Entertainment Industry Leaders Need to Act Boldly and Think Optimistically

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Cheyne Gateley/Variety Intelligence Platform

Dick Lippin, a veteran communications executive, offers perspective in this guest column on how the entertainment industry can help the nation rebound from the COVID-19 crisis.

A few months ago, I was invited to listen in on a Zoom call with 14 senior entertainment industry executives as an outsider and then offer my opinion.

I came away from it with three vivid impressions. I thought about how much time some participants probably spent arranging the props behind them to showcase themselves or their homes; how much time they focused on “what we can do without” given the impact of the pandemic on their businesses; and how little time they spent discussing positive initiatives designed to blunt the damage and, more importantly, create new sources of revenue from the horrific situation created by the COVID-19 crisis.

I do not mean to minimize the terrible effect the virus has had both personally and professionally on countless people in our industry – health concerns and job losses being at the top of the list – and how much of this is out of our control.

My concern is about what we have the power to control, which is how we can think positively and creatively to assure a better future – one which I believe will become a reality. The new year is a metaphor for a renewed sense of optimism, energy, a future brimming with possibilities, a sentiment that should especially ring true for the entertainment and media industry at the start of 2021.

I realize how crazy that might sound with the latest unsettling chapters in the pandemic and current political turmoil taking a further toll on the collective psyche of this industry. But, over the past century, Hollywood has endured one disastrous event after another – from the Great Depression, World War II and countless regional wars to McCarthyism, assassinations of our nation’s leaders, assorted political scandals, 9/11 and the fear of terror at home, a Great Recession and now a divided country and a world in pain.

Yet each time, the entertainment industry has come back bigger and stronger.

With its importance and widespread influence, how the creative community views the world can heavily impact the way others see it. Entertainment has always played an outsized role in reflecting and shaping the mood and attitudes of billions. It has the power to offer sanctuary in bad times, a platform for inclusive storytelling that helps us better understand each other, and opportunities for shared experiences.

Hollywood will first have to adjust its attitude to inspire many others, beginning with the realization that not all is bleak. With the early arrival of effective vaccines, the entertainment and media communities are poised for a speedier-than-anticipated recovery this year.

The healing should start with an uplifting message – and no one is better at that than this business. It needs to be one capable of breaking through the noise, reflecting how entertainment is uniquely positioned among all top industries to re-energize the world when it needs it most.

Let’s start with the innovation we’ve seen over the past year. People would much rather hear about that than dwell on what we’ve learned to live without.

Let’s adopt a more optimistic attitude about potential future opportunities around the development and implementation of innovations, creative solutions and smarter ways of operating. Or new business models emerging to help meet the demands of global platforms and networks desperately hungry for premium content. Or companies focusing more on revenue enhancement rather than expense reduction.

Some of these are already a reality. With major studios primarily focused on content for their OTT services, indies are partnering with each other, global networks and streamers to finance quality shows by sharing the cost. And those programs are making their way to U.S. networks and streamers.

Marketing departments have become the new power centers today with the unprecedented level of content available. Having the best show in the world means nothing if viewers aren’t aware of it or, worse, can’t find it across the growing number of apps and channels competing for our attention.

To return to growth and prosperity, our industry has no choice but to embrace positivity, optimism and keep pushing to find new possibilities.

Dick Lippin is chairman and CEO of The Lippin Group, a strategic communications and content promotion firm.