i3 | January 04, 2023

All Eyes on Digital

Gary Arlen
CES 2023

Media and entertainment segments embrace digital transformation.

While the media industry, and advertising in particular, has traditionally taken a “prove it” attitude when it comes to adopting new technology, the ever-accelerating wave of digital transformation now sweeping through the business sector has also gained traction with media adherents.

New techniques and tactics that save time and money while reducing tedium often improve storytellers’ creative product as well, says Tim Hanlon, founder and CEO of The Vertere Group, a Chicago-based media advisory and strategic consulting firm.

“Advancements in mobile and high-speed connectivity [offer] more personalized experiences” through new digital capabilities throughout the media and entertainment sector, says Steve Goetz, vice president and senior partner at IBM Consulting’s media and telecom practice.

Digital transformation — defined broadly by the MIT Sloan Management Review as “continual adaption to a constantly changing environment” — continues to rearrange the ways in which storytellers handle everything from business development to distribution. The process becomes even more complicated in sectors like media, entertainment and advertising, which encompass a broad array of components, from interactive games to on-demand streaming and personalized marketing. Add in the explosive opportunities of e-commerce, the metaverse and virtual reality experiences, and you start to see the scale of complexity now challenging our brave new non-linear world.

“As streaming skyrockets, technologies such as cloud and artificial intelligence will allow these sectors to serve their customers with a direct relationship,” Goetz says, citing the rapidly evolving relationships between content providers and technology partners that include wire and wireless carriers such as telephone, cable and broadband. “Looking ahead,” new digital platforms will “bring focused solutions across all industries to bear and monetize their investments in these technologies.”

Goetz foresees “technologies and a mindset that will allow [telecom providers] to serve their customers … while humanizing the experience.”

Early Adopters

Vertere’s Hanlon has helped clients seeking innovation navigate the intersection of media and technology, and notes that live sports and news programming spearheaded media’s digital transformation, spurred by pandemic-era and mission-critical necessities that forced rapid pivots.

Digital requirements force a “collision of art-meets-commerce in creative business endeavors,” Hanlon says, with producers often fretting that technology could “interfere with authentic storytelling.”

Still, he believes that such reticence “tends to evaporate” when tech and digital capabilities demonstrate their value, adding that “an internal champion” such as a production executive, prominent producer or director typically steer a company squarely into the digital domain.

As other early-adopting organizations have found, transforming operations into “digital-first” requires firm commitment to new ways of doing business, such as responding to and meeting changing customer expectations, especially given today’s more digital-savvy audiences. Management analysts continue to push concepts such as decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), which entail full-scale restructuring of the work environment. The process, part of the Web3 migration, could prove especially challenging to creative operations teams.

Media organizations also find themselves having to accommodate the digital transformation taking place in other, closely aligned industries, such as fashion. Journey, a New York-based design consulting firm, recently helped Walmart unveil WalmartLand, an immersive experience offered within Roblox (an online game platform and game creation system), that brings fashion, style, beauty and entertainment products to market through the platform’s virtual store, games and virtual dressing rooms. Cathy Hackl, Journey’s founder and chief metaverse officer, noted recently that “it’s truly amazing to watch fashion and art pushing the limits of what we can do with this technology. … It’s this moment and this feeling in the tech industry and the fashion industry of coming closer together than ever before.”

Walmart’s entry into verch — a virtual merchandise store — offers proof of the importance of digital products serving as the core of this ongoing market transformation.

What Customers Want

Mulesoft Software (a subsidiary of Salesforce), in a recent report also noted growing corporate investments in TX, or “total experience,” strategies to derive greater customer and employee loyalty. The company notes TX is just one trend now accelerating digital transformation alongside efforts to create more seamless, data-based digital experiences, and underscores TX’s potential to deliver new shared experiences that serve as the foundation for deeper customer and employee relationships. In other words: Digital transformation propels new and novel approaches to production, marketing and audience engagement, made possible through the growing multitude of digital distribution channels.

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications LLC in Bethesda, MD, and a long-time consultant and analyst focused on advanced media/technology/telecom interactions.

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