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Look beyond digital: How entertainment mirrors the future of all industries

When I talk about businesses becoming more intangible, people often ak for simple examples. One of the best examples of this change is the rise of digitalized processes and services. But too often, people see it as merely a technological shift, missing the bigger picture. Understanding how new technologies have transformed businesses to become “lighter” helps us see the underlying principles and adopt them elsewhere. Let’s use the entertainment industry as an example to illustrate this shift.

In the olden days...

Before digitalization really took off in the nineties, people flocked to theaters to see movies on the big screen. Sure, televisions provided home entertainment, but you couldn't watch the latest movies, and TV shows came on a schedule, so you had to be there at that exact time—or master the complex science of taping.

A lot has happened in thirty years!

We can explore the transformation of the entertainment industry from four angles: Production, Distribution, Use, and Needs.

Production: From tape to artificial intelligence

The implementation of digital tools presented a challenging learning curve and additional expenses for the industry. However, over time, digitalization began to yield positive results and bear fruit. Digital tools enabled new creative choices and created completely new genres. Today, drones help capture entire cities where digital car chases can take place, and LED walls create virtual environments for actors to perform without expensive on-location shoots.

As digital tools became cheaper and easier to use, everyday people became video bloggers, producing more and more content. This grew into its own industry, rivaling traditional media formats. This new arm of the industry developed a fast-reacting flow of content where separate threads of content morph into new content, creating elastic streams.

The latest AI tools have given us a glimpse into the future of content production. Soon, anyone can create clips, shows, and even full movies from written scripts, skipping studios and actors altogether. Digitalization has made production cheaper, faster, and more flexible, making high-quality content creation accessible to all of us, boosting human creativity.

Intangible attributes:

  • Rapid evolution

  • Merging elements

  • Forming flows

Distribution: The global stage

Publishing content online means it’s globally available instantly. Online distribution is also relatively cost-efficient. Although still “fairly new,” it resembles the age-old American cable network model. Global distribution is controlled by a handful of companies, with many smaller local or specialized distributors from OnlyFans to the BBC. However, a revolution might be just around the corner...

On online platforms, our behavior can be tracked to the millisecond, with some needs deduced from those patterns. This data is used to recommend new content for us and for targeted marketing, creating better-fitting content.

Intangible Attributes:

  • Less mass

  • No clear home

  • Cost-effective

  • Scales well

Use: Entertainment anytime, anywhere

Today, you can get basically any movie, TV show, or clip anywhere, anytime. This is a huge change from the days when you had to be at a certain place at a certain time to see what you wanted. Mobile devices now allow you to consume media 24/7.

We live in an era of entertainment overflow, spending about 44% of our waking hours engaged with screens. We are becoming an inseparable part of the content flow, either producing or consuming media. As we inject our likes, comments, memes, and edits into existing content, we multiply the flow.

In the age of AI, content can learn from us and adjust to our behavior in real-time, possibly altering the content seamlessly, making each movie experience unique.

Intangible Attributes:

  • Abundant

  • Difficult to control

  • Exponential evolution

  • Impossible to own

Needs: The human connection

Our needs regarding movies and TV shows haven’t changed much. We still want to be entertained, feel deep emotions, and learn about the world around us. Online platforms like YouTube have transformed us from passive receivers to active commentators and advisers for content producers. Many online influencers have gathered huge followings, creating a sense of community and belonging for their audiences.

Summary: From objects to flows

TV shows and movies used to be like objects: separate, distinctive, and their production was expensive and risky. Much of the entertainment industry still works that way. But now, the products are transforming into an ever-changing flow where people's desires, creativity, and social connections become inseparable parts of the mix. This is evident in how Disney is creating an expanding Star Wars universe, not just single movies or TV series. Star Wars is now a flow of different forms of entertainment.

At the forefront of this change are online influencers who rival big companies in follower numbers and exceed them in fanbase strength. With small budgets and simple technology, they generate revenue through ad sales and donors. Their influence is based on the idea that their content is modeled and copied, with fans who can interact with them. This creates an abundance of content that works as a stream rather than separate static products.

In this intangible world, content is no longer static. It evolves, merges, and flows, adapting to our needs and creativity. The entertainment industry shows us that the future of business lies in embracing these intangible qualities, making high-quality, flexible content accessible and abundant for all.



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