Our annual conference convenes as the entertainment industry reels from ongoing disruption
Fast forward to now: Netflix has grown and grown, and now it’s stalled, even though everyone copied what it created. Streaming is the new model, but everyone fears it won’t last – at least with so many players who have plunged into the fray. Tech companies from Amazon to Apple have overtaken Hollywood, even if some of them (Meta, looking at you) are being overtaken by young upstarts like TikTok. And a lot of things that seemed quite permanent are no longer: Time Warner (sold and resold). Viacom (separated, merged, renamed). And Harvey Weinstein.
And many of us are stuck with a mountain of DVDs we want to get rid of.
It became axiomatic at our annual Grill conference to step back and examine the scope and speed of change in entertainment and media. This year, like last year, change came fast and furious. Market appetite for mergers has not waned even as Wall Street has lost faith in the new religion of streaming. Billions of dollars in value have been sucked out of entertainment conglomerates. And in the trenches of the work force, job cuts continue with no visible path to reverse the trend.
At TheGrill on Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ll be talking about these things with the experts in their fields, including with Kevin Mayer, the former Disney chief strategist who led a spectacular number of acquisitions (Marvel, Lucasfilm) and is now acquiring him – even businesses. with partner Tom Staggs — the closest thing I’ve seen to a potential new entertainment major.
We’re going to explore this strange new planet called the Metaverse, and whether NFTs have a viable future. (Have we learned nothing from the irrational exuberance of a generation ago?) The state of live entertainment is on the agenda, as is the rise of podcasting.
Meanwhile, producers – who will debate business issues at a roundtable on Wednesday – are working under the dictatorship of the “cost plus” model, reducing incentives in this creative class. But that too could be about to change.
Like I said, change is the only constant these days.
And in truth, we can well observe that what is true in the media is the same for all of our society – it is changing rapidly before our eyes: climate change, the rollback of civil rights, democracy in a vise led by the erosion of trust enabled by technology.
Recently I attended the memorial of a monument to the entertainment industry of the past 50 years, attorney Bert Fields. Those who spoke of him from the stage were among the big names of the time: Michael Ovitz, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dustin Hoffman. They ruled for decades. Of these, only Hoffman is still truly in Hollywood. Much – some would say too much – has changed.
“It’s a completely different entertainment business,” a retired executive at the memorial told me, a man who once managed billions in DVD revenue a year for his studio.
I leave that decision to the experts. For the next two days, our job is to sort out the signal from the deafening noise of change. We hope you enjoy the trip.
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