The next phase of entertainment is all about community, with new decentralised tools putting the power to decide tomorrow’s stars firmly in the hands of the people. Here TikTok ANZ general manager Brett Armstrong explores how the evolution of streaming services has led people to expect more from their entertainment providers.
Remember when a major change to the entertainment landscape meant a popular presenter moving to a new network, or taking a chance on a ‘daring’ new show format? TV was everything, because there wasn’t anything else.
Then there was. Streaming services came along and fundamentally changed the game – creating new ways to watch and giving anyone with a decent internet connection access to massive libraries of content at their leisure.
Appointment to view was out, bingeing was the new black.
Streaming is now reaching maturity. Netflix’s recent announcement it will take advertising alongside the likes of Disney+ and TV networks’ massive efforts to reshape the models and libraries shows this behaviour is now mainstream, and prime time.
While these announcements are what preoccupy many pundits they also draw attention away from a trend that has been coming for a long time – the real personalisation of entertainment.
Streaming services changed the game, with massively deep pockets these giants were able to create programming on a global scale that started to represent communities who had never previously seen themselves in mainstream media.
Take something like Squid Game which could have been a niche show but was exposed to a global audience and then amplified through fan content on platforms like TikTok. This resulted in an entire community making fan edits and art, cooking dalgona candy, creating dance routines and makeup transitions. It took on a global life of its own which meant something different for so many communities.
Put simply, audience expectations changed. Rapidly. They started to find their own identity in their entertainment choices, and in the time and devices that suited them.
More than that, the proliferation of media has required more sophisticated means of understanding what audiences will like and engage with. Choice paralysis is real, so people need a filter to help them find things they’re likely to enjoy the most, quickly.
In short, our media is finding us now. This is a genie that won’t go back in the bottle.
So, where is it headed? If we borrow that genie’s crystal ball (am I mixing metaphors?), what we see is more people being empowered by this newfound sense of identity and community, to go out and create for themselves.
Decentralisation is a massive movement at the moment – put simply, it means people are able to bypass the traditional ways or institutions which have acted as gatekeepers across a range of industries and start doing things for themselves.
And this decentralisation is empowering new creators to utilise the technology we have in our pockets, and go out and make things they, and their communities, are interested in. In fact 76 percent of users say they feel anyone can be heard and followed on TikTok. I wonder how many of us felt like we could make a hit TV show?
Mobile phones are enabling both the creation of entertainment content and also the distribution of it.
Because when you really drill down on it, TikTok is an entertainment platform – it’s built on a content graph, not a social graph. All the classic elements are there. A diverse range of programming, from comedy to drama, food, travel, reality (so much reality) and much more besides.
This depth of content is only possible because of decentralisation; creators now have the tools both on their phones and on the platform to make things that inspire them. Even Netflix isn’t going to create a series featuring chiropractors adjusting people’s spines or the hilarious antics of tradies on the job – but they’re something which attracts millions of views every day.
But these creators are also increasingly seen as celebrities in their own communities – only they’re approachable and real people who have an actual relationship with the audience, and therefore a greater affinity with them. In fact our research shows 67 percent of TikTok users say creator videos feel real. There’s a connection which hasn’t existed with the celebrities of the bigger screens.
Take the example of Nich Richie, a non-binary Torres Straight Islander person who grew up away from their culture, but started to dicover their roots and history after downloading TikTok and seeing content about it. They are now a creator in their own right, boasting more than 74,100 followers on their channel. It’s the kind of connection other platforms couldn’t create.
Whilst this all has profound implications for our entertainment choices, it has as big an impact on how we think about marketing into the future. People are increasingly voting with their attention, moving their affinity to platforms where they have more control and easy access to the good stuff.
As Netflix has signalled, advertising is going to be a crucial source of funding into the future for entertainment businesses. You can guarantee there won’t be interruptive 30-second spots, but something altogether more integrated and subtle.
And just like how there won’t be one way to tame the marketing beast – creators will definitely have a major part to play for platforms like TikTok, with their community trust and influence becoming major conduits for more brands to communicate.
Across all these platforms commerce is going to be more linked and more streamlined – the beauty of digital is the ability to inspire people to buy in that moment and then follow through with the click of a remote or tap on a screen.
Of course there’s still going to be a place for mass entertainment moments – but even these will now be experienced in a more diverse set of ways through digital channels, with unique takes from interested communities.
Choice is the new watchword in entertainment, and people are already switching their attention to what they want to spend time consuming. You know it’s true, because you’re already doing it too.
Welcome to the brave new world of entertainment. As it turns out it’s been here for a while, you just might not have thought about it like this yet.
Brett Armstrong is the general manager of TikTok ANZ.