While recently watching and listening to a Joe Rogan podcast via Alphabet, Inc./Google-owned YouTube, the discussion was about the future of production and distribution in media and entertainment. The host and guest on the March 15 show gave an example of how the comic scene had changed from comics trying to land a sitcom on television after doing stand-up comedy performances to a different model now with the YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter platforms for the distribution of content that is direct to the consumer. The guest on the show referenced the Tom Hanks movie Charlie Wilson’s War about America’s involvement in the Soviet Union/Afghanistan 1980s war helping the Afghan Freedom Fighters defeat the Soviets that contributed to the end of the Cold war, paraphrasing, when you fund a $5,000 rocket launcher to take down a $5 million helicopter, eventually the numbers and victory favors the cost savings. The same thing is happening with the consumption of content.
Of course, resources change everything and this is why so many companies in Hollywood and Silicon Valley are buying each other, avoiding the loses, and looking for the best and next advantage. For example, Disney-Fox, AT&T-Time Warner, Comcast-Sky, the Yankees and Dodgers owning their own networks, and other smaller distribution and scale agreements between Netflix-Paramount, Apple/A24, with larger companies like Amazon and Alphabet distributing content as additional revenue on their platforms for exposure to their main businesses (e.g., goods, services, and advertising).
In some sense, where television is currently dominating in its various forms of distribution, films are becoming more like television in their lack of theatrical windows, date and release, and with particular reference to Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe that looks more like a long-running television series with multiple characters and plot changes. Film content is also more likely to be seen or converted as a television show today (e.g., Lethal Weapon).
On the sports side, there is much of the same, meeting the consumer where they sit, stand, and walk while consuming content. The difference with sports is that the content is made by playing the game. In looking at the 2019 World Fame 100, the most well-known athletes are as follows by sport: soccer (37), basketball (16), cricket (11), tennis (9), football (8), boxing (6), golf (4), MMA (2), with baseball, snowboarding, swimming, Moto GP, figure skating, Formula One, and esports each with one (1) representative.
This makes sense. Soccer is consumed on an international scale and its players are easily seen on the pitch through the various available viewing lenses. The leagues are truly international as teams in multiple countries play each other increasing distribution and scale.
Cricket is unsurprisingly played mostly in the world’s second largest country by population (India), which loves cricket, but popularity also extends to New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Tennis and less-so boxing are probably two of the most popular and well-known sports worldwide, but the issue is smaller populations of people watch tennis and boxing in each of those countries. Boxing and tennis also occur less—meaning they are not played as much as the team sports, thus decreasing their exposure and viewing numbers.
Basketball like soccer is an international sport, but not on the level of soccer. As leagues expand across international lines maybe it will grow. The remaining sports have smaller distribution models and fan bases where hockey does not have one representative on the top 100 list. There is also a trend of seeing more sports heroes hit the silver screen, it its many forms of production and distribution.
What can be determined about the status of the industry by looking at the numbers? There are three reasons behind the shift from paywall to open form, cable and satellite packages to subscription services, and regulated to deregulated content.
It is cheaper to distribute content that is the direct to the consumer and in some situations free to both the platform and the consumer/producer/content owner/creator. For example, with social media, there is no cost or human energy to post content to the platform as the consumer handles that aspect, while posting such content is free to the owner or sharing party. YouTube works the same way. With Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, and the soon-to-be Apple and AT&T-Time Warner platforms, content is still less expensive to subscribe to (if not free or included in broader subscriptions) when compared to the price of cable or satellite television packages. Consumers today are getting used to the free content and that is a good thing for the next two points.
2. Quality & Authenticity
Consumers love user-generated content and authenticity. Quality is the in the eye of the beholder, but the numbers do not lie. Engagement and viewing numbers drive eyes and advertising dollars. Quality according to the viewer rules the day.
With lower cost, less paywalls, and free content, access goes up. People are getting used to having what they want content-wise for free and their way and the platforms are responding to those needs to meet the consumer where they are at.
In the end, cost, quality and authenticity, and access control consumption levels with entertainment, media, and sports content.