What Does the Future of Entertainment Look Like? Digital Entertainment World Provides a Glimpse

The 2019 Digital Entertainment World took a deep dive into “The Power of Creativity and Influence.” The gathering of entertainment executives traded insights and predictions about the state of film, TV, streaming, branding, music, eSports and technology. Many panels were like a speed dating session, leaving folks in the audience hungry for more. But the hallways provided space for follow up.
The virtual reality sector did not go unnoticed. Nancy Bennett (Chief Creative Officer and Studio Head at Two Bit Circus) prompted a discussion about how consumer expectations exceed the reach of affordable VR hardware. In the perennial chicken and egg conundrum around new technology, her panel volleyed on the importance of distribution versus compelling content. Each feeds on the other; same as it ever was.
Ted Schilowitz (Futurist at Paramount Pictures) urged folks to participate in VR/AR every day, “it’s the only way to get your 10,000 hours.” Some folks muttered about whether there were that many hours of content available.
Practical deployments of VR were presented by executives from Universal, who related their four years’ worth of marketing experiments using “Jurassic Park” elements. Not surprisingly, dinosaurs are great for social media when married up with VR and AR. The challenge, admitted Hilary J. Hoffman (Executive Vice President, Global Marketing for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) is trying to explain to the public the payoff of engagement.
Hardware for VR will improve, in terms of reduced weight and lower latency. Both will diminish the stomach-churning issues that have plagued the format. But another issue also presently moving the sector away from VR toward AR relate to studies at Stanford referenced by Ketaki Shriram (CTO at Krikey). She described how at short distances video delivery is potentially deleterious to the retina.

In the world today of so much music “trust the DJ,” advised Nikhil Shah (of Co-Founder Mixcloud). Shas says Mixcloud has solved the rights challenge, “which we could do because we were from outside the music business.” Mixcloud presents a legal place for DJs to host their DJ sets. “But that is table stakes,” asserts Shah. “A community needs to be built.” Once a mass of followers is attained, the real benefits accrue to the musicians whose songs comprise the DJ sets.

Also on the panel was Anthony Saleh (CEO Emagen and Partner WNDRCO). The “top stress point for music company CEOs is to diversify distribution. Artists are becoming entrepreneurs, but they still need guidance.” Mixcloud represented a great bet for investment by Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WNDRCO.

The explosion and proliferation of music availability requires curation, so the Mixcloud model is to allow the curators to be paid for their effort of exposing music. The curator gets the majority of the revenue after rights holders are paid, although the specific formula is still confidential.

The licenses for Mixcloud are different from the other streaming services in that the creators and curators are more the focus than the existing “cartel” model.

The former super fan is now a super streamer, which actually results in a shallower relationship with the artist. Formerly the super fan went all in with box sets and merch, but now Mixcloud Select allows for specific DJ subscriptions, and the company will see where the fans want to take the platform.

Now that CD and album sales are essentially finished and people can buy single songs, “we are in an era that you have to make art that people value, if you want to make a living” asserted Matt Adell (Founder, MetaPop). He said something not often mentioned, when he called Ticketmaster the good guy. Referring to the company’s Verified Fan initiative, Adell pointed out that Ticketmaster has dealt with the so-called “ticket in the wild, allowing the artist to control what happens to the resale of a ticket.”

Jonathan Azu (Senior Manager, Red Light Management) pointed out that songwriters and producers remain at the epicenter of the business. There is now greater visibility for their roles, but that does not diminish their importance.

Kym Nelson (Senior VP, Twitch) discussed the explosion of user generated content and the opportunities for advertisers to reach the relevant eyeballs. She emphasized the importance of authenticity. Twitch’s Dollar Shave Club initiative was an example where Twitch vetted creators, but she admitted there was still a roll of the dice inherent in the experiment. Other panelists jumped in and commended the humorous and viral results.

Much more was covered at the latest Digital Entertainment World, but it was hard to cover it all. And that is the sign of a well-curated gathering.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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