Research Insight

Teenagers laying on floor using technology

A Flat-Earth Entertainment Landscape

by and


The opening monologue to the 2015 Emmys spoofed the new reality that there are too many shows to watch and too little time. It worked, of course, because every bit of it is true. One reporter pointed out that if you started on Jan. 1 and watched a different scripted 2015 prime-time TV series each day, you could not finish by the end of the calendar year. In fact, you wouldn’t even come close.

In short, technology has changed the business model – and the consolidation of technology and entertainment has changed consumer behavior right along with it.

Our ninth annual study on how people watch, consume and share entertainment drove home just how much algorithms, brands and connections play in the discovery of entertainment content.

When it comes to entertainment content, consumers now put equal trust in traditional content creators, online streaming platforms AND the brands they buy from. In other words, consumers don’t care where content is coming from, as long as it is entertaining.

Some 85 percent indicated they are likely to view branded content that is created by a company they trust. Sixty-five percent said that when spending money on entertainment, knowing if a trusted company/brand created the entertainment content was integral to their purchasing decisions, only slightly lower than a recommendation from a “real life” friend or family member (70 percent).

Notably, for the first time, two of the top five entertainment companies that are top of mind for consumers are online streaming platforms. This is a dramatic shift from just five years ago, when all 10 of the top 10 companies cited were traditional networks and studios. Distributors are now showing they can be equally good at underwriting and creating great content as well.

Consumers are also relying on technology to surface entertainment content. This, arguably, favors some of the major distribution platforms, which excel at predictive recommendations. Sixty percent of people surveyed said they are very or somewhat likely to “provide personal information to secure more tailored recommendations online.”

The data shows we live in a world filled with so much content, consumed on so many devices that most consumers (60 percent) are willing to provide personal information in order to secure more tailored recommendations online. In this world of content abundance, technology platforms are winning because they have access to data and can serve up what people want – better content for the individual. And in doing so, they are building the relationship with the consumer… they are building trust. People reward relevancy and big data helps deliver the entertainment people want.

Taken together, the data illustrates a critical shift. Thanks to technology, the entertainment landscape has become so flat that virtually anyone now has a license to create great entertainment content. This will only create more competition for Hollywood studios, which until recently, had a lock on the market.

Over the last several years, new and legitimate distributors like iTunes, Amazon, Hulu and Netflix have proven highly popular and they occupy a pole position on millions of consumers’ home screens. It has made the studios’ content more valuable in an era of infinite choices.

However, now as the lines blur, these technology distributors may be poised to become even more important to, and influential among, consumers. And, as the lines of demarcation begin to obliterate, Hollywood is taking a more proactive approach to forming alliances – not just with the popular streaming platform companies, but also with brands.

Some creators, it seems, have already embraced this new reality. Sesame Street, for example, is partnering with HBO. The network – which is a hybrid of sorts between a studio and a distributor – will have exclusive access to first run episodes for five years. This is the kind of win-win thinking that is needed in the digital age.

Others will soon follow. But the data from this study shows that, increasingly, the entertainment landscape is now a jump-ball environment and this could force everyone to rethink their roles in the race for consumer mindshare and trust. Game on…

Gail Becker is Edelman’s president of strategic partnerships and global integration.
Steve Rubel is Edelman’s chief content strategist.

Contact us

Contact us

Edelman is interested in hearing from you. Please select your primary interest.