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The Media & Entertainment (M&E) sector comprises the creation, aggregation and distribution of content, more specifically news, information, advertising and entertainment through a number of channels and platforms. The combination of new digital distribution modalities and evolving audience consumption habits and demands has continued to challenge traditional M&E business models during 2009. It also could mark the initiation of a drastic transformation that reshapes the entire M&E ecosystem.
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There seems to be a stiff competition as far as the media industry is concerned, with industry players battling for the eye-balls of the viewers and readers. In this rat race, only those M&E companies will survive that are able to rapidly identify and react to the evolving demands and consumption patterns of end users.
As the time has evolved, M&E consumption has undergone a paradigm shift. During old days the entertainment through media typically meant a few grainy channels on the television or tuning into limited stations on the radio or else gorging on stale news from newspaper or reading a hard copy of a book. In those days, outdoors were more welcoming. Today, one is connected to the world through plenty of hi-tech networked means. As the consumers have changed, so has the media (Kenneth A., 2009: 3).
Advancing technology has been the single biggest factor behind this resurgence. The same technology has also created cultural shifts. Now consumers have understood their power and have become more demanding. Earlier they would adjust their daily routine according to the availability of the content. Today, the providers have to wrap up their broadcasting and publishing as per the consumer choices and conveniences. With the growing popularity of tools like cell phones that enable pulling of media software, media has become location agnostic. The use of social sites has to be seen as a game changer. At any given point people are exchanging notes with each other about media content and the death or survival of published or broadcast content are decided in fraction of seconds.
Consumers have liberalized themselves from limitations and are enjoying greater choices and enlarged personal freedoms as far as media and entertainment are concerned. Along with independence, consumption has also significantly gone up. This has led to a double edged challenge for the suppliers-great returns and significant risks. In the era of technology shifts it is imperative that only those media and entertainment entities that enable themselves to rapidly identify and act to the growing demands and consumption patterns of end users will survive (Bill, 2005: 26)
There is a single measure that can enable these companies decipher complex customer requirements-information. The key is to filter through this information using analytical tools and gather intelligence that can be effectively used. In nutshell, ability to apply intelligence and creation and sustenance of loyalty among its consumer will be the major deciding criteria that will enable media companies to achieve success in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
There appears to be plenty of ways in which the users can access and enjoy diverse media and entertainment content due to its mass availability. The cost of switching is also low for end users who want to switch to new content providers or media and entertainment companies. The greatest challenge in the media industry seems to be the changing loyalties of consumers forcing them to identify ways of tailoring content in compelling, highly targeted ways (Kenneth A., 2009: 6).
2. Factors Shaping Consumer Behavior
2.1 Quality of Content
Today’s well informed consumers expect a spectrum of content granularities. Their demands may change depending on the time, their device/network characteristics, and even their moods. This forces the providers to customize content so that fits within the media consumption patterns of the consumer.
2.2 Structure of Tariff Model
Even though certain content will always be paid for, tariff remains a debatable issue. The users want low fee for themselves and expect the companies to generate most of the content through advertisements. In reality lot of content particularly on the online media are co-created between the company and the consumer. This challenges the companies to design superior quality, customized content and charge the consumer less for the same.
2.3 Timing of Attention
In spite of variety new digital content that has replaced earlier scarcities along with easy access the only issue that has emerged seems to have been that of user attention. For the content providers, getting user attention has been nothing short of a battle.
2.4 Real Time Experiences
The evolution of real-time business intelligence is enabling mass-customization of content and entertainment that delivers highly personalized and engaging experiences, consumers are demanding more.
M&E companies have been forced into transitioning into non-traditional roles. Networks are providing content online to consumers, bypassing traditional cable or satellite distribution; telecom companies are competing with cable via Internet Protocol television platforms; and cable companies are competing with telecom companies with voice over IP. As competition and churn rate increases, customer data analysis can provide competitive advantage for customer retention.
3. Impact of Changing Media Consumption Habits on Media Industry
Rapidly changing consumer tastes and increasing digitization has created a number of industry-wide challenges. Some of these are protecting intellectual property, continuing historical revenue streams and finding ways to utilize and monetize emerging new platforms for traditional content – including print, filmed entertainment, and recorded music – as well as user-generated content and other new services, applications and formats that compete for consumer mindshare and time.
