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Online Trends

Published March 30th 2021

The Big Media & Entertainment Industry Trends for 2021

Few industries had as much of a boom as media and entertainment during 2020. Here’s where the industry is headed as we move further into 2021

Who did you see more of this pandemic: your friends or your favorite streaming service?

The answer is almost definitely the latter. There was little else to do than devour every new drop of media and entertainment that came our way. 

New series, favorite movies, old concerts – you name it, we consumed it in 2020. And it all translated into big business. The global video streaming market size was estimated at USD $50.11 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD $59.14 billion in 2021 – considerable growth undoubtedly bolstered by our time spent at home.

After such a big year, what will the media and entertainment industry do next? Here are a few trends you should be expecting. 

Trend #1: Reimagining live entertainment

For live entertainment lovers, 2020 was the worst year on record. Festivals were cancelled, reunion tours were called off, and millions of stadium seats across the globe gathered dust. 

These events not only make up a chunk of our social lives, they can also generate big business. Live entertainment brings in millions of dollars, not just to the companies that put them on but to local economies too. In 2020, Sundance brought an estimated $150 million to Park City . While music festivals like Coachella and Stagecoach generated more than $700 million just a few years ago. 

That money doesn’t just appear. People need to be in these locations for communities to reap the benefits. Canceling SXSW, for example, led to an estimated $350 million hit to tourism income for the city of Austin. 

That’s all to say that in-person events are likely to see a pronounced return in 2021. Humans crave physical, shared experiences and the entertainment industry is prepared to do the necessary work to make it happen.

For many people, 2020 was a harsh wake-up call about the importance of shared experiences. For others, a level of accessibility was achieved as a byproduct of our lockdown. The pandemic opened the door to creating events that are available to a much larger and more diverse audience. This could lay the groundwork for long-needed updates to traditional formats.

Trend #2: Subscription services must increase focus on customer service

The 2021 Brandwatch Customer Experience report found that conversation about entertainment subscriptions tends to be more negative than positive. Many people complained about the price of subscriptions, especially when there are so many on offer. 

Entertainment brands in this world face increased competition and will have to fight hard to show why their subscription is worth the money. The good news is that great content will be amplified by consumers. If the quality is there, it’ll be celebrated online.

It will be interesting to see which platforms weather the storm in another five years. In order to do so, they’ll need premium content, modest prices, and new content creators in their ranks.

Trend #3: More streaming consolidation 

It’s mind-blowing to consider just how saturated the streaming industry is compared to just five years ago. In Leichtman Research Group’s 14th annual study of streaming, using a sample of 1,990 households, the company found that 78% of them have a subscription to a top streaming service, up from 52% in 2015.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated consumer willingness to experiment with their entertainment options. The hard lines that used to exist between content and distribution channels are increasingly blurry. 

In order to stay agile, many entertainment companies have formed alliances, and those who haven’t risk falling behind. Consolidating platforms also involves acquiring additional content which, in turn, opens the window for an increased monthly subscription rate. This could also potentially save consumers money – after all, one expensive subscription is still probably cheaper than two separate standard ones.

Trend #4: On-screen representation continues to draw criticism

The entertainment industry has never been under more scrutiny, whether that’s from the growing #MeToo movement, controversy around casting decisions, or debate around representation of tough issues.

The 2020 Annual Hollywood Diversity Report conducted by UCLA includes a workplace analysis of 11 major and mid-major studios, which found that: 

  • 91% of C-level positions are held by white people and 82% are held by men.
  • 93% percent of senior executive positions are held by white people and 80% by men.

When it came to television, women and minorities made gains in nearly all of the 13 employment categories tracked by the report. Yet both groups are still not represented proportionately to their share of the US population overall, despite continued outcry from audiences.

The UCLA study concluded that when it came to TV statistics from 2017-2019: 

  • Black actors reached proportional representation (12.9%) among lead actors in cable scripted shows in 2017-18 and lead actors in cable scripted programs (14.1%) in 2018-19. 
  • Black actors were also overrepresented in total cast diversity for broadcast (18.0%) and cable shows (18.2%) in 2018-19. 
  • Latinx and Asian Americans remain significantly underrepresented in nearly all industry positions. 

There’s still work to be done on the diversity and representation front. Data suggests a downward turn in these numbers due to a general pause in production in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

One thing’s for sure, audiences everywhere will be paying attention to how the entertainment industry handles diversity moving forward. 

Trend #5: The joy comes from art, the anger comes from paying

The pandemic highlighted just how important art is for our souls. From out-there documentaries about tiger keepers and arch rivals to achingly beautiful films about first-generation immigrants, entertainment kept our spirits up during lockdown. 

Somewhat unsurprisingly, research from our 2021 customer experience report showed that entertainment is the most positively discussed sector of the 15 we studied, and that's driven by positivity around TV shows, movies, music, and beyond.

We found that people will talk about how they’re “obsessed” with particular shows or albums, and the volume of conversation coming from pop fandoms is particularly strong. 

Documentaries are talked about particularly positively, with people sharing their favorite shows and where to watch them. Nurturing this highly positive online advocacy can be great for entertainment brands looking to increase subscribers to their platforms or to build engagement with particular titles or songs.

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