The media and entertainment industry is driven by technology. This includes everything from cutting-edge special effects developed for movies (and then adopted across other industries) to streaming media, virtual reality gaming, and new delivery channels for news, music, and advertising.
During the pandemic, even the few remaining outlets for entertainment that have remained analog – like music concerts and theatre – moved into the digital domain. While 2022 will (hopefully) see us returning to spending more time out of the house, creators and producers who want to maintain the increased reach they developed are likely to continue to drive innovation in this field.
So here’s my overview of some of the most important trends that will impact the way we consume media and digital entertainment over the next 12 months.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to have a transformative impact throughout the media industry. Within this industry, its three most important functions will be recommendation, voice recognition and media automation. Since the arrival of Netflix and streaming services have upended the way we discover and consume entertainment media, every provider has invested in recommendation technology in order to more efficiently and accurately surface content with audiences that will find it valuable. Netflix has said that 80% of its content delivery is achieved through recommendation, and it, as well as all other streaming providers, will be competing to improve on this score throughout 2022.
Likewise, media companies will continue to strive to create more and more useful and accurate voice recognition systems. Voice is increasingly becoming the way that audiences prefer to communicate with services, which will become better at using natural language algorithms to understand what we want from them.
AI is also used in content automation, for example, to generate snippets of movies or music that are most likely to appeal to us for use in previews and thumbnails. So if a service knows that we tend to gravitate towards romance, then when we preview a movie that contains action and romance elements, we’re more likely to see snippets of scenes featuring romantic elements.
Virtual events, performances, and shows have all grown in popularity while much of society has been locked down or restricted in how often we can leave our homes. This heralded the emergence of the metaverse – online, persistent, and interconnected digital environments where we can meet to socialize, work, and, of course, be entertained! Metaverse performances such as concerts by Ariana Grande and Bruno Mars that took place last year inside the online game Fortnite are just a glimpse of what is to come. While the metaverse may not be quite reach Ready Player One levels of sophistication by 2022, it’s going to be increasingly become the venue where we share entertainment experiences with friends from the comfort of our homes. Streaming services including Hulu and Disney Plus already include “watch party” functions that let you share movie time with groups of friends, wherever you are in the world. However, as well as new collaborative ways to experience old entertainment forms like movies and music within online environments, the metaverse will make entirely new forms of entertainment a reality, such as exploring virtual environments – Disney have announced plans to create a metaverse theme park, for example.
Non-fungible tokens – blockchain-dwelling certificates used to record the ownership of digital assets and enable “unique” digital content – are controversial but undeniably revolutionary. And the media and entertainment industry is certainly not immune to their potentially transformative impact. While we have mostly seen them used to enable the sale of digital artwork, we will increasingly see them used for everything from IP management to selling content based on shows. Rick and Morty creator Dan Harmon’s new show, Krapopolis, is said to be curated entirely on blochchain and will feature its own marketplace for trading NFTs based on the show. NFTs also have the potential to impact the way artists and stars build relationships with their fans by enabling them to release exclusive collections that can be collected when fans interact digitally with their idols, much the same way that autographs are used to record real-world encounters!
Social media 2.0
Social media is constantly evolving – how many people reading this still update their Myspace page? Facebook is still the biggest social network by some margin, but throughout 2022 will continue to shed users, particularly younger ones, to newer competitors, as they continue to be drawn towards “the next big thing.” Social media 2.0 can be thought of as being defined by a desire to overcome some of the negative aspects identified within “traditional” social media. This includes data and privacy concerns, identity theft, the dissemination of misinformation and fake news, and the opportunities it creates for trolling and bullying behavior. Social media 2.0 also encapsulates the concept that the way we consume traditional media from networks such as CNN and Fox News is rapidly changing. These days, it’s increasingly likely that content from these producers will be consumed in bite-sized form through platforms like Youtube or shared across Twitter and TikTok, where it can be discussed and rated rather than just passively consumed. This, in turn, is prompting a shift in the way such content is being created – with added emphasis on content that can be packaged into bite-sized, shareable chunks.
The creator economy
Finally, traditional, mainstream, and mass-market forms of media and entertainment will continue to lose ground to the more personalized, niche, and community-driven media known as the creator economy. Mainstream media outlets will strive to emulate the methods of platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch by positioning their stars and celebrities as “influencers” and building more community-generated content into their output. Short-form videos and creator-driven platforms will grow in popularity, particularly ones that allow audiences to develop personal relationships and connections with their favorite creators and influencers. The amount of money paid to creators via the Patreon platform doubled from $1 billion in 2020 to $2 billion in 2021, and that growth is likely to continue into 2022. This is a sign that audiences are growing increasingly comfortable with the idea of bypassing networks and platforms in order to connect directly with their favorites.