3 Themes for Digital Media & Home Entertainment in 2017

9 entrepreneurs’ road map for established media companies

On May 2nd, I moderated the Spring Emerging Technology Forum for the Digital Entertainment Group. We explored three technologies disrupting home entertainment, and heard from nine startup entrepreneurs who are subject area experts in these trends. The themes consisted of 1. performance marketing, 2. content connectivity, and 3. artificial intelligence.

Mike Dunn, the president of of product strategy and consumer business at 20th Century Fox, and the chair of DEG, opened the forum by addressing the future of entertainment. He called on the members of the group to work together with startups to improve the customer experience at scale and to learn to communicate directly with consumers.


1. Performance Marketing

In the context of digital media and home entertainment, performance marketing consists of targeted efforts where quantifiable user data — including behavior, demographics, and psychographics — drives transactions and frictionless commerce.

Why is it relevant to established entertainment companies? Performance marketing approaches allow the entertainment industry to develop direct, ongoing relationships with its customers. This can be powerful for established companies, because direct commercial relationships with consumers is proving increasingly valuable in adjacent industries. For example, Amazon has dominated the retail category — where the vast majority of home entertainment revenue (in the form of DVDs) has previously been achieved — by using data-based approaches and making it easy for customers to buy.

Amazon is dominating retail sales by combining personalization data and frictionless commerce

What did we learn? Our performance marketing presenters included Matthew Bakal of Atom Tickets, Alex Elias of Qloo, and Adam Mulliken of Quantifind. Our panel was universally optimistic that large companies can successfully form 1:1 relationships with consumers, but cautioned that “big data” can be a trap, without isolating specific data subsets that have predictive value. Adam cited the example of using social listening technologies to detect whether a babysitter has been hired, because that is highly predictive of an evening out, which could include dinner and a movie. The panelists also talked about finding “meaning” in large data sets, which they defined as the ability to translate information patterns to revenue.

Notable quotes:

  • “We noticed that people who like art films also watch The Bachelor and we were confused until we understood they are watching it ironically” — Alex from Qloo
  • “How many clicks is too many to get a millennial to buy something? Three.” — Adam from Quantifind
  • “If you make it easier for me, I’ll go [to the movies] more often” — Matthew from Atom Tickets

2. Content Connectivity

“Content connectivity” includes consumer entertainment solutions integrating device portability, physical data connectors, broadband access, and personalization — both inside and outside the home.

Why is it relevant to established entertainment companies? We are experiencing a massive cultural shift from linear television living room viewing to on-demand, “view anywhere” consumption habits. Although consumers are still buying large, flat panel television sets, there is a steadily building preference to experience content on smaller, personal screens. And while the industry has graduated from VHS to DVDs to streaming, the transition from the living room entertainment nexus presents a fundamental challenge for entertainment companies that have been producing and packaging their content for the same playback device, for decades.

Consumer preferences are shifting from traditional television viewing to mobile & desktop

What did we learn? Our “connected content” presenters included Darren Feher of Vizbee, Dori Gurwitz of LISNR, and Steve Venuti of Keyssa. The panelists believe very clearly that studio content must follow consumer consumption patterns, and not the other way around. Each of the speakers addressed the challenge of shifting consumer preferences in a different way, including activations inside and outside the home to make it easier for consumers to watch what they want, where they want, and when they want.

Notable quotes:

  • “The TV is just a large screen … but it’s one of many” — Steve from Keyssa
  • “Look at what your kids are doing [when they’re consuming content]” — Dori from LISNR
  • “Our goal is take the best features of mobile and put them on the living room television set” — Darren from Vizbee

3. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence includes technologies which can improve themselves without human intervention — including machine learning, conversational “bots,” and applied mathematics.

Why is it relevant to established entertainment companies? A.I. is the hottest buzzword in venture capital, but how can these technologies be applied practically to produce ROI for entertainment companies? When I began my career in venture capital in 1992, my bosses yelled at me after I told them I found an interesting company focused on artificial intelligence. “Don’t you know everyone lost money funding A.I. in the 1980s?” they asked me. Now that A.I. is the one of the most prominent categories of venture capital investment, I am reminded of the danger of excessive funding. “Impressionable” entertainment companies could easily misstep with investments and commercial relationships driven by what’s popular today.

Venture capital funding to artificial intelligence companies hit an all-time high in 2016

What did we learn? Our A.I. presenters included Jerimiah Hamon of Silver Logic Labs, Amanda de la Motte of Cognitive Scale, and Darren Bayless of Data Robot. Our panelists began by explaining some of the differences between machine learning, deep learning, applied mathematics, and other sub-genres of artificial intelligence, and it became clear that A.I. is still a very technical field in its commercial infancy. Echoing our performance marketing panel, the speakers cautioned pursuing this technology without finding a concrete business problem to solve. Each of the panelists also admitted there is a role for professional services to help customers get the most out of these technologies.

Notable quotes:

  • “All we need is a problem to solve and data to solve it with” — Amanda from Cognitive Scale
  • “AI is still a long way from commoditization, because you still need humans to validate the results” — Darren from Data Robot
  • “Everything you can do with A.I. you can also do with applied math. Applied math requires a lot of education. But anyone can use AI and machine learning, which is its greatest strength and weakness” — Jerimiah from Silver Logic Labs

The private event was sponsored by Manatt Digital, Strategic Law Partners, Technicolor, and Intel Capital. For more information about the Digital Entertainment Group, please contact Executive Director John Powers (getinfo@degonline.org).

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Scott Lenet is President of Touchdown Ventures, a Registered Investment Adviser that provides “Venture Capital as a Service” to help corporations launch and manage their investment programs. Touchdown’s Los Angeles-based Senior Associate Selina Troesch contributed to this article.

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