By: Fredwill Hernandez
“Welcome everyone, this is the “sixth edition” of Digital Entertainment World [DEW], we have a fantastic program planned for the next two days, thanks for coming,” eloquently expressed Ned Sherman, Co-Founder of DEW, during opening remark, who also addressed the “tireless work” his wife Tinzar [Sherman] does year-round along with “her team” to make the conference happen and reiterated the “importance of their support” before also thanking the sponsors, “who without we would not be able to put this conference together.”
“We’re really in an interesting time right now with so much focus and budgets going into originals, as a matter of fact Peak TV reached a new height just this year, with 495 [original scripted, cable, and broadcast series released], that’s more than we’ve seen in the history of television. What’s more interesting about it, it’s the first time that more of the originals that they produced will run on “streaming services” than on traditional broadcast television or cable. This is a real shift in video consumption and [I think] is something that were all going to be part of going forward. We’re expecting the major streaming services Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, and now with the entry of Disney Plus, and at & t’s Warner Media service there are going to be “tens of billions of dollars” to be spent on originals production within the next five years, so were kind of seeing sort of an arms race in this space,” expressed Sherman, before asking the creators’ community in the room to “think about” the kind of deals they could [probably] eventually be making going forward.
“According to the Boston Consulting Group over the next five the five years we’re also going to see a shift of about 30 billion dollars in profit going from traditional broadcast to streaming services, so the people involved in the streaming eco-system are going to see a lot profitability in the coming years. The “second thing” on my mind, you might of heard about ex Reddit CEO, [Elle K. Pao’s — Dec 26, 2018], tweet about web analytics being “fake,” this raised some serious questions, there’s been a lot of debate of what’s going on with web and mobile metrics. According to the Advertising Bureau global advertising is on pace to surpass 100 billion dollars for 2018, and close to two-thirds or roughly 63 percent coming from mobile and 73 percent coming from the top 10 digital media companies, of course led by Facebook, and Google, it’s something to be thinking about,” also expressed Sherman during his opening remarks. “Finally, I want to leave you with some thoughts on where I think the future “might” be heading from a creators’ standpoint, I think the future is multi-platform, social, immersive, and experiential.”
Sherman’s [future] predictions were quickly confirmed in a company named Roblox’s opening presentation.
“Roblox is this amazing platform that is really a creative gaming platform and over 80 million kids [last month] got together and played games with their friends. And what’s important about this is the games themselves were created by kids,” eloquently explained Chris Misner, President of International, Roblox, during his Younger Generations Transforming the Future of Entertainment presentation. “Free wins, this may sound old and repetitive and it is, but it’s remarkable how often people forget it and particularly for this demographic. Free wins because [one], it’s convenient, there’s low barriers, and [two] in this entertainment world were you have many choices, a surplus of content, as Ned pointed out, you really cannot put this hey’ wall in front of this demographics.”
As he continued with his presentation on Roblox’s Misner, also explained, “gaming is still social, gaming has always been about bringing kids together to have unstructured experiences with their friends, [and] that’s critical,” and “because it’s social, cross-platform is expected among this demographic. It just seems dumb to them they can’t play with a friend who has a different device.”
“As to what is not “well understood” is that players also want to “create,” this is an important trend Roblox is taking advantage of and others are starting to as well. There’s a lot of implications with user entertainment. Last year 16 million games were published on Roblox by the player community, there’s been 50 million [games] published on our platform, that’s a lot of content out there,” also explained Misner. “What we get in our echo system is just “diversity” and a type of content you wouldn’t [really] find coming thru professional studios run by adults,” and “it’s not about a virtual experience, these are real emotions, these are real friends, these are real experiences and that’s the core of this. When you think about the future of entertainment, it’s not so different from the past, it’s always been about the creative people like you in this room, imagining developing world’s that create real engagement, real experiences, real life lessons, so the future of entertainment is a lot like the past, we just have different tools, that’s what Roblox believes.”
Following Roblox’s presentation was also another “very interesting” [opening] presentation looking into the future, [strategically programed by Sherman] on how a company named Soul Machines has been using Artificial Intelligence [powered by IBM’s Watson Assistant] to create avatars [digital humanoids] using brain models to synthesize human behavior in real time, and charge annual subscriptions fees based on factors such as the number of personalities and languages, as well transaction fees that vary with the number of conversations.
“We’re building what we call a Human Operating system for Artificial Intelligence [AI], and if we’re going to spend a lot of our time talking to machines they should be more like us, to do that we’ve built a digital brain we are pioneering, the next niche of AI, we call “experiential learning,” [which is] the way we [human beings] learn as we go through life,” explained Greg Cross, Chief Business Officer [& co-founder], Soul Machines. “So what we’re all about is in this future turning digital experiences into human experiences, communicating face-to-face…our future is going to be very [heavily] influenced by the way we learn to collaborate between humans and machines…literally putting a face on technology, putting a [human] face on AI.”
“What does that mean for you guys,” asked Cross, “It means you’re going not just from being content makers, but you’re being able to become connection creator’s, you’ll have the ability to create one-on-one interactions with fans, connecting brands with fans in ways that aren’t possible today.”
The expo also addressed the intersection between [traditional] celebrities and influencers, [and the “importance” of the Gen Z generation] in among others, The View From the Top: Power of Creativity and Influence panel.
