LAST week we touched on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the entertainment sector and forever changed it. As I stated in the previous installment, the creative and cultural industries require crowds to thrive.
However, such activities or events are prohibited in a wide range of measures to contain the spread of the disease. Thus, one finds that a global monolith such as Disney with its billion-dollar theme parks is one of many entertainment properties that are in the doldrums. Still, there are exceptions to the general trend.
Market Watch, revealed the news, which was also widely reported by many other media outlets that Netflix Inc. doubled its number of projected new subscribers in the first quarter of 2020 right across the globe. This has a lot to do with the Covid-19 pandemic as the new media company reported 15,77 million paid new subscriptions.
The figure represents a massive jump for the company, which had 9,6 million subscribers over the same period last year and reported first-quarter earnings of US$709 million (US$1,57 a share), more than doubling on last year’s US$344 million (76 cents a share).
“During the first two months of the Q1, our membership growth was similar to the prior two years, including in [the US and Canada]. Then, with lockdown orders in many countries starting in March, many more households joined Netflix to enjoy entertainment,” Netflix executives said in a letter to shareholders as reported by Market Watch.
Escapism, thrill seeking, boredom, curiosity and good ole hedonism are part of a mix of factors, which reel audiences into the entertainment industry’s magical mystery ride.
Creators must produce compelling content to woo audiences but content creation business entities must master efficient ways of distributing that content to as many subscribers as possible in order to stay above the rim.
In the past, for example, film makers had to rely on theatre houses to distribute their films. With the advent of the small screen, entertainment could be brought into people’s living rooms and so forth. Today, the Word Wide Web otherwise also known as the information superhighway of interlinking computer networks has created an avalanche of data. It allows people to plug in and connect to the global matrix of computers via PDAs or personal digital assistants such as computers, mobile phones and tablet in the process accessing data. This data includes massive vaults and catalogues of motion picture content.
Tech and creativity nexus
The intersection of technological innovation and creativity has been the reason behind the rise of entities such as Netflix, which by the way commissions its own original content. It was only a matter of time before someone began to conceptualise and evolve a business model for tapping into the millions if not billions of users of the Internet.
Indeed, the fourth industrial revolution is powered by the innovation in ICTs. Data is huge and those that have found a way to monetise the numbers are currently reaping rich rewards. The likes of Facebook, Microsoft and of course Netflix come to mind.
The best way to think about what is happening is to think of the Internet as a gargantuan highway network system and the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Netflix as being like the vehicles for distributing data and content. Think of the likes of Microsoft, Cisco and even the Econet owned Liquid Telecom as being like road or rail construction companies.
Bringing it home, this is the epoch in which African content creators have a chance to dream up and execute multimedia projects for sale to the likes of Apple TV and Netflix who are not brick and mortar companies confined to a geographical space.
These companies are virtual and making waves across the globe. They are what you would call disrupters to the traditional Hollywood business model. The beauty of their business models is that they transcend geographical locations. Regulators are yet to catch on and wrap their minds around how to police and tax them in the “territories” in which subscribers access them from.
Indeed, the question has been posed as to how effectively one can play cop and tax man on the Internet. The scalability of Netflix’s business model is a trump card. Ironically, Covid 19 is proving to be a time of opportunity for online business. Ecommerce is no longer optional for any business.
Over the past few weeks, depending on preference and affordability, we have been either surfing the internet, visiting Facebook, chatting on WhatsApp or toggling the cable television channels such on Multichoice and logging onto Netflix online. Yes, I personally have been able to watch a couple of series and documentaries about Narco drug lords, basketball legends and others catching the fancy. I did watch the entire season of Queen Sono, the action flick by South African comedian and film director Kagiso Lediga and starring bombshell Pearl Thusi. But such content is at present not too dominant. American staples and tropes are the most dominant. That needs to change of course. African storytellers need to get a piece of the action.
When you think about it, time is the one thing we all have been having over the lockdown period. How have our creative been making use of their time? Personally, I have been writing . . . I am animated by the idea that someday; our film makers and content creators can grow into a critical mass of paid creative telling inspirational and world beating African narratives. For the people that own the online platforms for content distribution, the bottom line is what counts. I say that the time is ripe for us to be about creating and strategising.