By: Fredwill Hernandez
A couple of days have passed since the fourth annual Digital Entertainment World (DEW) Expo, a joint venture between IDG World Expo and Digital Media Wire, which took place on Feb 1 -2, 2017, at the Marina Del Rey Marriott, Los Angeles, [Ca]. Many [like me] are probably still processing, dissecting, and figuring out how to use the wealth of valuable information given about the entire digital landscape.
What made the two day expo interesting, fun, and worth attending were the tracks in Video/TV/Movies, Brands/Advertising, Games/Interactive, Music/Rights, and Innovation [Stage], as executives gave insight and opinions during view from the top and keynote/fireside chats.
“Hi everyone, welcome to 2017 DEW, we have a fantastic line-up of speakers over the next two days, I’ve been thinking about a few things, were going to be hearing a lot about the future of entertainment and different perspectives and what it really means. I just have two [kind of] high level thoughts, one is that streaming [really] has emerged, it is the dominant digital format today globally including digital subscription models and the data is really showing that it’s going to be the predominant form that consumers want to consume video, use it, etc. Also in relation to the event today, live experiences are more important than ever today, you’re seen in it across the board… Although digital is really transforming consumers experiences were seeing more of an appetite and a need for live experience [today] than ever before,” explained Ned Sherman, CEO, Digital Media Wire, during his welcoming remarks after thanking and expressing gratitude and reiterating the importance of sponsors, media partners, and DEW’s executive [advisory] board.
As things got under way, Andrew Wallenstein, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Variety, coincidently validated Sherman’s comments about streaming during his Future of Digital Entertainment presentation, “You’re seeing that the broadcast, and cable, and premium cable numbers are actually starting to decrease as streaming is absolutely exploding, Netflix is the world going, essentially doubling, you’re seeing that from Amazon, seeing that from Hulu, make no mistake where the momentum is here. I don’t want you to think that the growth of streaming is entirely about original programming.”
As companies adapt to secular trends, the ever changing landscape of numbers, [and] consumers and the way they consume content, new words like cord-cutting and skinny bundles have come into play.
“I think 2017 could very well be an inflection year, as skinny bundles start to take hold in a big way. If there was ever a year where a number that has sort of disappeared and glacially starts to really accelerate, it very well could be 2017,” also added Wallenstein.
The Future of Digital Entertainment and the power content creators [could] have is based on a key factors like discovery, compelling and engaging content, brand identity, and ultimately on connecting with their audience.
“I have evidence that pretty much anyone today can be in entertainment, technology has completely liberated us from traditional content producers, marketers, distributors, to these days were a few companies owned it all are pretty much long gone. Today’s technology allows pretty much anyone to create content and put it out there in the formats, the platforms of the moment, and the ones will find out about in the future,” expressed Lukas Cudrigh, SVP Digital, Red Bull Media House North America, who came on stage for his [Wed. – Feb. 1] presentation drinking Red Bull. “For us we really think that brand is a beacon, the best brands are instantly noble they are credible, there accountable and they have a very clear message, so knowing what your brand stands for, knowing and staying true to your brand attributes will connect you to your audience, but it also means you got to know them, you got to know who they are, you got to know where they are, what gets them excited, and the one thing I think about most, is what allows us to become part of their world, how do we become part of their scenes because if you are, these stories become our collective stories, and we see our audience carry it forward and aft with new and unexpected ways and this really for us means we harness the power of what we can do in digital, the digital landscape, the digital experience, that really is what I think is social. But when we think about social is not just connecting with them, it’s really [really] about truly authentic experiences and if we create this authentic experience – then it becomes a relationship and this is what we consider to be the holy grail for all of us…the stories are at the heart of everything we do.”
Aside from creating great content, the content’s success can sometimes be attributed to discoverability and making it available across all platforms with the [new] 12 to 24 age demographics known as Gen Z in mind, who unlike previous generations before them, are influencing other generations as well.
“Millennials are now a part of every brands marketing strategy, the obsession with millennials should now be the obsession with Gen Z,” explained Brett Bouttier, President, Awesomeness TV, who reiterated the importance of Gen Z and how the consume. “They are not in one place consuming content, the clock doesn’t matter to them, the location of the content doesn’t matter to them…is about where they are and how they can discover the brands that they love, or new things their friends are introducing to them, and whether that’s Apple TV, or VOD on a cable provider, or snapchat, or Facebook, or you can go down the list, it really doesn’t matter.”
In the digital sphere, success many times is attributed to how a person, place or thing is marketed, one such executive plainly put it, short and sweet.
“We are led by our audience, everything from their needs, motivations, desires, and behaviours, so what we really do is have a firm handle on that to create an all encompassing, very cohesive and coherent approach to their content marketing strategy, and then allow that to inform were we make our investment, who we make our investment with, what content partners we actually partner with like StyleHaul for example, and which creators to partner with and ultimately allow that to be our guide and allow it to actually measure that in the back end because what we do is still very subjective, so having the ability to measure it, is a great business case and is really important for our business,” eloquently explained Shannon Pruitt, President, Story Lab NA, a Dentsu Aegis Network company, during [Thur. – Feb. 2] The Future of Content Marketing, View From the Top panel.
Virtual and Augmented Reality was another hot topic that took center stage at DEW, and some of the panelists during The Future of VR/AR in the Entertainment Business panel expressed the excitement surrounding the industry and their companies latest developments.
Right now [VR] is spreading across the board and understanding what’s working and how are audiences reacting [?], and also how do we reach audiences [?] and that also comes in the spectrum too, and I think we just also talked about this, but we think of it a bit of a pyramid, that the smallest set of people with the high-end headsets, the high imprint because it’s going to take a little bit longer for that to adapt, and Oculus also powers the Samsung Gear VR and there’s about 5 million Gear VR’s out there, so that’s a wider audience, that’s a more accessible audience – that’s more the audience that we think all of us are created for, and then the largest one, which Facebook bought Oculus, so Facebook with 1.8 billion people. So, then – how do you use all those resources, you mentioned Youtube, how do you use all those resources to find that audience and what portion can we use 360 that goes on Facebook, that gets people’s other experiences, so we think about all of that,” explained Yelena Rachitsky, Creative Producer, Experiences, Oculus VR.
As [further] developments of VR and AR started to be explained and unraveled, The Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier, which has become a hot bed for showing off VR advancements, held in Park City, Utah, from Jan 19 – 29 was brought up.
“I’ve been going to Sundance a lot of years and I think New Frontier, who knows better than me [?], has been around I think ten or eleven years, something like that now. For eight years, I was like one of the only people that was super interested in what was going on at New Frontier, it was like pulling teeth, [trying] to get people to go, it was sort of far away in a warehouse with all kinds of super immersive [unique] stuff. I was super interested in it, but others were like – I can’t be bothered, then a couple of years ago – it was like this little match that we kept trying to light, saying there’s a bigger world out there, in terms of what immersive entertainment and immersive experiences can bring. Like the match became a bomb fire and suddenly there is all this creative energy and this creative spirit of all kinds of different people and there’s this culture that starts developing and now were kind of three years into the VR’s sort of ka-boom moment, and this year it was just unbelievable, so they had to take over a whole another space and make sort of a mini VR theme park that we sort of strategized with and it worked. It just shows you that when this sort of moment of excitement catches and everybody sort of sees what some of the early people saw [early], there’s no stopping it, and now I feel like we’re kind of at non stopping point,” eloquently explained Ted Schilowitz, Futurist, 20th Century Fox.