Four experts in the field of entertainment content acquisition can agree on one thing: The expanding universe of new streaming platforms competing for content means it’s a seller’s market in today’s Hollywood.
However, in a spirited discussion during TheGrill: Focus on Streaming moderated by TheWrap’s senior business reporter Diane Haithman, FilmRise head of acquisitions Max Einhorn argued that the bigger the streaming universe gets, the more confusing it becomes for both the buyer and the seller.
“The evolution of the continued proliferation of streaming is an amazing thing,” he said. “And if you are a network or a major studio, you are probably freaking out right now and have been over the past handful of years.”
Einhorn added that the consumer is in the driver’s seat in today’s streaming landscape. As a result, content creators as well as delivery platforms are trying to pivot “in a whole new direction to keep up with consumer demand, and what their new behaviors are, because … consumers are really driving what content works, and what streaming platforms are going to work,” he said,
Jeff Clanagan, CEO of Laugh Out Loud, Kevin Hart’s global comedy brand and multiplatform network, said that free, ad-supported (AVOD) streaming platforms — nicknamed FAST networks — are the rising star in streaming. Clanagan, who also serves as president of Hart’s media and technology company HartBeat Productions, said the company pivoted to that market about two years ago “and it was probably the best decision I made, from a company standpoint, because that segment of streaming really blew up.”
While AVOD platforms such as Pluto TV or Peacock have primarily been fueled by licensed content, Clanagan said, now they are starting to fund their own content. “We saw it as a blue ocean in terms of opportunity,” he said. As a producer, he argued, “now you don’t have to necessarily run to Netflix, Apple+ or HBO Max.”
While new streaming services allow more options for content creators, Alexis Galfas, head of tracking and acquisition for Cinetic Media, and Fenton Bailey, co-founder of World of Wonder and EP of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” worried that the recent consolidation of entertainment giants — including the Amazon’s planned acquisition of MGM and the upcoming merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia — will make it that much harder for independent voices to find a home.
“It’s been interesting from a sales perspective,” Galfas said. “It is a little bit of an arms race between these bigger players. And one of the things that I’ve been thinking more about is, how do emerging filmmakers and people with new projects establish themselves in this? What we’re seeing with these bigger streamers being so competitive, they are constantly working with established filmmakers who had a track record, who they know can deliver a product. The harder thing is newer filmmakers who are trying to get their foot in the door.”
Bailey said that consolidation is more likely to silence innovative voices than to create them, even while introducing new streaming platforms. Scripted and unscripted TV content, film, news and sports are “just disappearing into this giant hole of these massive entities,” he said. “I think the opportunity for independent spirits is to be their own streamer, and do their own thing. I just always have come from a punk place of, just do it.”
Added Fenton, “That’s why we launched our own subscription network (WOW Presents Plus) and it’s doing great, it has it’s own DNA…I think the real opportunities are on the edges, which is actually, when you think about it, where they’ve always been.”
For more of this panel, watch the video above.
About TheGrill Series:
For over a decade, TheWrap’s Grill event series has led the conversation on the convergence between entertainment, media and technology, bringing together newsmakers to debate the challenges and opportunities facing content in the digital age.
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