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To tackle the Future of Media, Entertainment and Sport look into the issues below:
Media Governance and Policy
The vast amounts of user data generated daily for media industry consumption create regulatory challenges. There are hundreds of millions of photos and videos published on Instagram, a significantly higher number of published tweets, and an even far greater number of YouTube video views on a daily basis.
Governing this content only becomes more difficult as the ease with which anyone can create and share it increases. While trending hashtags and engaging content might enable users to reach a wide audience, they can also spur calls for closer regulation - the inflammatory misinformation posted online prior to the riot at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 is a case in point.
Despite repeated urgent requests for the removal of such content prior to the riot, it has only relatively recently received greater scrutiny on mainstream platforms. Live video streaming has also exposed wrongdoing - such as when Philando Castile was shot by a policeman in the US in 2016 as his girlfriend filmed. Facebook has used artificial intelligence as well as human moderators to try to combat the spread of violent content and fake news, and its efforts (along with those of other online platforms) will be crucial as people increasingly go to the internet for their news and information.
In China, the country’s roughly 1,900 newspapers, 2,600 radio stations and 9,000 magazines are all owned by the government, and operate under the watchful eyes of 2 million people employed as censors. Whether regulation is applied by governments or popular platforms themselves, a respect for legitimate free speech is critical.
Governments have taken varied approaches to regulating content. After bombings in Sri Lanka in April 2019 left nearly 300 people dead in churches and hotels, that country’s government moved swiftly to temporarily ban social media sites and services including Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Viber - in an effort to curb the spread of inflammatory misinformation.
Net neutrality, the principle that any lawful content should be made readily available online without bias or interference from an internet service provider, has become a hotly-debated topic - as governments could theoretically allow service providers to inhibit content presenting controversial viewpoints, while content providers could start paying for preferential treatment for their own sites and services. While efforts to restrict net neutrality gained traction in the US during the Trump administration, India approved regulations in 2018 that support net neutrality and bar any type of online data restriction.
Media Consumer Behavior
People have demonstrated a desire for more online content, and for branding that aligns with a social conscience. Athlete and celebrity activism has clearly impacted consumer behavior.
Former National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick, for example, drew international attention for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and for his views on systemic racism - and then saw his value to corporate sponsor Nike surge. Nike’s CEO was quoted in the media describing the company’s decision to proactively align with Kaepernick and his social causes as an acknowledgement of the value of empowering athletes’ expression.
Ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s has also partnered with Kaepernick on a non-dairy dessert, with a portion of proceeds going to Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp initiative (which has a stated mission of “advancing the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities”).
The allure of Kaepernick-related branding underlines a broader shift in consumer behavior, as people increasingly favor companies with a social conscience. One related challenge, however, is ensuring that corporations are not merely posturing - and are demonstrating meaningful support. People are also increasingly embracing a more transient media identity. They no longer necessarily consider themselves mere audience members - and no longer want one-size-fits-all experiences decided upon by corporations.
The growth in demand for tailor-made content means distributors must constantly vie for attention, and users now often find themselves overloaded with subscriptions. People all over the world now subscribe to paid streaming services, and there will likely be a growing interest among these users in seeing manifestations and representations of themselves in content - which could be aided by responsibly leveraging user data.
More than half of the global population is now using the internet, according to the International Telecommunication Union, and increasingly ubiquitous connectivity promises to continue to shape consumer habits (a good deal of content is now being digested in abbreviated form on mobile social-networking apps, for example). COVID-19 and related mobility restrictions have triggered a sharp increase in online media consumption, as customers in relative isolation look to stay informed and entertained via gaming and streaming services, news, and educational content.
Increasing investment in network technology such as 5G should enable even greater access to content, increasingly via smartphone and often on platforms like Facebook. Greater demand requires greater investment, however; Netflix is expected to spend nearly $20 billion on content in 2021.
Media and the Global Social Good
Media and Emerging Technologies
Entertainers and athletes can play a significant role in addressing inequality and other social ills. The media spotlight provides a significant means to pursue social activism.
Athletes in particular have taken advantage of their visibility to raise awareness of issues including racial injustice; for example, 2020 US Open winner Naomi Osaka received extensive coverage for her decision to wear face masks throughout the tennis competition that bore the names of unarmed black people killed by police (Osaka said her intention was to spark a conversation). Notably, Osaka’s corporate sponsors continued to support her - and to support in turn the broader racial justice movement.
