Production Outlook: Striving For 2020 Vision
New developments, opportunities cited by industry execs

Do you want your Olympics coverage and other exclusive entertainment fare with ads or not? If the latter, pay a bit more per month for NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service which rolls out wide in July (it launches in April for Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex customers). While there’s a free version of Peacock, the premium offering will cost $5 with ads and $10 without per month.

And/or are you willing to pay for quick bites of entertainment content on Quibi--tailor made for mobile smartphone consumption, with installments collectively telling ambitious, potentially engrossing stories? Tapping into an ad-supported Quibi--which debuts in April--will cost viewers $5 a month as compared to $8 for an ad-free version.

Founded by former Disney studios chief and DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and helmed by former Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman, Quibi has made a significant initial ad splash. Quibi has reportedly sold out its $150 million first-year advertising slots to blue-chip companies including Procter & Gamble, Anheuser-Busch, General Mills, Google, T-Mobile and Walmart. Ads will appear before shows and aren’t skippable.

The sponsor-supported component of the Quibi business model calls for pre-roll ads ranging from six to 15 seconds. Brands for example could tell a 60-second story in six 10-second segments. Quibi users can follow the brand stories before viewing their selected videos. 

At last year’s Produced By confab in L.A. held by the Producers Guild, Whitman said that like the Quibi programming itself, brand stories can be told in chapters, with viewers having the option to “tap to binge,” seeing all the sponsor chapters at once. Each chapter would have to work as a stand-alone piece yet collectively come together effectively, for instance, as a minute-long film. Whitman also sees the potential for the platform to showcase longer-form sponsor fare, citing as an example work like the heartwarming Elton John Xmas ad for John Lewis from adam&eveDDB, London, that simply delivers the message, “Some gifts are more than just a gift.” Whitman observed that longer stories like this conveying brand values--sans any hard sell--would be viable sponsor content on Quibi, reaching a coveted demographic.

Whitman said that Quibi takes full advantage of the mobile dynamic which has put “a TV in everyone’s pocket.” Beyond the entertainment content prospects for that pocket TV, Quibi will also give advertisers, contended Whitman, a new way to tell their stories.

Peacock and Quibi are symptomatic of an evolving media landscape, one that can blend art and commerce, advertising and entertainment, carrying implications and applications for the production and post communities at large--as does the evolution of branded entertainment on big and small screens alike.

Suffice it to say that 2020 will have its share of new frontier opportunities. What will gain traction or fall by the wayside, though, is anybody’s guess.

At the same time, there’s the ongoing revolution calling for diversity and inclusion so that more voices can be heard to provide a fuller spectrum of storytelling--on both conventional and still developing platforms.

Projecting what the new year will bring, aka 2020 vision, can yield clarity as well as confusion. Searching for more of the former, SHOOT surveyed a cross-section of production and post folks to get their read on what’s in store this year. And despite a society seemingly marked--or is that marred--by polarization and divisiveness, a definite chord of optimism was struck by respondents who believe in the power of storytelling to evoke empathy, are advocates of inclusion, and see the glass as half-full with the potential for opportunity to spill over the brim.

Ali Brown, partner/executive producer at PRETTYBIRD, shared news of its launching a company called Ventureland “devoted to the creation and development of original IP extending from traditional film and television to brands. We want to be able to support the cross-pollination of artists and acceleration of ideas without being limited by platform or distribution method. It’s exciting to bring something to life that can serve our filmmakers and partners equally--to build a playground devoted solely to creation.”

Luke Ricci, president and executive producer at Bullitt, related, “In my crystal ball I see the advertising and production industries in a state of complete disruption that will continue to change at warp speed; everything is in massive upheaval and it’s never been more exciting. What I see is a major shakedown coming from clients and trickling down through agencies and into production companies that will radically transform the industry. But from chaos and disruption comes opportunity. I see the future industry leaders harnessing the energy of new partnerships, unexpected collaborations, and unique ways of working for the sake of compelling and innovative content. The expansion of platforms offers access points and greater input opportunities from content creators to connect with audiences which will shape brand and partner relationships in surprising and compelling ways.”

Loretta Jeneski, founder/executive producer, Nonfiction Unlimited, addressed the issues of companies being responsible for promoting diversity, equality and equity. “As a woman-owned and founded company, fairness isn’t just a concept, it’s part of who we are and how we act in everything we do. It’s keeping parity and kindness top of mind from the office to the directors’ roster to the set. It’s not a ‘policy’--it’s part of our DNA.”

Survey
For this first installment of our two-part Production & Post Outlook Survey, SHOOT posed the following questions to industry execs:

  1. What’s the most relevant business and/or creative lesson you learned in 2019 and how will you apply it to 2020? 
  2. Gazing into your crystal ball, what do you envision for the industry--creatively speaking or from a business standpoint--in 2020? 
  3. What are your goals, creatively speaking and/or from a business standpoint, for your company in 2020? 
  4. Tell us about one current project you are working on in early 2020.
  5. Gender pay disparity, sexual misconduct and the need for diversity are issues that have started to be dealt with meaningfully. While there have been industry-wide strides to address those issues, there’s still a long way to go. What policies do you have in place or plan to implement or step up in 2020 to ensure racial and gender diversity, pay equality and a safe/inclusive work environment for everyone in your company? 
  6. Does your company have plans for any major expansion/investment in technology/diversification in 2020 and if so, what? How will this investment or diversification add value to the services you offer to your clients?

Here's the feedback we received:

Name Title Company
Ali Brown Partner/Executive Producer PRETTYBIRD
Carter Collins Partner, Executive Producer Bindery
Jon Grover Editor/Partner Cut+Run
Leslie Harro Partner | Executive Producer Havoc Content
Loretta Jeneski / LJ Founder / Exec Producer Nonfiction Unlimited
Patrick Ortman Founder Pluck. (A creative studio)
Luke Ricci President & Executive Producer Bullitt

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