There’s a point when a word like “transformation” just doesn’t measure up when talking about the impact of the global pandemic. The fabric of our society is changing, perhaps irrevocably in some ways, and temporarily in others. And, though I hesitate to prognosticate, in technology, media, and entertainment, the changes may be more irrevocable than temporary. Let’s walk through a few examples and what they mean for these industries.
What better place to start than with Zoom? It’s now a household word, and genericization (associating a brand name with a product class) has taken hold. To say “hopping on a Zoom” is now as common as “Google it” and “grab a Kleenex” or (let’s take it back a few years) “I’ll Xerox that for you.” And, with hybrid work models likely to stay a part of work life for a long time, Zoom’s household word status is unlikely to fade.
Shifting over to media and entertainment, the film industry is undergoing massive changes that may draw a line in the sand between “before COVID” and “after COVID.” If in early 2020, I’d told you that in 2021 Warner Brothers would release their movies simultaneously in theaters and on a streaming service, you’d tell me to get serious. But, here we are, and cinema distribution models may never be the same. Disney Plus has over 100 million subscribers, and the company restructured its media and entertainment branches to focus on streaming content. That’s another headline that would have turned heads in early 2020. Film production is also transforming with new technology like “the volume” that Lucasfilm used to produce “The Mandalorian,” sparking a possible reinvention of the industry itself. And, videogames have played a lifeline role in keeping people connected when they can’t gather in person.
The hits keep on coming across technology, media, and entertainment when we start talking about transformation. The subscription economy continues to evolve as well. Streaming services have experienced massive gains as home-bound people look for entertainment. Signing up, canceling, and signing back up to an array of streaming services as our favorite shows pinball around the menu of our smart TVs is now a regular ritual.
While the effects of the pandemic on the tech, media, and entertainment industries may change, the importance of agility, flexibility, and innovation will remain central for those companies for years to come.
Besides “nothing may ever be the same,” what does it all mean? For technology, media, and entertainment companies, there are a few key takeaways that are central to thriving in the middle of what feels like a revolution.
First, agile and flexible financial management systems are a must. With change as the only constant, a clear view of how it all affects financial performance is key. Consider the “pinball effect” of shows bouncing around streaming services that I mentioned earlier—this type of back-and-forth makes agility more important than ever as revenue streams fluctuate through changing consumer habits.
Second, companies must be able to plan for different scenarios, so they can shift business models quickly to react to major events and changing consumer habits. For media companies, one scenario that resulted from the pandemic was more ad money going toward online advertising (it was expected to be 53% in 2020). They also saw a greater-than-expected spike in video viewing with more and more of that viewing on smartphones as global ownership and usage increases.
And, third, infrastructures must be scalable and ready to handle unexpected spikes in usage (let’s call that one “the Zoom effect.”)
One real-life example of a tech company finding the value of agile planning through a flexible data hub is Workday customer Zynga which owns some of the world’s most popular social games, like “Farmville” and “Words with Friends.” As their senior director of people operations Eamonn Stanley shared: “Especially during this time in a global pandemic with a remote workforce and a changing environment, having a data hub is even more critical. Data is essential for strategic workforce and talent planning, as we evaluate what talent needs we’ll have moving forward, especially in rapidly changing times.”
So, while the effects of the pandemic on the tech, media, and entertainment industries may change, the importance of agility, flexibility, and innovation will remain central for those companies for years to come.