As more athletes leverage their media reach for similar purposes, fewer sport franchises and sponsors will be able to remain neutral (Washington, D.C.’s National Football League franchise, for example, finally yielded to pressure to change its racially insensitive name in 2020).
The need to foster greater social cohesion has perhaps never been greater, as the world struggles to emerge from a devastating pandemic that has laid bare many inequalities and shortcomings. The extent to which media personalities and platforms choose to play a constructive role in this could have lasting consequences.
A decentralization and democratization of media has enabled people to more freely create and distribute content to inform, or to misinform. This content plays a pivotal role in shaping the social fabric, as media outlets both facilitate healthy discussion about issues and spread dangerous lies. Ultimately, social media has the potential to further awaken our collective conscious about inequality related to race, gender, and wealth - and to foster a more active dialogue about mental health that could pave the way to increased acceptance and understanding.
The impact of media on mental health in particular has been a source of growing concern. An experiment conducted by neuroscientists from the University of Southern California and Southwest University in Chongqing, China found that Facebook stimulates the same section of the brain activated by gambling and substance abuse, and overuse of social media has been linked to feelings of anxiety, depression, and social isolation.
While COVID-19 has increased the use of social media, it has also, thankfully, boosted general interest in outdoors activity. For many people, physical activity including sport can be a means of forming social bonds and boosting self-esteem.
Technology’s impact on the media industry has been amplified by the pandemic. The entertainment industry was overwhelmed as COVID-19 spread, and live concerts, comedy clubs, theatres, and other entertainment venues around the world progressively went dark. However, the pandemic also boosted demand for internet-based alternatives.
Streaming services in the US added tens of millions of new users within the first few months of 2020, according to estimates, and the decision by entertainment giant Warner Bros. to premiere its 2021 films on streaming service HBO Max as well as in theatres underscored the transformation of entertainment consumption.
The music industry has also sought to adapt, with virtual live concerts; Songkick, for example, offers people the ability to purchase live-streamed virtual concert tickets. In addition, eGaming and eSports each saw sharp growth in 2020, with eSports expected to become at least a $1.5 billion global industry by 2023, according to reports.
Even prior to the pandemic, artificial intelligence and augmented and virtual reality were affecting the ways we communicate, behave, learn, and work - and the digital portion of the global media and entertainment industry’s income had already been projected to easily surpass 50% by 2022, up from less than 37% in 2013, according to PwC.
Blockchain has also played a role in transforming media, by enabling companies to more accurately monitor content assets and measure the impact of digital advertising. However, AI may promise the most serious industry disruption thanks to pattern recognition and predictive analytics.
AI is also impacting digital print media - where content increasingly sits behind a paywall - by enabling flexible paywalls and tools to evaluate the likelihood that a reader allowed inside of a paywall for free will convert to a paid subscriber. Automated content is also increasingly common; The Los Angeles Times, for example, uses a tool to report nearly in real time on earthquakes, while the Associated Press automates short articles about corporate earnings. Sophisticated algorithms have also given us “deepfakes,” or videos designed to mislead an audience into believing a high-profile person said or did something.
As users produce increasing amounts of data related both to content they consume and the time they spend consuming it, marketers are using that data to try to automatically point to what they might want next; the algorithms deployed by Spotify and Netflix to suggest songs or shows are prominent examples.
The Value of Content
Responsible Data Use
The pandemic has impacted business models based on live events, while boosting demand for online diversion and education. COVID-19 forced live entertainment events of all types to rethink the design of gathering spaces for crowds - and to endure postponements and cancellations that for the US sport industry alone were resulting in losses of as much as $93,000 per minute by May 2020, according to economic modelling firm Emsi.
However, the pandemic has also spurred higher demand for streaming entertainment, and for more educational services delivered via the internet; the online learning service Coursera has seen increased demand from businesses and universities in virtual courses, and has made many free for the significant portion of the global population forced to stay home due to social-distancing restrictions.
According to research firm IDC, digital advertising spending on social media channels is expected to increase by 129% between 2017 and 2022, to $231 billion, as more companies try to tap influencers. Even in normal periods, the digital democratization of content creation and distribution has the potential to improve many aspects of life - if properly curated. For some people, opportunities to monetize content shared on social media have increased, giving rise to “influencer marketing.”
