Entertainment: disruption in full force

Center director Jeffrey Cole joined other national experts in a nine-part feature in the Los Angeles Times on December 20, 2019, that offered predictions on key issues for the nation in 2020.  Cole took on the subject of how competing forces within the entertainment industry will transform film and television with the broadest impact felt in more than 60 years. 

Cole’s predictions are below; the full feature from the Los Angeles Times is here.

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By Jeffrey Cole

The next 12 months will see the most important change in the history of the entertainment industry since the television era began in the 1940s. The disruption is in full force.

Once again, Netflix — after moving the DVD rental business from the corner store to our mailbox and then pioneering the streaming business — is changing everything.

In November, Netflix released “The Irishman” online less than a month after its theatrical release. The same is true this month for “Marriage Story” and “The Two Popes.” Although films aren’t being released to moviegoing and home audiences on the same day, the gap is closing. We can watch major motion pictures likely to contend for Oscars as part of our monthly $10 Netflix subscription.

Theaters can’t compete. The line separating movies from television has completely blurred. “Dinner and a movie” has become Netflix and Uber Eats.

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In 2020, television viewers will get burned. All the content we have been getting for years for $10 a month will soon cost closer to $50 as the fees for the recently launched Apple TV+ and Disney+ and other new services add up. We’ll also see the launch of HBO Max (forecast to cost about $18 a month) as well as Universal’s ad-supported Peacock.  But viewers will win big. . .

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Television viewing habits also have changed dramatically. Viewers under age 30 watch only 15% of their television live, according to USC’s Center for the Digital Future. The other 85% is recorded or streamed. We have come to expect television on our terms.

Until 2017, studios were thrilled to sell their old theatrical and television content to Netflix. WarnerMedia could command $100 million a year from Netflix for “Friends,” a TV series that hasn’t had an original episode in 15 years.

Then the studios realized they had created their biggest competitor. Two years ago, Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger made a difficult decision: Disney would no longer sell content to Netflix. Warner and Universal followed. Shortly thereafter, seemingly everyone in Hollywood announced their own streaming services to compete with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

In 2020, television viewers will get burned. All the content we have been getting for years for $10 a month will soon cost closer to $50 as the fees for the recently launched Apple TV+ and Disney+ and other new services add up. We’ll also see the launch of HBO Max (forecast to cost about $18 a month) as well as Universal’s ad-supported Peacock.

Most households will subscribe to 2.5 services. Viewers will constantly switch services to get the content they want. This will probably mean the end of binge-able new shows, since streaming services will release episodes weekly to hold onto subscribers as long as possible, a trend that’s already begun.

Traditional broadcast and cable television cannot compete and will increasingly move toward sports. But eventually Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft will outbid them for those rights. At that point, the broadcast model will enter its final phase as live, linear television.

Viewers will win big. We’ll have almost complete control over more and better content. We’ll have TV and movies anytime we want. And by this time next year, we’ll be adjusting to an entirely different entertainment landscape.

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Jeffrey Cole is the founder and director of The Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg.

 

 

See all columns from the center.

January 8, 2020