Every week, I hear about another major media company increasing its hours of original content. In 2018, according to Variety, Netflix is estimated to spend $8 billion, and TechCrunch reports that Apple will invest $1 billion into the original content scene. This has created an "arms race" for original programming at traditional cable media companies. For those in the production game, all of this investment in original content should be music to our ears, but in reality, it hasn't been. How come?
Not even the largest and most successful media companies can infinitely increase output without doing one thing: reducing the budgets for each piece of content. As someone who has run a studio, I have seen firsthand that budgets continue to drop every single year. Will it stop? No. The pursuit to capture consumers' attention is a battle that will only gather momentum as the democratization of content creation and distribution continues.
Although the trend of increasing output and decreasing budgets is far from over, there are some strategic steps that production professionals can take to weather the ever-changing future of the production industry, and it involves the power of tech.
The Savior of the Production World
I realize that adopting technology into production is a scary thought. But I'd argue that technology will save us from menial tasks so we can focus on what really matters: being creative! As the owner of a media venture lab and an investor in startups, I’ve seen a lot of fascinating tech across a number of industries. What’s to come to the media industry is both awesome and wild.
First, artificial intelligence has already arrived and will continue to grow throughout the next couple of years. On set, bots will be used for various areas of production. According to IBC, AI can improve delivery workflows and enhance the viewing experience for consumers, wrapping up the production process from start to finish.
In three to five years, robotic grip trucks will infiltrate the production scene. This concept can be seen in action through 6 River Systems' robot called Chuck, according to CNBC. With the bot's ability to carry large loads to improve warehouse workers' daily grind, such capabilities could soon transition to production needs, alleviating setup and tear-down times in ways we haven't seen before.
Within the next five to seven years, production technology might eventually replace camera operators. Robotic broadcast cameras already exist, and they’ll soon be autonomously moving around. In fact, according to Digital Studio Selections, Telemetrics Inc. currently provides pans and tilt heads that execute mechanical needs through automated features, shake-proof motion, and soundless functions to help even the most space-limited production studios. This area of AI and automation has a lot of room to grow, and from what is available today, the future is sure to be exciting.
3 Ways to Prepare for the Future of Tech-Led Production
From now through 2025, the production world will evolve through the implementation of tech. But the most important changes can occur today, starting with your mindset and internal processes. Here are three steps you can take now to get ready for what's to come tomorrow and beyond:
1. Start internal audits.
Every organization should complete an annual audit of internal processes and vendors. This ensures your team is using the latest products and paying the most up-to-date prices. Investigate where bottlenecks occur within your organization, and then start hunting for tech to satisfy needs and smooth out pain points. There might already be assistive technology available. For example, every production company should utilize Slack. It’s more efficient than email and offers a growing list of digital bots that can save you time (i.e., money).
You don’t need to like technology to be a techie. But you do need to network with those who have a passion for tech. Try a quick visit to Meetup, which has more than 19 million registered users in 175 countries. While networking, let your curiosity loose. Ask questions about emerging technology in your field, ponder with others about what the future holds for production, and exchange contact info so you can all stay in the loop once new tech advances make their way into your field.
If you build your organization in a way that promotes learning and adapting, your team will naturally follow suit. Innovation is the responsibility of the entire company, so encourage employees to seek inspiration from a wide variety of sources outside of your organization. Tapping into the technological advances of other industries can spark ideas for how to transform yours. Sign up for industry newsletters, or look into receiving notifications when certain tech topics trend on Twitter. You don't need to know the ins and outs of everything, but drawing insights that fuel inspiration is key for being more open-minded for what future advancements might bring.
Ultimately, thriving in tomorrow’s production landscape will be about baking innovation into your DNA. To get ahead, start your research into how emerging technology can help you in the vital areas of audits, collaboration, and innovation.