The Evolution of Entertainment Design Innovation

For much of recorded history, humans have paid to be entertained. From Greek amphitheatres, to Roman gladiatorial combat, to middle age jousts, to Disneyland.

Yet up until the late 1970’s, there was no concept of a unified “entertainment industry”. There was Hollywood, Nashville, geeky enthusiasts tinkering with early video games, the coin-op arcade industry, and stodgy book publishers in London. Each of these existed largely in isolation from one another.

Design Innovation

Nobel Prize & Turing Award winner Herbert A. Simon, foreshadowed the convergence to the modern entertainment industry as early as 1969 when he wrote:

“When we speak of an information-rich world, we may expect that the wealth of information means a dearth of something else — a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Today, the best entertainment companies are catching on to the key ramifications of this: that every segment of the industry competes with each other segment.

If one deconstructs what it takes to design successful entertainment Innovation, one of the biggest risk factors is in storytelling. Will there be an audience that wants to hear it?

Companies like Disney de-risk storytelling by viewing intellectual property (IP) as a standalone “thing” that can be manifested across many creative segments, from film to theme parks, to video games. With exceptional technical and execution abilities across different mediums, once an IP proves to resonate in one channel, it can then be delivered across many others.

Design Innovation

Some channels are there to grab attention, at low profit margins, while other channels allow that attention to be monetised.

A clear example of this in action is today’s music industry. The margins artists make from OTT streaming services and recorded music are thin. But the attention garnered, and fan bases built over many years, are monetised through live performance and merchandise licensing.

It may surprise some that the top-earning music artists of 2018 included Metallica, Guns n’ Roses, Roger Waters and Billy Joel. But it shouldn’t be such, if understood from the context that music isn’t a single-channel industry, measured by the Spotify charts.

Henry Jenkins III, formerly Professor of New Media Studies at MIT, takes this multi-channel thinking further with his concepts of transmedia storytelling & participatory culture. He argues that the best entertainment innovation has a kind of shared authorship between the storytellers and the listeners.

Unfortunately, too many great IP’s in 2019 still exist in the siloed industry thinking of the 1970’s, and at best have a merchandise licensing strategy added as an afterthought by the “bean counters”, rather than by the creators.

To learn more about how multi-channel design innovation can change how you think about your intellectual property, please contact us for a chat.