The entertainment industry has remained as busy and innovative as ever despite a disruptive past year. The streaming wars are continuing to heat up, stoking the competition between key players. Streamers are racing to create vast libraries of TV and movie content on their platforms to attract more viewers than their competitors.
For consumers, this means more series and movies and more ways to watch than ever before. For marketers in the entertainment industry, this means they must work harder for their new content to stand out.
With the tremendous shifts of the past year in mind, Invoke recently hosted an insightful webinar titled “State of the Entertainment Industry.” This webinar featured industry veterans Sheri Conn, a global marketing executive and Invoke advisor who has worked with DreamWorks, Paramount, and Disney, and Thomas K. Arnold, the Publisher and Editorial Director of Media Play News and frequent contributor to Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, and USA Today.
One of the highlights of this engaging discussion was around the challenges facing marketers today. Speaking to leaders in the industry about the challenges they’re facing today, Arnold identified one common theme — the need to “cut through” the clutter.
During the webinar, Arnold explains, “With more movies premiering at home, there’s no longer any geographic boundary because movies are premiering everywhere. And you’ve got… to cut through all that clutter.”
Marketers who can effectively cut through the clutter will find the most success in an increasingly competitive streaming era. In this blog, we’ll explore the four factors behind the need to cut through the clutter in the entertainment industry.
The dawn of the Internet age has brought with it unprecedented global connectedness. The film and television industry has long been US-dominated. However, today we can see the effects of globalization on content available to viewers and the viewership of that content. Consumers worldwide can now access a wider variety of content. In the same vein, the competition amongst studios and streaming platforms for viewers has now widened to a global scale.
“We’re seeing shows like Money Heist — a [Spanish] show — now [become] very popular in the US on Netflix,” Arnold says.
Globalization has not only created a need for a wider range of content to appeal to global audiences. It has also accelerated shifts in content testing and consumer research.
Arnold explains, “In the old days, it was easier. You got a hundred people together in a backroom of a mall or a movie theater in LA, and you had a focus group. Now you’re dealing with people in India, in New York, in rural Wisconsin — everywhere.”
Streamers and studios today must consider that their content could reach viewers around the world with different views and life experiences. They must keep in mind their target audience on a more global scale and test their content accordingly.
Conn adds, “Now you have to be so much more thoughtful and inclusive when looking at your global audiences because content is not just about US-produced content [anymore].”
In-person content testing, the mainstay of test-screening in Hollywood past, is no longer a best-practice for the industry. As a marketer, you need to think more globally than ever before about your audience. And that begins before distribution, even before ideation, with consumer research. Virtual test-screening solutions like Invoke’s platform have made it easier for studios, networks, and streamers to meet their audience wherever they are with at-home test screenings.
2. Proliferation of content
On top of the expansion of global content now available to audiences worldwide, there’s simply more content available to viewers than ever before. With the proliferation of content comes greater competition between those producing, distributing, and marketing it. The quantity of content released is one of the factors deciding who’s winning the streaming wars. Netflix alone announced they plan to release an astounding 71 feature-length movies in 2021 on their platform.
The amount of content isn’t the only thing that’s growing. There are also several options for consumers to keep entertained these days. Streaming platforms, video services, and gaming provide endless entertainment opportunities.
And it’s not just the biggest players like Netflix and Disney+ producing new content and hosting legacy content. The streaming wars have also given rise to more niche streaming platforms that cater to their target audience specifically.
Arnold elaborates, “BritBox goes out and focuses on BBC and British programming. Shudder has all these horror movies. You’ve got PBS with a whole line of Masterpiece and other niche channels. And then you’ve got really tiny players like VET Tv, which is focused on dark humor aimed at [veterans and] active military.”
With all of this content and so many ways to watch, there are truly options for every viewer out there. The question then becomes — how can I speak directly to my audience and get them to pay attention to me amongst the noise?
The entertainment industry is in a state of constant change. Prepare for the future with insights from industry veterans Thomas K. Arnold and Sheri Conn.
3. Shortening attention spans
Unfortunately for those vying for viewer attention, there’s another factor at play. That is: the average attention span is shortening. This challenge extends not only to content but the way that filmed content is marketed.
Arnold says, “I remember 30 years ago we talked about this new trend in movies, that was the People Magazine syndrome. Whatever star is on the cover of People Magazine is the movie that’s going to be popular for that week. And 30 years later, it’s no longer a week. It’s a day.”
As trends arise and dissipate with equal velocity, marketers need to be prepared to capitalize on their brand or content’s 15 minutes of fame. To add to that challenge, not only are shows and platforms competing for the viewer’s limited span of attention anymore.
Gaming provides even more competition for eyeballs in an already-saturated entertainment landscape. In 2018 alone, consumers spent around 50 billion hours watching other people play games on YouTube — around the same amount of time viewers spent watching Netflix during the same period. With 164 million Americans identifying as “gamers,” the power of this form of entertainment can no longer be ignored or cast aside by the rest of the entertainment industry.
As attention spans only shrink further, marketers and content creators must be prepared to tackle this challenge with content and campaigns that capture viewers’ attention and keep them interested.
4. Building a connection
In a global entertainment landscape with more content than ever before where players are vying for short viewer attention spans, the challenge lies in forming a real connection with viewers.
The winners will be those who effectively forge a connection with the viewer and give them what they want to see. Viewers determine which shows get renewed for another season, which movies become overnight successes and which flop.
To forge a connection with viewers, marketers must meet fans where they are and approach them in an unexpected way. The pandemic has only catalyzed more creativity for building these connections as viewers are stuck at home and spend more time in front of their screens.
Conn gives one example: “Kids played over 3 billion hours just in July alone. Over half of US kids play Roblox. And Wonder Woman 1984 — the new HBO Max movie — did a branded experience in Roblox that drove 18 million interactions within the Roblox platform.”
Entertainment industry marketers should continue to look for creative ways to break through the noise through virtual platforms. In a market brimming with new content, marketers must be creative and leverage new trends and platforms to gain viewers and engage fans.
Cutting through the clutter
Now is undoubtedly a challenging — but exciting — time for marketers to be in the entertainment industry. Those who come out of this era on top will be those who can effectively cut through the clutter. Understanding the drivers behind this need to cut through is the first step.
Want to hear the full discussion between Thomas K. Arnold and Sheri Conn to gather more insights? Watch the full recording of the webinar here.