Future media: Surviving the next Big Bang

Future media: Surviving the next Big Bang

Future media: Surviving the next Big Bang

The media universe is undergoing a Big Bang moment, writes Telemedia CEO Patrick Conroy. The number of media outlets is exploding, and our understanding of media is changing fundamentally. What are the challenges and opportunities?

Once upon a time, media was a single-channel experience, where the content, the platform, the technology and the experience itself were almost synonymous. “The newspaper” was the channel. It was the content… and it was also the business.

Where once demand for content was high but supply low, the ratio is now inverted.

All of that has been thrown out of the window over the past three decades, to where the media industry is almost unrecognisable.

This has been a complex, non-linear process. On one level, the media Big Bang has been characterised by massive disintermediation, with power being decentralised from a handful of media houses and content-creation platforms. Today anyone can be a creator, and a publisher – and this has empowered millions to start their own content businesses all around the world.  

Democratising media

Where previously, the creation process for magazine lifestyle content might have involved a photographer, a model, a writer, a copy editor, a picture editor, an editorial director and a publisher, today one person can perform all of these roles, using a single handheld device. These modern content creators can also control their entire strategy, their business plan and their editorial voice.

This means greater efficiency, less exploitation, a wider diversity of voices and greater choice for audiences.

Artificial intelligence and data are the new gold

In the sports television space, there has been a similar revolution. Where previously, one or two media players ran multi-billion-dollar operations requiring outside-broadcast trucks, mobile studios and production teams of several dozen, today AI cameras have slashed the costs of production.

This has vastly expanded the range of sporting events that can be viably broadcast. Before, only mass-market, high-profile sports events could be shown. Today, everything from high school girls’ hockey to boys’ water polo, to rugby, cricket and lower-league club football can be easily filmed, then broadcast or streamed.

Today, a single operator can arrive an hour before kick-off, set up an AI camera on a tripod, establish an internet connection, and calibrate the camera for the specific sport and field. This AI-powered camera then autonomously tracks the ball and players, adjusting zoom and focus to ensure optimal coverage, all while broadcasting in high-definition.

The SuperSport Schools project has demonstrated how it is possible to scale production output to a point where hundreds of matches can be viewed live over a single weekend.

In addition, every play in a match now generates a range of data points. This information allows for instant analysis, player information and statistics to guide coaches, talent scouts and even betting agencies.

The tech media galaxies and blackholes

However, while on one level technology has made the media space more inclusive, in other ways, technology has led to a concentration of media owners. Where content houses once ruled supreme, now tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft have become the new super galaxies of media.

Today, technology defines our ability to access media – and many of the major media players are therefore technology businesses. In terms of market capitalisation, the largest players in the media landscape today are Microsoft ($3.1 trillion), Apple ($2.9 trillion), Nvidia ($2.3 trillion) and Alphabet ($2.2 trillion).

Thanks to a huge concentration of ownership – and user traffic – social media, especially, has come to define the modern media landscape.

One could also think of these tech companies as blackholes who’s gravitational pull sucks in the bulk of media advertising and content curation.

Commoditisation of news has led policymakers in the industrialised nations to try to force Big Tech to pay fairly for their reuse and aggregation of news.

These intergalactic blackholes will continue to dominate global media unless anti-trust laws force an end to their market domination. There is no sign of this happening anytime in the near future.

The near extinction of production companies

Like the asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs, the arrival of AI has only accelerated the potential demise of many production agencies. The ability of generative AI technology to scour a myriad of sites in microseconds and create ostensibly fresh content from scratch.

Production companies of all stripes now find themselves in competition with Chat GPT, Dall-e and Open AI’s Sora. These platforms can generate text, images and detailed video that is so convincing that most viewers are unable to tell between what content is “real” and what is AI generated.

Blurring boundaries

Another trend is the blurring of the old traditional boundaries within the media space – between platforms and content, between entertainment and commerce; as well as between brand and news content.

The dominant multinationals straddle numerous industries – communications, retail, technology, social media, video gaming, e-commerce, venture capital, digital media and entertainment.

When everything is media, then media companies do everything.

However, within this ecosystem, a wealth of opportunities exist. The most successful media businesses will be those that understand that there are no boundaries any longer.

The trick is to survive long enough until the big tech companies are broken up or lose interest in media to focus on their core value propositions.

There will inevitably be a consolidation where new media companies emerge leveraging off the OTT networks to reach audiences, while utilizing AI and data to drive extra value in the content they produce whether to advertisers, analysts or data and research companies.

It will no longer be just a movie or a football game, but a window to interactive retail, social media networks, global audiences, data analysis and pin-point target segmentation.

These will be standard in the new media cosmic order. It is likely the big players will attempt to own the entire value chain, but opportunities abound for those who can find a niche and specialise in maximizing value in just one or two links in the chain.

Buckle up. We’re about to hit warp speed.

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