• COVID-19 has been the moment for media, entertainment and platform companies to step up to their mission to inform, educate and entertain.
  • The current environment has accelerated trends that were in view a few years ago.
  • There is an imperative to revisit long-held assumptions, to rebuild, redesign and reprioritize to create a more trusted, prosperous, resilient, and equitable industry.

The first half of 2020 has put a spotlight on the business of information and entertainment. The world has turned to media, entertainment and platform companies and the industry has been challenged. Digital consumption is way up, advertising is way down. Traditional media is under pressure, trust is under siege. Teams are collaborating remotely, companies are collaborating sporadically. Is the future ‘business as usual’ or can this be a catalyst for the industry to reset, and to build back better?

A common refrain in recent conversations with industry executives is that existing trends have accelerated, with three years of changes in three months. To test that, let’s go back to this piece from January 2016, authored by Accenture’s then-CEO, the late Pierre Nanterme.

“We are seeing the Fourth Industrial Revolution emerge in a series of waves: the digital consumer, who enjoys more interactive and personalized experiences thanks to SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) technologies; the digital enterprise, which leverages SMAC technologies to optimize the cost of corporate functions and to transform enterprise collaboration for greater productivity; and the emerging digital operations wave.” He goes on, “Turning to society, the implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are profound - from saving lives … to better stewardship of the environment.”

Each of these trends clearly resonates today. But to what extent can they be more than an acceleration, and become a turning point?

As COVID-19 shaped 2020, the digital consumer worldwide has embraced the services on offer. Average time spent with digital media in 2020 is expected to grow 11.9% in the US, 11.1% in Germany, and 9.5% in China, relative to 2019.

The leading digital enterprises have adapted quickly to remote working and remote production and are finding value that was previously hidden. Ree Drummond hosts Discovery Channel’s The Pioneer Woman from home. Discovery found it was able to shoot remote episodes of the show at 10-20% of the typical cost, while the new authenticity of digital content beamed directly from presenter’s home to yours is resonating and blurring boundaries with creators on social media platforms.

The shift to digital and direct-to-consumer, and the financial pressures on the industry, make closer scrutiny of investment and outcomes unavoidable. In a May 2020 ISBA report, 15 advertisers used 300 distinct supply chains to reach 12 publishers and, of total advertiser spend, the publisher received only 51%.

The ecosystem will need to scrutinize where the value lies in the 49%.

For those who are measuring, analyzing and optimizing, 2020 is creating a natural experiment that allows them to pause, re-evaluate and rebuild marketing strategies, as some media and entertainment categories hibernate and others flourish, and marketing technology enables micro-targeting, deeper digital relationships and a focus on lifetime value.

For society, the life-threatening implications of misinformation during the pandemic and the long overdue drive to action on anti-racism have intensified the need to purposefully build consumer trust and a brand-safe environment for advertisers. Trust will require advances in policy, transparency and collaboration through initiatives like the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), which seeks to demonetize harmful content.

It will rely on a reinvented ability to execute, where digital operations use applied intelligence and human oversight to keep pace with the growth in volume and the continued innovation of bad actors, from misinformation and harmful content to increasingly sophisticated cyberthreats. And, it will require relentless action to reflect the diversity of society. Marian Wright Edelman, the American activist for children's rights wrote, “you can’t be what you can’t see” and, while 60% of the US population today is white, minorities make up only 13% of film directors, 22% of TV scripted actors, and 10% of creators of scripted shows.

The imperative to provide greater stewardship is not isolated to COVID-19 or any other single issue. The UN Global Compact (UNGC) asserted that “the impact of the pandemic has starkly demonstrated that failure to address one crisis increases the magnitude and intensity of others”.

While 77% of media CEOs recognize the critical role business could play in contributing to the delivery of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, only 13% of Media CEOs believe business is actually playing that role. At the same time, 59% of consumers surveyed in May 2020 said they will avoid brands that are not demonstrating progress against goals that impact our society and planet.

Analysis conducted by the World Economic Forum and Accenture of more than 2,500 companies found that top leadership teams (who, on average, earn their companies 3.1% higher operating profits) exhibit five elements of responsible leadership.

This has been the moment for media, entertainment and platform companies to step up to their mission to inform, educate and entertain. The current environment has undoubtedly accelerated trends that were in view four years ago. But more than that, what has come into sharper focus is the imperative to revisit long-held assumptions, to rebuild, redesign and reprioritize to create a more trusted, prosperous, resilient, and equitable industry.

It will widen the gulf between those who have embraced digital transformation and social responsibility and those who have not. Just as importantly, it is a test of leadership both at an industry level, where collective responsibility and accountability will set the industry on a firmer footing, and at an individual level, where the blueprint for industry leaders is evolving to encompass agility, impact, responsibility, and authenticity.

The World Economic Forum and Accenture recently published the second in a series of papers examining change in the media, entertainment and culture industry. “Building Back Better – An Action Plan for the Media, Entertainment, and Culture Industry” focuses on building back better, across four themes:

1. Creating a stronger media ecosystem across content creation, distribution and consumption

2. Accelerating digital transformation to drive innovation

3. Adapting the workforce and ways of working to support the next phase of industry growth

4. Supporting responsible business through global sustainable development goals (SDGs)