Media’s New Golden Age
Skyler Berman (1L Delegate Media)
The media/entertainment landscape is evolving every single day. With that, content has always been the driving force behind the industry. It is a well-known saying that “content is king”. The key to success for content creators and distributors such as networks, sports leagues, and movie studios are to develop the most engaging, unique, and diverse product. Content is still the king; however, its grasp on the throne is loosening and not as strong as it once was. Why is this? Well, it’s been the same answer for decades: the proliferation of new technologies that create new mediums for consumption. First, the radio introduced new ways of consuming media. Subsequently, TV stole the limelight but was limited to broadcast networks such as NBC, ABC, and CBS. Then, cable networks such as HBO and Showtime entered the equation with new, cutting-edge content spanning from TV series to documentaries. Now, we are seeing the proliferation of over-the-top (OTT) services, international conglomerates and social media heavyweights using their expansive capital to lure creators to their platforms and provide a “content everywhere” model that is changing everything.
In the past, creators would pitch shows, films, documentaries and anything content related to the cable/broadcast networks and studios. For TV, these networks share ad-revenue and affiliate/provider fees. For film, revenue streams span ticket sales to merchandising. In sports, leagues would sell their media rights to networks such as ESPN, CBS, ABC and NBC for astronomical dollar amounts, which would help the leagues grow financially and operate at the highest level. The buyer-seller model was linear – if you were a content creator, you knew who the content buyers were, which affected negotiating leverage and the power paradigm.
However, over the past few years, this model has completely changed – it has almost flipped upside down. The leverage is no longer with the media companies, but with creators due to the vast amount of new entrants. Netflix has been spending billions of dollars on content alone, Amazon has its own movie and TV studio that has distributed an Oscar-winning film (Manchester by the Sea) in addition to buying part of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package. Twitter has dabbled with sports rights, Facebook has invested heavily in video content, Apple recently hired two veteran TV programmers to build its content division, and YouTube is expanding its original content offerings with the help of a pretty big company called Google. Additionally, digital media companies such as Vice and Snapchat are providing platforms for younger, mobile-driven, internet-age creators that do not want to be constrained by the traditional media ecosystem.
What does this mean? What are the implications? Well, content creators can now choose from a plethora of content distributors and can find the correct fit. Consumers can now watch any their favorite TV show, film or sports team pretty much anywhere on any device. The aforementioned new entrants to the media/entertainment world have opened up opportunities for every single writer, actor, artist, and player to establish a footprint in the industry.
With new opportunities comes new responsibilities. Creators focus on the building and developing the best content that resonates most with their audience. Unfortunately, with that responsibility, there is little time for them to truly understand the changes that are occurring and impacting their work product. Agents, entertainment lawyers, and managers need to understand what these new entrants can provide for their clients. They also need to build relationships accordingly, which is no small task. From a macro-level industry view, there is the possibility of new anti-trust issues with conglomerates such as Apple and Facebook, who have billion-dollar valuations, simply paying more than traditional media companies for content? For over-the-top services, which rely on Internet bandwidth, will there be new regulation issues? The questions facing the legal industry are expansive and fascinating.
In sum, we are in the middle of the next big media revolution, with no end in sight. There is virtually unlimited content options for consumers, unlimited distribution options for creators and more capital in the industry than ever before with entrants such as Netflix, Facebook, and Apple.
Don’t blink or you’ll miss out!