The interactive gaming sub-sector has enjoyed tremendous growth because of changing demographics. Increasingly gamers are older and there is significant growth in number of female population engaging in idle time. Introduction of new growth segments like mobile and online gaming, successful titles and the phenomenon of in-game advertising, resulted in gaining mass popularity for this new medium (Kenneth, 2009: 3).
3.2 Entrainment Companies
Growth of multiplex culture in upcoming metros and option of entertaining oneself at home through DVDs, home theatre systems, has forced filmed entertainment companies to embrace the digital distribution business. The traditional M&E players are struggling to understand and exploit new distribution windows, metrics and economics. However, as long as the demand for professionally-produced content remains high, the filmed entertainment industry will continue to evolve and find new ways to monetize their content.
Since traditional networks and broad-based cable networks own very little of their content and their advertising-based business being centred on attracting eyeballs and reselling attention, they are greatly impacted by shift in audience preferences. On the other hand, most themed cable networks have targeted subject matter and audiences and, hence, have an opportunity to extend their brands into products, events, etc.
3.4 Print Media
Reduced cash flows caused by the migration of readers and advertising dollars to the Internet, compounded by 2008’s economic downturn, are threatening newspapers’ very existence. Major consolidations may be their only avenue to existence.
(Kenneth, 2009: 5)
With introduction of high tech electronics gadgets like mobiles, ipods, MP3 players containing dedicated software for superior quality of music and growing number of radio stations the music sub-sector is being forced to transform. There has been a wave of publicity surrounding new audio sources such as satellite and iPods, which may lead some to believe that traditional over-the-air radio services are losing a significant portion of its audience to these new choices. Currently, 20% of Americans subscribe to satellite radio, own an iPod/MP3 device or listened to Internet radio in the past week, compared with the 95% of Americans who listened to radio during the week. The sub-sector will continue to see decreased revenues for years to come and there is substantial likelihood of tomorrow’s music industry to be very different from what it is today. (Bill, 2005: 20)
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4. The imperatives for the Media & Entertainment industry:
Media market is a heterogeneous mixture of human beings with multi-variant economic, cultural, social and political characteristics. This is the market whose consumption pattern should be responded to by appropriate production levels if the media industry is to remain in business; since capitalist production can only make sense when converted to monetary terms at the end of the process. Even public service media companies like state television and radio broadcasting need to produce according to viewers’ and listeners’ tastes if the policy objectives of their formation are to be realized (Bill, 2005: 24).
5. Recommendations for M&E companies
5.1 Content Digitization
Today digital is in while analog is out. M&E companies should transform all content in digital format so that it can be quickly edited, stored, combined with other digitized content and rapidly repurposed as needed. Content needs to be tagged through a metadata framework which enables its easy location, identification and helps in determining digital rights permissions. It is vital to have smooth collaboration from pre-production through post-production all along the value chain.
5.2 Flexible Business Models
With media and entertainment consumption pattern undergoing rapid shifts, traditional business models are becoming obsolete and thus unable to fully capitalize on the available opportunities or counter threats in contemporary market. In such case, adoption of flexible and evolving business models will help M&E companies to sustain competition (Newman, 1991: 215).
5.3 Targeted Audience
Revenue, especially through advertising can be maximized if consumption patterns could be effectively analyzed and identified. This will aid the M&E players to break down larger segments into interest-specific fragments and deliver truly targeted and less intrusive advertising.
