- Joshua M Brown
- January 22nd, 2012
So here's the deal - there are 24 hours in the day and most people spend around two thirds of them awake and sentient. During that sixteen hours or so, we all need to eat, drink, drive, work, play, fuck and pay the bills.
Whatever's left over is for entertainment.
That remaining entertainment time is up for grabs as it hasn't been in a hundred years. Hollywood used to own that time. Hollywood convinced us we didn't need to read books anymore because it would turn those books into easily digestible 90 minute movies. It convinced us that we didn't need to read the news anymore because it would produce news as entertainment and give us each a demented news channel all our own that would perfectly replicate and affirm our own points of view. That way they could keep us tuned in every night - sitting there like fat, sweaty vegetables nodding as the talking head confirms all our biases and makes us feel like we've been right all along. That way they could sell us enough penis pills and adult diapers that by the time they were through, we wouldn't know whether it was time to get laid or to get changed.
But Hollywood and the media companies are increasingly under siege from the New Entertainment. The kind that doesn't require a $200 monthly cable bill or a $17 box office ticket to consume. You're reading this screed for free right now. You found it from a link at Facebook or Twitter - also free. When you're done reading it, you are more likely to go on clicking other stuff or playing a game online than you are to power down and turn on NBC.
Call it "social media" or "user generated" or "online networking" or whatever - this is the kind of thing we're doing when we're not working (and sometimes when we are working).
Hollywood knows this and they're scared to death - this is SOPA is actually about, not the .01% of illegally viewed episodes of Bones. Startups and internet companies also know this and they are PRESSING THEIR ADVANTAGE. When the revolution begins and becomes apparent, one doesn't sit on his porch and watch - one gets his gun off the mantle and kisses the family goodbye on his way out to the field.
Technology incubator Y Combinator wants to Kill Hollywood. Check this out:
Hollywood appears to have peaked. If it were an ordinary industry (film cameras, say, or typewriters), it could look forward to a couple decades of peaceful decline. But this is not an ordinary industry. The people who run it are so mean and so politically connected that they could do a lot of damage to civil liberties and the world economy on the way down. It would therefore be a good thing if competitors hastened their demise.
That's one reason we want to fund startups that will compete with movies and TV, but not the main reason. The main reason we want to fund such startups is not to protect the world from more SOPAs, but because SOPA brought it to our attention that Hollywood is dying. They must be dying if they're resorting to such tactics. If movies and TV were growing rapidly, that growth would take up all their attention. When a striker is fouled in the penalty area, he doesn't stop as long as he still has control of the ball; it's only when he's beaten that he turns to appeal to the ref. SOPA shows Hollywood is beaten. And yet the audiences to be captured from movies and TV are still huge. There is a lot of potential energy to be liberated there.
How do you kill the movie and TV industries? Or more precisely (since at this level, technological progress is probably predetermined) what is going to kill them? Mostly not what they like to believe is killing them, filesharing. What's going to kill movies and TV is what's already killing them: better ways to entertain people. So the best way to approach this problem is to ask yourself: what are people going to do for fun in 20 years instead of what they do now?
There will be several answers, ranging from new ways to produce and distribute shows, through new media (e.g. games) that look a lot like shows but are more interactive, to things (e.g. social sites and apps) that have little in common with movies and TV except competing with them for finite audience attention. Some of the best ideas may initially look like they're serving the movie and TV industries. Microsoft seemed like a technology supplier to IBM before eating their lunch, and Google did the same thing to Yahoo.
It would be great if what people did instead of watching shows was exercise more and spend more time with their friends and families. Maybe they will. All other things being equal, we'd prefer to hear about ideas like that. But all other things are decidedly not equal. Whatever people are going to do for fun in 20 years is probably predetermined. Winning is more a matter of discovering it than making it happen. In this respect at least, you can't push history off its course. You can, however, accelerate it.
What's the most entertaining thing you can build?
The battle for that entertainment time of ours is underway. The most formidable challenge the movie and television business has ever faced is ready to assert itself. Place your bets and join in if you're able. I know I am.
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The Reformed Broker is a blog about financial markets and the economy. Joshua Brown is a New York City-based investment advisor for high net worth individuals, charitable foundations, retirement plans and corporations... More.