Despite loosened restrictions that have enabled some live sporting events to take place, questions remain about the pandemic’s long-term impact on the industry. For example, Major League Baseball’s 2020 World Series, which took place in the US in October 2020, drew 30% fewer TV viewers over the course of six nights than the prior year’s event. Some organizations, such as the Chinese Basketball Association, are increasingly looking to virtual reality as a means to maintain and monetize fan engagement - a trend that may well outlast the pandemic.
Digital content of every type can deliver value that goes beyond the monetary, by serving as a social glue. Cancer patients and survivors, for example, have formed online support groups, and research published in the journal New Media & Society found that playing video games frequently as a family promotes closeness.
Web search queries and social media posts can also serve as leading indicators to forecast disease outbreaks, by combining them with traditional public health data sources. In terms of disaster and crisis-response management, organizations can use of content posted by people affected by disasters to identify where best to deploy resources.
Tension is mounting between the need to improve media quality and the responsibility to protect privacy.
The increased ability to generate and analyze massive amounts of data has triggered a need to pay closer attention to principles governing its use. There have been several high-profile cases highlighting the need to be more cognizant of responsible data use; the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, for example, involved millions of personal data points being harvested for targeted political advertising and showcased the need for transparency with users about who has access to their data - and how it is being used.
In 2019, Twitter had to apologize for using personal information including phone numbers and email addresses for tailored advertisements, and Amazon came under pressure that same year, when it was revealed that thousands of company employees were listening in on the voice requests people regularly make to Amazon’s Alexa home assistant devices, in order to help train artificial intelligence algorithms as part of a process dubbed “data annotation.”
While this technique is commonly used by other technology giants, most customers have no idea that it is occurring - and they are liable to provide personally identifiable information during the process that could be misused.
Meanwhile in the US, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect in 2020 as a means to increase consumer privacy rights. The legislation grants people the right to know about all of the data collected on them by businesses, the right to deny the sale of that information, to delete any of that data they have posted, and to take legal action against businesses that were careless in protecting the data.
In 2018, representatives of the European Council and European Parliament agreed on implementing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as the bloc’s primary law governing how companies must protect data collected from European Union citizens. A number of different international institutions and agencies have attempted to articulate best practices for responsible data use.
Some of the key related principles include requiring peoples’ consent to process their personal data, anonymizing data collection for the purposes of privacy protection, providing notification in case of a data breach, putting in place security safeguards when transferring data across borders, and appointing data protection officers to oversee GDPR compliance.
Media Trust and Accountability
Inaccurate or misleading online content can be deadly. It is crucial to be able to assign accountability for the accuracy of online content during crises. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, 70% of respondents with “good" information hygiene said they would take a COVID-19 vaccine within a year’s time, compared with just 59% of those with "poor" information hygiene.
By enabling just about anyone to create and widely distribute content, it has made it increasingly difficult for social media companies to balance the need to fact-check with the need to preserve freedom of speech. These companies must try to distinguish between people mistakenly sharing misinformation and those being maliciously deceptive.
More than half of the respondents surveyed for a report published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and the University of Oxford in 2018 said they were concerned about what is real on the internet - with the highest percentage registered in Brazil (85%), and the lowest in the Netherlands (30%). As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, and new and troubling variants are discovered, people everywhere are relying as much as possible on credible news outlets for helpful information.
Journalism must distance itself from information that might interest the public, but is not in the public interest. For many industries the road to rebuilding trust will be long, however, due to the growing potential to abuse technology and a lack of clarity on how best to regulate technology companies. For example, while some celebrated Google’s announcement that it would acquire wearable device maker Fitbit, serious concerns were also raised about Google’s new access to significant amounts of personal health data - which could theoretically be linked to personal search data for advertising purposes. Advancements in artificial intelligence and “deepfakes” - manipulated video representations of people produced by sophisticated AI - have only created additional challenges as the public struggles to separate truth from fiction.
Journalists have a particular responsibility to adapt to this new era of communication. Not least, because their work is at risk of being drowned out by cacophony - and because they themselves are at risk of being manipulated into spreading disinformation, according to a report published by UNESCO in 2018.
FUTURE OF ENTERTAINMENT, MEDIA AND SPORT
The world of media, entertainment, and sport has been upended by new business models, user-generated content, and the use of digital platforms to effectively distribute everything from streamed matches to social messages.
This is having a direct impact on the molding of cultures and societies. COVID-19 promises to accelerate underlying industry trends, as sport franchises seek out new ways to sustain audience engagement and the boundaries that once defined media companies continue to dissolve. Restoring trust will be critical, particularly when it comes to trading in reliable and accurate content, and making use of personal data.