Digital Products: The Evolution of Entertainment

For most of my career in product, I’ve worked on digital products for entertainment companies. First, it’s easy to get into this space living in Los Angeles – because the entertainment world is omnipresent. However, the biggest draw for working in entertainment right now is the technological revolution that the entire industry is facing.

Generally, the way in which we consume entertainment hasn’t changed radically since the start of the 20th century. For instance, it’s difficult to remember that watching movies/watching TV/etc. used to be available in one way.  Today, the entertainment world is in a “Napster” moment. Said differently, we’re facing the same challenge as the music industry going digital in the 1990s.

Simply put, none of this would be possible without increasing bandwidth and network capabilities. For example, Netflix and other streaming-first companies are revolutionizing entertainment with digital products that put the user in control. As a result, users gain a level of access and personalization for the shows/movies/etc. that they want to watch.

Given that the entertainment industry is an established institution, it can be difficult to make significant changes in how business gets done. In other words, you can think about the “entertainment giants” as cruise liners. On the other hand, streaming startups are more like small sailboats. Simply put, it’s much easier to change course on a sailboat than it is on a cruise liner.

Specifically, the new trendsetters for digital products in entertainment don’t have to deal with technical debt.

For example, companies like Netflix are writing their own rules for how consumers access their content. Most importantly, their entire platform is web-first/streaming-first. As a result, they don’t have to answer to “the way things have been” done. In addition, they don’t have to re-write content distribution strategies because they’re already online.

Conversely, it’s an interesting time to work at a large entertainment company like Disney. Specifically, we’re looking for ways to capitalize on this shift in consumer preferences. Outside of the obvious hurdles that come with making huge changes at large companies, we also have the luxury of history on our side. In other words, we can look at current trends and say “wait, we’ve seen something like this before and we just need to ride it out.”

On the other hand, it’s tempting to make a massive pivot toward the “trendy path” just for the sake of being current. However, it’s wise to think about how this pivot can create digital products that have an impact across a large organization like Disney. Ultimately, you want digital innovation to apply to multiple segments and impact the overall business to stay one step ahead of the competition.


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