Coming soon – the new season of your favorite show, maybe
The COVID-19 pandemic, with everyone glued to TV sets and subscribing to new OTT services, has seen media ratings surge. And yet the whole industry is under pressure, from content production to advertising revenue. Let’s have a look at the challenges media is facing today and the priorities they should focus on to overcome the challenges.
In some countries where the pandemic is under control, productions are resuming (news article here) and studios are opening up again. But, producers are struggling to implement approved safety protocols (news articles here, here and here). These safety protocols affect authors’ creativity, by limiting intimate scenes or fight scenes for instance, and impact production times and budgets tremendously. In such uncertain times, insurance companies are hesitant if not reluctant to back up productions. Most media companies need to undertake serious measures to make sure revenue numbers are met and pipeline is healthy again. And they’re up against a context of ad investments, despite growing in some areas (social, online video, online display and search), decreasing dramatically by 8.1% overall, according to WARC data.
So, what will the new normal look like? How can content creators and distributors turn challenging safety protocols in their favor? And how can technology play an important role in the development of the new workflows?
Budgets under pressure — no news here
Workflows in media and entertainment have been unchanged for a very long time because the industry has been thriving in a golden era. More channels and more streamers meant more content. But with advertising income decreasing and the quality of programming increasing, it was no secret that budgets, margins and revenues have been challenged for a long time — long before COVID-19.
Why are productions expensive? There is no one answer to this. On one hand, productions are expensive, starting with the number of people needed to deliver content. We all see, of course, the endless credit list at the end of a movie! But the main reason has to do with the digital revolution. With the arrival of digital cameras, decisions were moved from the set to the editing room. As with all digital photography, the industry started to film more to make sure the perfect picture was created. As a result, productions have become less efficient. And more people are needed to cover all hours and possibilities.
This just in — data for media
Little use of analysis is made on the digital footage to understand what producers are doing. And yet, although digital photography creates some lack of efficiency during the shooting phase, digital unlocks many more possibilities. For example, data analysis can be used to support decisions on creativity, development, production and post-production, and help optimize programming and industrialize best practices.
Some of the streamers have built success on a strong data strategy that allows them to understand their audience needs and feature recommended content via screens and newsletters, for instance. Traditional media players are starting to surf that wave, capturing more data in order to improve their customer experience. They’re offering more personalized content based on viewer behavior and preferences, whether it is a show, a movie or an ad.
Data analysis should not only be leveraged at the distribution stage — as it can help all media improve decision making in the production itself and make the workflows more efficient. But it can also be used in the early stages of a production. We can, for instance, predict how to optimize creative output, production materials, scripts, staff, crew or talent. AI/ML can help in optimizing the booking, scheduling and usage of production resources and the management of the logistics. Automated collection and correlation of pertinent information about past, ongoing, and future workflows across production units, locations, and third parties would do wonders for today’s manual planning activities.
To handle all data properly, data, resources and workflow management technologies will become a priority for media producers in the next few years. Most of those technologies will also be used as-a-service from the cloud. It will be a cultural change, much needed but challenging, as producers strive to improve efficiency. But, the more efficient the beginning of the production process is the more efficient the output will be.
Live from wherever, it’s whenever
Remote working became the norm in many industries as lockdown measures were taken around the globe. Media was not an exception with late-night show hosts delivering their monologues from their bathtubs or their attics. Remote working may be a long-term solution for media companies looking to enhance not only the sustainability of a production, but also its efficiency. From production management to virtual audiences, from virtual sets to editing, it's possible to work remotely.
Remote working may be a long-term solution for media companies looking to enhance not only the sustainability of a production, but also its efficiency.
It's possible, provided connectivity, communication and security are in place. If media productions implement remote working, they’ll not only be able to meet safety protocols and work faster, they’ll also reduce their impact on the environment — an easy consequence of optimized workflows and resource utilization, just as a sample.
Of course, not all issues can be solved but big steps are already being taken using technologies to work remotely, and data is being used to better understand productions. The key themes for content creators moving forward are digital: innovation, efficiency, communication, security and leadership.