Footloose, Paramount

The Lines of Entertainment Could be Blurring

“Millions of girls, like from the university mostly. If we could get one to dance, just one, then that was it. We’d get out on the floor, and we’d really start to smoke.”Ren, “Footloose,” Paramount, 1984

Maybe the greatest advance in air travel (in addition to bolts on doors) has been Wi-Fi.

No longer do you have to download movies to your computer before you leave or limit yourself to the stuff the airlines decide you should watch. You have the world of streaming to choose from.

We came to realize the importance of this on a recent five-hour flight.

We planned ahead to ensure we’d have movies that were “just” long enough to fill all of our flight time and ensured they were all on Prime.

We dislike spending 10-15 minutes searching their streaming services to find something.

There’s ALSO nothing worse than having 15 minutes of a film left to watch and they tell you to prepare for landing … sucks!

Living on the edge, we watched Snakes on a Plane (love Samuel L. Jackson), Flight (Denzel Washington as an alcoholic pilot seemed scarily real) and really enjoy Alan Ritchson in the new series Reacher.

Even with our entertainment planned out, we were also mildly curious (O.K., nosey) as to the viewing habits of the couple in front of us.

He was totally happy playing games on his smartphone and would periodically show his partner his gaming prowess by shoving his screen in front of her.

Her?

She could care less.

She was busy on her phone jumping from one social media site to another, watching several minutes of something and then moving to something new, different, better.

Finger Tips — With all of the apps that are available on your smartphone, people can easily and quickly entertain and inform themselves with what almost feels like an endless variety of video content. The social media algorithms have been fine-tuned to encourage you to stay connected for hours on end.

YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat … she was hitting them all.

Didn’t they realize that studios and streamers were investing more than $100B this year to maximize their ROI for shareholders?

New Projects – The number of new film/show projects that are greenlighted has shifted in recent years by all of the entertainment channels and at the same time, the total number of projects has dropped as organizations focus on ROI rather than subscriber growth.

We understand that fewer video projects are being greenlighted, but that’s not really their fault.

The elongated WGA strike screwed up the production of new, fresh content (movies, TV series), so the services chose to do just a few new projects and revitalize/refresh some of the older stuff.

Market Shift – Day/time home entertainment subscriptions continue to shrink as more people move to the convenience and ready availability of streaming services.

Actually, the volume of new projects has been decreasing for the past three years about 14 percent per year. And because of the uncertainty of the “new” industry, they no longer commit to yesterday’s full season. 

Back in the Peak TV period, 18–24-episode shows were the norm and creative teams could budget their time and money accordingly.

Today, the 8–10-episode season is more common with streamers that regularly add and cut projects more quickly – often with little or no notice – based on detailed audience data and analysis.

Unfortunately, the rise in cancelled and unrenewed projects has translated into smaller writers rooms and fewer writers as well as smaller production staffs working for a shorter period of time. 

Fewer projects are picked up and even those that are renewed are ordered come with major budget constriction.

The few long-running series that are still on the air – NCISs, FBIs, Law & Orders, Chicagos, and a few others – have also faced tough budget “adjustments.”

The days of the long episode seasons belongs to yesterday. 

Fewer episodes and quick cancellations translate into the shorter, smaller residuals they need to help them make it through the lean periods.

Despite all of this, forecasters are cautiously optimistic that the volume of work will pick up … next year.

After all, networks and streamers always need a steady stream of new/different films/shows to win and keep subscribers.

Even though we watched our in-flight entertainment on our iPhone; the 200 streaming services, 100 plus cable networks and 25,000 global broadcast stations are really focused on gaining a profitable share of the 1.75B big screen TV households around the globe.

The big, bigger, huge sets are cool but according to Nielsen, people still only use them for information/entertainment an average of 33 hrs./week. That doesn’t even come close to the phone screen that Gen Z/Alpha folks were born with and use … constantly.

First Source – When Gen Z and younger folks want to get the latest news and information, the first thing they turn to is their favorite social media sites, even though they often question the accuracy of some of the information/news they read/see.

