day One as part of Hollywood’s new normal. Meanwhile, theaters will still be the home to franchise-driven event films that cater to younger audiences, a reality that had begun pre-pandemic, but accelerates because of it.
Prediction #3: Apart from becoming essentially the home for event films, movie theaters will ultimately become destination experiences that cannot be replicated at home in a streaming-first world. Theaters will go beyond offering reclining leather seats and sushi to incorporate pre-show and post-show elements and also become venues for remote participation in other out-of-area events (think of an array of remote Coachellas on the same weekends).
Prediction #4: Speaking of Coachella, live concerts, events, theme parks, and location-based and experiential entertainment will return to pre-pandemic growth trajectories as a result of overall consumer desire and need for real-world interaction and engagement in an increasingly digital world. But certain related aspects are forever changed, including on-site sanitation and apps for touchless transactions and remote food, beverage and merchandise ordering, as well as on-site traffic flow optimization and congestion/crowding mitigation. These technological enhancements, born our of today’s realities, will enhance overall customer experiences and satisfaction.
Prediction #5: As a result of pandemic-driven forced adoption of virtual engagement in a new world of shuttered physical venues, artists will increasingly engage virtually as the world opens up in order to augment their live touring income and scale themselves. Virtual engagement, which enables unlimited performances from a single location in a single day (even homes), will go beyond live streaming and include new innovative and lucrative opportunities like Travis Scott’s recent “Fortnite” virtual concert. Expect those virtual events — that will augment but not replace real world live performances — to enter the immersive VR realm.
Prediction #6: On the virtual engagement front, our collective quarantine has significantly expanded adoption and acceptance of livestreaming and technology-enabled remote engagement and collaboration. That means more virtual production and post-production and less industry travel. Technology companies, and the venture capitalists that back them, will take this new reality further with the development of industry-specific and optimized virtual creation, collaboration and production tools. Boon for production efficiency and flexibility. But a bust for the commercial real estate world as media and entertainment companies reduce their physical office footprints.
Prediction #7: The games sector, already boosted by the pandemic’s collective lockdown and desperate demand for in-home entertainment, will continue its meteoric rise. Cloud-based mobile gaming and 5G networks will accelerate things further. Gaming’s highly-lucrative and proven “free to play” business models will increasingly find themselves adopted by other forms of media, especially in the world of music apps and experiences. That too will benefit artists, as their super fans reach out to pay for their virtual attention and affection.
Prediction #8: The related esports industry that already exceeds $1 billion, but was unknown to many until their kids introduced it to them during our quarantine, will now grow at an even faster clip. 5G, like in the world of games, will accelerate adoption further and attract ever increasing marketing dollars from major brands. Esports “e-thletes,” in turn, will become more like traditional athletes in terms of attracting sponsorship dollars, and those traditional players will increasingly crossover into the world of esports to reach a new generation of fans.
Prediction #9: Similarly, the early promise of virtual reality will become realized sooner as a result of increased pandemic experimentation and exposure. Investment in mixed reality technologies will accelerate, and all media sectors will benefit from the power of immersive entertainment. COVID-19 similarly will introduce the benefits of virtual reality for virtual psychological “resets” that are needed because of it. Meanwhile, virtual travel will become a meaningful supplement to pre-pandemic real world travel for those unwilling or unable to travel due to economic or physical limitations (including those who are most vulnerable).
Peter Csathy is founder and chairman of Creatv Media, a media, entertainment and technology business development, M&A, advisory and creative services firm.