University of Southern California

Frontier Thinking
E2: Evolution of Entertainment Conference Covers Industry Trends and Forecasts
February 26, 2014 • by News at Marshall

Technology has not only changed the way content is created, but also how it is distributed, marketed and consumed today—a trend that will continue as devices advance and entertainment outlets evolve to respond to audience demand, according to leading media and entertainment professionals at E2: Evolution of Entertainment 2014 Conference at USC. The sixth annual event, hosted by the Business of Entertainment Association at Marshall and held on Feb. 7 at Town and Gown, brought students together with industry experts and executives from companies including Lionsgate Television and Motion Pictures Group, HBO, FOX Sports and Legendary Pictures to illuminate changes and opportunities in the entertainment sector.

Presentations at this year’s gathering, themed “Innovation: Forging New Frontiers,” covered emerging brand techniques, creating content for modern audiences and the future of sports entertainment. The event also included a keynote address from Adam Garone, CEO and co-founder of Movember, who spoke about what it took to build his operation from a local Australian enterprise to a global men’s health initiative, and a fireside chat with John Batter, CEO of M-Go, a digital entertainment service.

Bruce Rosenblum, president of Television and Digital Media at Legendary and chairman and CEO of the Television Academy, set the conference spoke about the way the television industry has evolved from a three-network model to one that has given rise to cable, and now streaming original content from providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Xbox.

“The playing field to sell content is much broader. Over the last 10 years, the health of the television industry from a content-producer standpoint has never been better. There are more buyers, more content domestically, higher prices for our content internationally and the digital business is growing up and becoming a source of revenue,” said Rosenblum during a keynote talk with Jay Tucker, chief marketing officer and interim executive director, Institute of Technology Management at USC Marshall. “It’s the gold rush all over again.”

Emerging distribution channels and a variety of content and outlets will continue, but the skills needed to succeed in the executive ranks of entertainment have remained fairly constant, he said.

“Once you get into the marketplace, what it fundamentally comes down to is relationships,” said Rosenblum, who spent close to 30 years as a Warner Bros. executive before founding the TV division of Legendary Pictures last year. “I’m now over 50 years old and the people I deal with today are the same people I dealt with 20-25 years ago. We’ve all treated each other fairly and with respect, and we can pick up the phone and make a deal quickly because nobody ever lied; we all had our ethics about us. Your relationships, your reputation, the reputation of the place you work, the culture of the place you work are all instrumental in effectively getting business deals done.”

Sometimes the tendency for large studios to organize divisions in separate silos can led to promising properties being developed.

Lionsgate, following its merger with Summit Entertainment in 2012, has maintained a level of fluidity between its movie and television divisions that have allowed them to shepherd major movie enterprises like "The Hunger Game" and smaller screen ventures like "Orange is the New Black," which has become a hit streaming series on Netflix.

Mark Young, who teaches the class, “Management and Organization of the Creative Industries,” spoke to Kevin Beggs, chairman of Lionsgate Television Group, and Rob Friedman, co-chairman of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, about how they created and maintain their development process during the conference's opening keynote "The Innovative Landscape of Entertainment.

Discussions also touched on how audiences, through the use of social media, are exerting more influence on the popularity and even the selection of content, with Amazon Prime, for one, allowing subscribers to vote on pilots they would like developed into series. This empowered audience continues to select how and when they want to view entertainment and on what devices.

Major sports events, like the Super Bowl, still have the power to draw a large, varied audience during a specific time period. Yet, there are substantial challenges even with this lucrative draw, which sports entertainment executives outlined during a panel moderated by David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at Marshall.

The rise in ticket prices, increase in the quality of at-home entertainment and possibility of “de-bundling” cable—which would allow consumers to pick stations on an a la carte basis—are also threats that those in the C-suite must keep in mind. Michael Cooper, vice president, distribution marketing for FOX Networks, said the move may end up costing consumers more and make sustaining less popular shows impossible as stations would need verifiable hits to remain profitable.

The barriers to entry may never have been lower given the surge in new companies, business and production models—a point touched on by several talent and corporate executives—but strong interpersonal skills are still crucial, said Bruce Richmond, executive vice president, West Coast Production, HBO, during the panel “Creating Content for Modern Day Audiences.”

“Interpersonal skills become the biggest thing today. Teams of people need the ability to come together as a group and get their goal conquered. A huge part of what a good company can do to stay relevant is to continue to innovate themselves by working on their interpersonal skills throughout the company, which is tough. At the end of the day, you want a big company to act like an entrepreneurial company for it to continue to be successful,” said Rosenblum. “You can learn all the corporate finance and that is incredibly helpful, but the people who continue to surf around the company on the corporate side are good at bringing people together and are altruistic in a way. Corporate altruism is a term you don’t usually hear, but it works internally in a company well and it’s something we focus a lot on.”

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.