With recent news that a handful of European television and media networks are joining forces to take on their American Netflix and Amazon counterparts to better compete, the first thought that came to mind was innovation is the key to sustained success, not scale. In that light, consider the following three keys to sustained success in the entertainment, media and sports industries.
- Be on Time (and right!)
Success in life and business is always about timing. Many successful and unsuccessful people have uttered some variation of the phrase that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, which was first attributed to Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Being at the right place and right time always requires some build-up to being at the place you need to be, even if you think it was by a chance meeting. In other words, work always precedes the luck.
We can imagine if consumers were polled at the time before some innovation occurred, whether the taxi driver, passenger, movie-goer, movie-maker, distributor or consumer, a majority would have been hoping for the next big thing that was more efficient, cheaper and user-friendly. However, being innovative is as much about being ahead of the competition as it is being right about what consumer wants or may want and how that coincides with government regulators. In some sense, you are creating the disruption by being first, but also being flexible enough to change with the times and regulations as you were before the disruption. Sometimes being too early or wrong creates issues with regulators (e.g., lack of approval) and/or consumers (e.g., lack of interest). In addition, sometimes having the negotiation leverage to push back for a fairer compromise is just as important.
- Be Innovative
Paraphrasing, there is a quote about recent innovators and it goes something like this: Uber did not cause the taxi industry to fail; it was the taxi industry’s inability to change. Netflix did not cause the movie and television industry to slump, it was Netflix’s innovation, direct to consumer platform, efficiency and lower pricing. It has been proven again and again, the history of economic change is based on innovation.
In the current market, we see entertainment, tech, mobile and media companies combining for scale in the name of competition (AT&T-Time Warner, CBS-Viacom, the Disney-Fox-Comcast negotiation, etc.), but companies should be wary of such moves because buying the competition or vertical industries only goes as far as the innovation goes. For example, as successful as Uber and Lyft have been at revolutionizing the transportation of people in a shared economy, it is also their ability to work with governments around the globe on regulations, and investing in the future of people transportation. Innovation is about an idea as much as it is about the next idea, the idea after that and the execution of that idea or ideas.
- Be Techy
This section might as well be titled “do not be scared.” The point here is you should always strive to be the person or company that is using, inventing or teaching the new thing scaring everyone else because new means change. Uber and Lyft’s executives thought, “why not cut out the middle-man (the dispatcher), create an app or platform to hail a ride and make the experience better than the original?” Netflix basically did the same thing by cutting out the distributors, creating a platform and going straight to the consumer.
However, all successful companies started as something smaller, but changed and grew with the times. Netflix started as a mailbox movie delivery service. Uber started as a service for the elite. Myspace existed before Facebook. Twitter existed before Snapchat and Instagram.
Innovation builds on the original, but offers change; some slight, sometimes disruptive. Disney’s new streaming platform challenging Netflix, while simultaneously purchasing Fox’s movie and television content, is really the perfect example of the above. Like Clint Eastwood once said, “improvise, adapt and overcome.” Companies must be willing to accept, learn and grow with the new and improved.
Remember, be on time (and right), be innovative and be techy.