5.4 Active Participation through User-Generated Content
The knack to actively engage its consumers and create a “connect” would give any media entities the ultimate competitive advantage. It has also been observed that engaged customers have the probability to be loyal. They consume more content, evangelize for content and services they use, and can act as a barometer for cultural and technological change (Bill, 2005: 23)
5.5 Content Protection and Consumer Privacy
Development of grey market, piracy and unauthorized copying must be carefully controlled and digital rights must be enforced in order to protect the interest of M&E players. Also, to actively engage customers and encourage incoming content in various forms (including comments, rating etc), it is crucial to ensure that unauthorized dissemination of information or access to such information will be restricted only to authorized audience. Thus implementing privacy controls have become very important. (Barlow, 2009)
5.6 Mergers and Acquisitions
The business will react structurally to the changes in consumption if such a structural adjustment will give the company more leverage to compete effectively in order to maximise returns or survive the attrition of market forces. If consumption decreases and threatens viability, one method that is adopted by a company is to merge with others in the same media business and eliminate redundant structures from the resultant new company. This reduces overheads. Other structural changes that can be implemented as a reaction to threatening reduction in consumption are hostile or friendly take-overs. For example, Viacom and CBS merged to form the third largest media company Viacom-CBS after Time Warner and Disney. (Newman, 1991: 213)
5.7 Improvement in Distribution Network
A company might also decide to improve its distribution networks. It may acquire distribution companies of the media in question, in order to achieve better coordination between production and sales, and to benefit from the resultant synergies and from the economies of scale in distribution. A company may even control al phases involved from the production of content to its sale. If it is music, these phases could be composition, recording, and packaging into CDs, DVDs or VHS video cassettes and transportation to retail outlets. This vertical integration achieves better utilisation of resources and higher production efficiencies, thereby cutting costs and increasing sales revenue, and makes the company compete better in the oligopoly. (Curran and Gurevitch, 2002: 137)
5.8 Incorporate the on-demand media lifestyle into programming decisions
Young adults are most engaged by on-demand media devices and behaviours. As teens and young adults mature and on-demand media devices become more prevalent, consumers’ desire to control their media use is likely to spread. Marketers need to work now on strategies that will cut through in an increasingly on-demand media world. Consumers want media to fit their schedule, and they are adopting new devices and media to meet that need. Traditional media should consider playing first-run programs more than once, provide consumers with content online in addition to over-the-air, and partner with on-demand media services. (Bill, 2005: 23)
5.9 Make listening and viewing experiences more compelling through Internet
Internet media incorporate several elements that appeal to young consumer, including programming not easily found on traditional media, fewer commercials and a wide variety of content. Therefore, Internet broadcasters need to continue to focus on providing unique programming that generates greater consumer passion for their medium. Internet advertising needs to expand beyond banners, search and pop-ups. Internet users are becoming more sophisticated and are learning to block much of the current advertisements and spyware. Internet broadcast advertising with Internet radio and visual ads attached to video content cannot be skipped or avoided, and may prove to be a vital part of the Internet experience. (Bill, 2005: 29)
Production is a function of labour, capital and space and from economic theories, supply is related to demand. For any commercial media business, making profit is the primary concern, and therefore consumption determines cultural production. There are many factors that come into play when examining consumption of media. The macro economic situation of the target market, the real salaries, the educational levels, the attributes like age, gender, children, population densities, social classes, political beliefs and cultural aspects like language and religious beliefs, influence consumption which in turn determines production of media content and their products.
The consumption levels caused by all these attributes and factors are different, since the informational, educational, entertainment and leisure requirements are different across diverse economic, political, social and cultural strata. Production strategies and content are modelled by management of media companies from the consumption patterns caused by these characteristics (Curran and Gurevitch, 2002: 154).
However, there are limitations to which consumption determines production. Because of the “imperfection of the market”, the producers may have no knowledge or inadequate knowledge or may have sketchy knowledge about al the aspects that affect consumption in that market place, causing the producers to make decisions out of imperfect information. (Murdock, 2000) Fashion journalism and regulation in favour of minorities and other social biases also limit the extent to which consumption determines output. Collusion between media owners, governments and powerful organisations, lead to market corruption, which in turn causes distorted responses to consumption patterns. Some of the special economic characteristics of media like non-diminishing content with consumption also limit the way output is determined by consumption. (Vogel, 2004) Time and monetary constraints also limit the extent to which production is determined by consumption.
This structural change as a reaction to changes in consumption is limited by government intervention and regulation to curb anti- competitive vices, and to maintain pluralism in the market, and to discourage possible abuse of market power by media moguls.
Therefore, market consumption determines media output though such effect is limited in some cases due to imperfections of the market and human intervention. (Newman, 1991: 209)
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