Yes, that small screen in your pocket, purse or hand is the clear winner when it comes to keeping people connected to their entertainment and information sources. 

With more than 7.1B smartphones in use around the globe, smartphones are easily the most popular electronic device used today (97.5 percent plus) by all internet users.

Born Connected – Gen Z/Alpha individuals were almost literally born with a smartphone in their hand so it has been the major device they use to communicate and gain insights/information. But actually, using them to call someone isn’t a common usage.

The most dominant use of the device by people under the age of 40 is access to social media.

People spend hours (especially on an airplane) jumping from app to app watching educational, informational, funny/stupid, entertaining stuff, including product presentation/demonstration videos.

It’s everything Jeff Katzenberg, former Disney DreamWorks CEO, had envisioned when he founded Quibi back in 2018 – tell a complete and entertaining story in a short 10-minute video.

Of course, in retrospect, the Quibi concept had a number of shortcomings:

Shorter – The most popular and widely viewed social media videos (50 + percent) are under two minutes in length.

Most of the social media videos are thankfully shorter than the proposed Quibi content – under 4 min – even though social media apps have expanded the video length limitations.

Embattled Leaders – TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat are the most widely used apps for Gen Z and younger adults but they are increasingly being scrutinized because of their practice of using algorithms to keep them connected and their capture/use of personal data.

Folks regularly use 7.5 social media video platforms and follow dozens of creators who present them with new information, ideas and products.

Gen Z and young Millennials follow their video favorites almost constantly because it’s free, convenient and new content is algorithmically targeted to their interests.

Effective Marketing – Online apps have become increasingly effective in understanding what users watch and why they watch certain content more than others. It can help marketers reach and inform people who are interested in their advertising messages.

Trailing only search advertising, social media is the most widely – and arguably the most effective – marketing tool. Younger generations spend an average of seven hours a day learning about new products, new ideas, new information and new/more personalized entertainment.

Blended Content – Astute artists and content creators are beginning to blend the use of social media to increase the crossover of viewers from short video to longer creative projects. It’s not just added income but also consistent visibility of films/shows and people involved in movies/shows to increase viewership and their individual industry value.

There are potential challenges for TikTok presented by the governments of the EU and Americas with the ban in the US because of TikTok’s Chinese ownership.

At the same time, TikTok and other social media services are facing problems because of their continued harvesting of user data.

Despite the concerns, younger generations continue to use video social media almost constantly and almost seamlessly between the social and streaming media services.

With fewer movie/show projects being developed and more people competing for each of the roles (production, acting, post), many professionals have taken note of the success of influencer visibility, followings and financial rewards. 

Because of the rush of folks who wanted to be like the Kardashians and others expensive product/service shills; the term and credibility has become less exclusive and less credible with young consumers.

As a result, there has been a surge in demand and use of professional celebrity social media channels emerging.

The expanding audience viewer base and modest ongoing income from their share of advertising revenues (five – six figures) is minor compared to what they could earn with films and TV series but it does give them the opportunity to talk directly to their audiences, strengthen their followings and keep them visible for new, different opportunities.

The “professional” social media visibility for actors enables production/post people to leverage their expanded relationships for project owners. 

As the project proceeds, during the lead up to the release as well as throughout the projects run (and with the approvals of studio bosses), they can often negotiate a marketing fee for promoting the film/show.

Ryan Reynolds worked on over 10 social media videos for Free Guy and did a similar number of videos for the stunt actors film The Fall Guy.

In addition, he spread the coverage around with joint promotion for some of his other investments – Mint Mobile and Aviation American Gin. The modest cost for the three firms plus the added return for Ryan provided a fantastic boost to his professional visibility/value.

As for Ryan, he probably had the same opinion of his extended work that Ren did in Footloose, when he said, “I thought this was a party.”

And perhaps video content streaming is evolving as content owners expand their use of cross-media creative work.

Studios and streamers are learning how to use fan bases as opportunities to become valuable assets to attract even more of the average, casual fans.

It could be a certain vindication for Katzenberg that he was on the right track but was just a little early to the party.

For the film/show industry as in dancing as well as choosing content to match your flight times … timing is everything.


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