Emerging Technologies

6 ways AI could disrupt the entertainment industry

Hollywood is concerned about the potential influence of AI on their industry.

Hollywood is concerned about the potential influence of AI on their industry. Image: Unsplash/Vincentas Liskauskas

Cathy Li
Head, AI, Data and Metaverse; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
Minos Bantourakis
Head of Media, Entertainment and Sport Industry, World Economic Forum
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  • Actors and writers in Hollywood are striking over concerns about the impact technological paradigm shifts will have on their industry.
  • The exponential development of AI raises concern as the technology has the power to create synthetic voices and avatars that mimic actors.
  • The World Economic Forum’s AI Governance Alliance has been launched to encourage collaboration around the responsible design and release of AI systems.

Indiana Jones – AKA Harrison Ford – is 81. Yet for a significant chunk of the 2023 iteration of the franchise, he looks a good 40 years younger.

This feat of cinematic engineering was achieved in part by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning and is an example of just one of the reasons Hollywood is worried about the potential impact of AI technology on their industry.

Actors and screenwriters in Hollywood are together on strike. The last time this happened was in 1960 following the rise of TV. As in 1960, the key reasons for the ongoing strike are technological disruptions and their potential impacts on the media industry: the advent of streaming and the exponential development of AI.

Some of the biggest names in the business are currently on strike, joining screenwriters on the picket lines over concerns about pay, working conditions and the use of AI.

Hollywood might make you think of the world's biggest film stars, but there are huge numbers of people behind the camera, who are concerned about how their day-to-day tasks, and indeed livelihoods, could be significantly impacted by AI. Others see opportunities, with the technology freeing them up from menial tasks and allowing them to focus on creativity and innovation. This tension between risks and opportunities is familiar in many industries.

As these technologies become mainstream many industries are still working out where they can best be put to use, the potential they offer, and how roles will evolve via automation and augmentation.

The development of AI technologies is posing fundamental challenges to the current approach to intellectual property rights. A key area of debate between creators and artists, studios, and technology companies regards what is considered ‘fair use’ of content for the purpose of training AI models, with implications on remuneration for content. Creators are already moving ahead with legal actions against technological providers, and this debate is just at the onset. Another area of discussion is how outputs of AI models should be treated in terms of intellectual property and copyright.

Here are six ways the technology could disrupt the entertainment industry.

1. Digital avatars

A growing number of start-ups are betting on the future of AI-generated avatars, or “digital humans”. These avatars could be used to rapidly create promotional or educational content from a plain text script, for example. It also means videos can be easily updated. And the person speaking can be tailored to the audience, ensuring the content is diverse and inclusive.

The technology is also stretching the bounds of the possible. Despite dying in a car crash in 1955, actor James Dean is being brought back to life by technology to walk and talk alongside real-life actors in a new film.


How is the World Economic Forum ensuring the responsible use of technology?

2. Synthetic voice

The internet is already full of celebrity voice generators, which allow you to replicate the sounds of everyone from Donald Trump to Taylor Swift, saying pretty much anything you might like.

Unsurprisingly, there have also been several examples of deepfake versions of several celebrities, using cloned voices to make speeches they haven’t made. And voice-over artists in particular are concerned about the growing sophistication of this technology, with copyright law in this area still murky.

But there are also positive use cases for the technology. After surgery for throat cancer, actor Val Kilmer used AI to digitally recreate his lost voice for the film Top Gun: Maverick. And Paramount Pictures even promoted the sixth iteration of its Scream franchise by allowing fans to get an AI-generated personalized call using the iconic quote to ask them if they “like scary movies”.

Statistic illustrating the amount of money companies in the United States saved by using AI.
Some companies estimate they have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars since introducing ChatGPT to their workflow. Image: Statista

3. AI-generated scripts

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) wants to restrict the use of AI writing in film and TV scripts. The members have two core concerns: "We don't want our material feeding them, and we also don't want to be fixing their sloppy first drafts," says screenwriter John August, a member of the WGA negotiating committee.

If existing scripts are used to train AI, that could be intellectual property theft, writers argue.

However, for studios, using generative AI could help boost profitability, which is a particular concern for streaming businesses.

The World Economic Forum identifies generative AI in its Top Ten Emerging Technologies of 2023 report, noting that systems like ChatGPT can “increase productivity and improve output quality, restructuring human tasks towards idea generation and editing as opposed to rough drafting”.

Statistic illustrating the most common tasks that employees in the United States complete using AI.
Writing code, copywriting and customer support are among the most common uses for ChatGPT. Image: Statista

4. AI-generated visuals

The 1993 film Jurassic Park used pioneering CGI (computer-generated imagery) to scare audiences as dinosaurs were brought to life for the first time. Now it looks dated and less impressive – it is incredible how far image-generating technology has come since then.

A new AI application called Showrunner demonstrates the power of AI when it comes to animation and image generation. The Simulation, the company behind the tool, has released an episode of South Park based on the Hollywood strike. The episode was created using existing South Park content to train the AI model, and from the storyline and script to the animation, voice recording and editing were entirely produced by AI.

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5. Task automation and augmentation

Like many other industries, AI offers the entertainment industry opportunities for automation and heavy lifting when it comes to repetitive or mundane tasks. It can also function as a co-pilot, augmenting the capabilities of production teams.

Already AI tools are available for video editing to significantly cut production time and therefore shrink the budget needed. It can allow teams to storyboard visual effects or bring in CGI on post-production editing.

Statistic displaying the rate of generative AI adoption in the workplace in the United States 2023, by industry.
The marketing and advertising industry are currently leading the way in adopting generative AI. Image: Statista

6. Translation

South Korea’s largest music label HYBE has used AI to release a song by artist MIDNATT in six different languages. The South Korean singer’s voice was melded with native speakers of other languages to release the song in Korean, English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese. The singer himself can only speak Korean and limited English and Chinese.

The need for public-private collaboration

Multi-stakeholder collaboration is needed to mitigate concerns and leverage opportunities arising from AI technologies developments and adoption.

The abovementioned potential uses of AI technologies show how deeply AI could transform the entertainment industry, impacting everybody from producers to consumers of content. This technological paradigm shift implies substantial impacts on business models and remuneration of stakeholders across content production and distribution, as well as on the life of workers in the industry.

The Forum has launched the AI Governance Alliance to drive multi-stakeholder action to champion the responsible design and release of transparent and inclusive AI systems. The initiative will prioritize three main areas: ensuring safe systems and technologies, promoting sustainable applications and transformation, and contributing to resilient governance and regulation.

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