The Future of TV and Film (and other creative platforms)

Have you ever wondered where entertainment and creative platforms will end up in the future? Ever looked at a kid who is a quarter of your age and think, “why do you have an iPhone?” With each new advancement in technology comes the question to the people – are you ready to adapt? These are questions I have faced over the last twenty years, and questions that have been thrown around for many years before that. It’s a scary thought, not keeping up with the times. Or worse yet enjoying something before it is widely recognised as an actual form of entertainment.

I’m not suggesting technological advancements (even before I discuss the entertainment industry) are easy to adapt to. The idea that one day I would be able to contact somebody half way across the globe, wirelessly, in an instant would have been laughed at (unless you were in tune with Nicholas Tesla). But it’s like today when we discuss flying cars or teleportation. We are more aware as a society today to accept it will happen, but in our lifetime? Probably not. It’s a bizarre and fruitful world, but unless you are ready to accept it you might will be left behind.

I was lucky. When my friends were opening MySpace accounts I refused to become part of the mass wave. My justification stood with the fact you had to wait for a reply, and people could forget to reply if they had read to message. It wasn’t instantaneous. We had MSN Messenger for that – it told us when you read the message, and if you were typing. Why would I want to move into a new platform where I had to wait for my reply? I may have just reverted back to email. But when I finally caved after many year and opened my MySpace account, friends of mine were already shifting to the newest social media site – Facebook. I was opposed. At this point MySpace had the chat functionality. It was buggy and more often than not crashed, but we had it. We are up to date. Facebook did not have chat yet. We were advancing in life through removing the most important features of it. As a member of the internet I was confused.

Fast forward through Facebook’s extremely dodgy and useless chat system, to the now integrated chat function, Skype, and messaging you kind of wonder, “how did we live before this?” Before Google Maps was our street directory. When we used Yellow Pages to find businesses. The times you’d give up on the internet if the dial-up cut out rather than pay for another connection. Or even having to install two phone lines so the dial-up wouldn’t clog up the telephone line. Technology thus far has been brilliant.

On a whole, we are knee deep in a huge shift. From connectedness around our technology, and friends to the way we view our content. Or more importantly how we are choosing to deliver our content.

I’ve reviewed three web series on this site (VGHS S01, VGHS S02, and S.Y.N.C.) and on all three accounts I’ve noted that I was amazed and glad at the level of production that has been put forward for purely the internet. Not only is there a paradigm shift in how it is made (no over controlling producers or “network people”), but the way that revenues is sourced from a platform that is stripped from internal advertisements. We are now faced with an ad before the video, but even then you can skip over it. And it’s amazing to see companies as YouTube balancing out the demand of consumers and investors. I’m certain in their planning on implementing advertisements the question would have popped up, “how many do we play?” Audiences are willing to sit through one 30 second ad, any more and they’ll most likely open a new tab and forget about the video all together.

But I don’t need to tell you how well the internet has done in listening to audiences. This is partly to due to the fact that results are instantaneous. You make your website look like a cross between the classifieds section of a newspaper and something a kindergartener whipped together and views to the site will fall. Analytics and insight of your domain are realtime, and it’s global. No need to just use a sample audience.

So where does this leave us with entertainment?

Let’s rephrase the question: “Where do I see film, television, the internet, and other delivery services in the future?”

That’s an interesting question. Film I’d like to say will stand the test of time but we are already seeing the decline in the use of film itself. Digital has paved the path for new and emerging artists to create content. Yes, it has opened the floodgates to a lot more subpar content, but I feel the advantages of finding a new talent that would have once been locked out more rewarding. I think film in itself will become a rarity, and everything will be digital. And even in those circumstances I don’t think audiences will care. Some will, but these are the people who know, not the people you are aiming to sell your seat to. The audience doesn’t care now, they can’t tell the difference, in-fact they don’t care. Somewhere in the transition of projectionists to a kid pressing play off a USB at the theatre, the audience doesn’t find it hinders their viewing experience. Part of them don’t know that what they’re actually paying for is the exclusive rights to view the film rather than financing the physical film celluloid as once did happen (profits to find new films by buying more film reels).

Television I see turing in to the current film. More shows will become cinematic, the stories will become more gripping, but overall it will remain the same. Television has slightly listened to audiences opposed to film. I’m not saying they acted, but they know what’s going on, and I think personally, the big wigs in Hollywood are more than content playing the piracy card, and their backhanded accounting tactics to continue whinging about a declining medium. Meanwhile, the internet will increase to prosper. It will incorporate more and more of the older mediums (film and television) but deliver it in a more accessible manner. We see it now with rentals on YouTube, Netflix dominating season contracts, while broader to more technology documents will continue to be accessed without USB drives.

The internet has it’s roots planted and people are happy. But why? What makes this newest platform the one that is dominating?

Is it the incorporation of it in our day-to-day lives? The fact we can indeed access it anywhere? The fact I can pick up the beginning of an episode on my iPhone, and then finish it off later on my tablet? Does it boil down to the build and quality of something this versatile is equal or better to film and television?

The answer is yes. The connectedness of the internet, beyond the social boundaries, has created our entertainment to become more fluid. Just like people have thrown away their landline phones for the “mobile only” option, so too have people with television sets for solely computers. Maybe they’re the extremists in these cases, but the thought that you can get all your content online is pretty neat.

What happens now? Where do we go?

Beyond this point is anybody’s guess. Even my predictions aren’t concrete. What I do know is the industry needs to take a good hard look at itself, and then watch Kevin Spacey’s lecture (videos below). As far as it goes, audiences should be excited. The more we are moving toward internet delivery for older forms of content, the more the older delivery services will have to fight for us. Nostalgic bribes won’t be enough to lure us all, and in the end – we win.


Click to watch full lecture below.

As for creators, it’s a mixed bag. Now you can’t expect an audience member to not move away from the theatre seat for two hours, or create cliff hangers before the commercial. Stories will become structured around the… well, story. We lose a device to keep people hooked to the content, but if you were relying on that in the first place you probably shouldn’t be writing. As for other mediums? Advertisements online and else where will need to up the ante. Continue to fight against the now natural “tune out” mode we have created. The have to be prepared to understand that audiences wont sit idly for the content – other tabs will be open.

So somewhere in this wall of text I wonder if I have actually discussed anything at all. All I do know is what I know, and that as a creator you’re either going to have to join the internet or die out a long slow death like Sony Walkman (only to be really missed when you are gone). That and Kevin Spacey’s full lecture. Embrace the 47 minute lecture from a man who has been there, and is firmly warning us like Hollywood was before:

…we have demonstrated that we’ve learned what the music industry didn’t — give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it.