“For the audience that Awesomeness’ targets, that Gen Z, young adult audience, famous is famous, for what we really see — digital stars, traditional celebrities they all have the same “draw and appeal” to our audience. What we’re really in tune to, we were the early adaptors in this space is the power of digital influencers to market their own content and creations, so were always trying to tap into their creativity and their power with the audience. [So] for our audience, that creator is the same star that maybe for my generation the movie star was, so were always looking to copulate our projects with people who have relevance in the social media space. They may have come up through Youtube or Vine, or Instagram, or maybe the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, we were always looking at how to reach the audience to market our projects and certainly having a [really] strong presence there, is really important because that’s where our audience is consuming content,” explained Shelley Zimmerman, Co-Head, Awesomeness.
As to the “importance” of the Gen Z generation, you might wonder.
Gen Z account for the largest segment of the world’s population at 26 percent. Ninety-two percent go online every day—and 24 percent say they are online “almost constantly,” according to fairygodboss [.com].
Market research according to Nielsen shows that 85 percent of Gen Z learns about new products on social media and are also 59 percent more likely than older generations to connect with brands on social, too.
According to a “Gen Z facts for marketers” [report] by Mediakix, Gen Z’s account for $830 billion per year in the U.S., covering 6.8% of total U.S. consumer spending each year.
95 percent of Gen Z’s [owns] and has a smartphone, and over half [55 percent] of Gen Z’s use their smartphones “5 or more hours a day” and over a quarter [26 percent] use their phones “10 or more hours” a day according to The Center for Generational Kinetics.
In U.S. alone, there are 65 million of them. By 2020, Gen Z will account for 40 percent of all consumers in the U.S. according to Vision Critical, in partnership with research firm MARU/VCR&C’s study which also pointed out that as more people from Gen Z enter the workforce, their “influence and impact” in the business world will only grow, so to prepare for the future, companies should start building a relationship with Gen Z consumers now. The brands that have timely and accurate understanding of Gen Z are poised to win the business of these young consumers today and in the years ahead.
“The pie, meaning the amount of time on Youtube for this younger generation is constantly growing too. So, its not just this creator is taking away from this other creator, I think what is also happening is the amount of time on mobile, the amount of time on Youtube is constantly growing, maybe sort of what were seeing with this younger generation, these are the linears, so there might be time for them to watch everywhere [on all platforms],” added Awesomeness’ Zimmerman.
During the DEW Expo, other interesting facts regarding Gen Z were pointed out.
“Gen Z’s are expecting brands to care about making this world a better place as much as they do. They expect brands to contribute to a positive change to the world, they expect brands to help make the world a better place, they are more willing to embrace and support brands that have the same vision, values, and mission that they do, and more than “half” are willing to spend more on a brand that takes a stand vs. a brand that stays [per se] on the sidelines. So what does that mean for brands and content creators, Z’s will expect you to stand for something and the guard rails here, that doesn’t mean to stand up for anything, make sure to stand for something, not against something,” explained Jayne Chameski, Founder, Front Row Insights and Strategy during her [creators/influencers] presentation.
“Cultural relevance is not something that’s easy to achieve, you have to have a real close on society, you have to understand what matters to your audience, what they want and care about. So we believe that when you combine “emotion resonance” with “cultural relevance” in an authentic way it really triggers something in consumers that has a long lasting effect [since we tend to remember more when we feel something] and these days it’s a place where brands not only “want to be,” but frankly “need to be,” eloquently explained Michal Shapira, SVP of News Content Partners, Turner Ignite, during her Emotion + Culture: Driving Connection in Brand Storytelling presentation. “It’s not just TV for us, consumption across all platforms has grown 60 percent in the last 5 years, with digital and mobile leading the way.”
Aside from the importance of Gen Z to marketers, brands, and content creators, a question of when is immersive story telling for a brand in AR/VR appropriate [?], was raised.
“If you’re only looking at the CPM [cost-per-mille] is not appropriate, if you’re looking at driving interest and showing your ahead of the curve, and you’re experimenting with new forms of visualization and new storytelling tools, is absolutely appropriate and has been for about five years…is like the same correlation of [like] Youtube influencers vs. Youtube creators, those that really influence the markets are small in numbers, but they can have massive [sort of] appeal, and it doesn’t really tie in to the CPM model,” explained Ted Schilowitz, Futurists, Paramount Pictures, during [The] View From the Top: The X [R] Factor: Creating Immersive Experiences for Entertainment panel. “It’s kind of the thing that a lot of people really “don’t want to hear” and I tell people that this medium is no different than any other medium, meaning almost everything that gets made “will fail,” it will not find an audience, be monetized, [or] that it may not have any sort of value other than the creator’s inspiration, [the] creator’s experimentation and learning, and just like movies, music, television, books, [or] art in any set form, a tiny [tiny] fractions finds an audience, becomes a sensation, becomes a hit. The idea that this medium [AR/VR] is any different than that is a “missed calculation,” and the fact that there’s so much “invested in it,” of people putting all these dollars and time in it, just because they’re doing it – they think they’re going to win, more than likely they are going “to lose.” And there will be a few winners which happens in every creative medium and some of those winners will be so wildly successful over time that they will make the medium sustainable and viral, and we are starting to scratch a little tiny bit on the first micro hits that give us cause, [that] gives us sort of a cense that at some point this is going to be “extraordinary valuable” to a large number of people, but even that large number of people is a tiny [tiny] fraction of the larger number that are dependent. And I think that’s just something you have to sort of become aware that, that’s the reality of any type of medium.”