If content is king, 2019 gave us a peak at their ever-expanding kingdom.  We’re in the midst of a massive shift in the content landscape and entertainment industry as a whole.  With the launch of Apple TV+ and Disney+ to name a couple, the daunting task of keeping up with the latest shows and films has become close to impossible.  2020 will introduce us to even more options from the likes of Peacock, HBOMax and Quibi to name a few.  There’s a hunger for content and originality and in order to rise from the clutter as the streaming wars heat up.   New and diverse voices continue to rise, while reboots and proven IP populate many studio slates as key pillars in their release strategy.  Our options have never been greater and storytelling has never been so damn good.

Streaming TV Embraces New and Diverse Voices

Great storytelling transcends borders and has firmly positioned itself as a universal language.  With billions of dollars being invested into original content and consumers spanning the globe, the seismic shift created by streaming TV has created an opportunity for new voices and faces behind and in front of the camera.  Without the pressure of box office numbers, ratings and instant success, the landscape and need for original content has broadened the shows and films greenlit. 

Streaming giants like Netflix cater to a global audience which necessitates content investments from various parts of the world.  Since 2018, Netflix’s investments in Asian content has continued to rise.  Meanwhile, the Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos reported that more than half of the Asian content hours viewed on Netflix comes from outside of the APAC region.  This highlights the global nature of streaming audiences and shows us that no matter whose point of view we show, what race or culture our hero comes from, relatable stories transcend international borders. 

The cast from the Korean film Parasite

Films bound for streaming have also garnered international appeal.  Early this year, Parasite became the first foreign film to win Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at this year’s SAG awards.  A Korean film starring all Korean actors, most of whom are unknown to US audiences, took home the honor against household names like Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and more.  This will have an immediate effect on not just the cast and filmmakers involved in this project, but encourage an entire race who has traditionally been underrepresented in Hollywood.  The sheer scale of content investment, while overwhelming at times, is providing opportunity for new projects that reflect the world we live in – one full of diversity, complexity, but most importantly, great stories we can all relate to.

Theatrical Film Doubles Down on the Franchise

With more niche stories and more options giving people reasons to stay home, the projects major studios greenlight has become even more selective.  Franchise, superhero films, and reboots of existing IP have a proven track record of getting butts in seats with built-in fan bases from previous releases or alternative IP.  While there are no such things as a sure bet, this at least tips the scales. 

The numbers don’t lie… in 2019, the top ten highest grossing theatrical films were all either reboots, sequels or superhero franchises with The Walt Disney Company securing seven out of those ten alone.  2020 will be no different, with movies like Top Gun Maverick, Coming to America 2, Mulan, Fantasy Island, West Side Story, Home Alone, Grease, Bill & Ted Face the Music, and Tom and Jerry coming to the big screen.  With content literally at our fingertips, there is an abundance of new generations finding older shows and films for the first time. Known IP allows studios to get the nostalgia from the original generation while introducing a new generation to IP for the very first time. 

A fragmented media ecosystem means content lives forever and hits a whole new generation of fans time and time again.  The finale episode of “Friends” aired over 15 years ago and the series remains one of the most binged series on Netflix.  Of course, not all reboots are treated equally, and some may land flat, but one thing is clear, it’s a strategy that has kept some studios in the black.

How Much is Too Much?  Platform Fatigue

With all that said, how much is too much?  Is cutting the cord to save money on a cable subscription, taking a new form?  While the landscape continues to expand, there is little to no sign that things will be slowing down anytime soon.  In fact, the number of streaming platforms and their investments in original content continues to rise. 

Netflix alone will increase their spend on original content in 2020 to 17.3 billion, up from 15.3 billion in 2019.   NBC’s new streaming service Peacock and AT&T’s HBO MAX are set to receive $2 billion in content investment in 2020.   Deals with marque storytellers are happening all around town with the pressure to launch buzzworthy and celebrated shows during award season are at an all-time high.  It’s a great time to have a show for sale or be a TV consumer.

Today there are over 300 streaming services available in the United States.  However, a recent Deloitte study suggests that nearly half of TV consumers are becoming frustrated with juggling multiple subscriptions.  The next year will play a big part in answering which platforms consumers adopt and which are spun off or close. 

Closing Thoughts

Today the consumer has a plethora of choice when it comes to entertainment.  Increased investments in streaming TV will continue to expand who has a voice in TV.  Studios will double down on franchises that reliably bring audiences to the theaters.  More services will spring up before consumers start feeling TV overload. 

But overall, we’ll receive more stories that allow us to disconnect, get lost, cry, laugh but more importantly, reflect the world we live in.  A world that celebrates our diversity, inclusion and our similarities, rather than our differences.  There has never been a better time to be an entertainment lover or a brand that wants to get involved in stories like these. 

Will Park is the Executive Director of Brand Integration at BEN.