Recently I was asked to present a point of view on the ‘Future of Entertainment’ to a well known entertainment company. This is an incredibly broad topic as you could argue that entertainment is pretty much anything and everything these days. However there are some key trends that are emerging that are consistent across a range of entertainment including music, film, television and gaming. One important theme is data.


If you look at this snapshot of the social TV ecosystem you can see just how many companies are trying to capitalise on the idea of analysing, measuring and storing data about how people spend their time.

Social TV Ecosystem

From start ups to established broadcasters such as the BBC, content discovery and curation are fundamental problems that many in the entertainment industry are trying to solve in order to reach audiences and create engagement with the products and services they offer. Data plays a huge part in solving this problem. If a company knows what your interests and habits are they can create experiences that are more targeted by filtering and curating content in clever ways.

Data is also beginning to influence how content is produced. The recent remake of House of Cards is an example of how Netflix knew that the series would be a hit because of the data they gleaned from their subscribers. They were able to see that they had many fans of Kevin Spacey, political thrillers, David Finch and that the old series was proving to be popular. By layering this data on top of each other they could see that a remake could be a potential hit.

However, data alone is not going to make a successful app or service. The human touch is still important. YouTube is a perfect example of this, where the direct and intimate connection content makers have with their audience is has been key to its success and differentiates itself from how traditional TV programmes are made. This quote from the article “YouTube superstars: the generation taking on TV – and winning” in the Guardian sums it up well:

“One thing that’s completely different is that a lot of creators involve their audience in the creative process,” says Sara Mormino, director of YouTube content operations in Europe. “So they ask the audience questions, they ask them to comment and they are also able to look at the stats of exactly who is watching. They understand where the audience has spent most of their time, which videos they like and dislike most, and then adapt their content. I don’t see that happening a lot in TV.”

The BBC have already recognised the huge potential of this type of content creation, not only to find new talent but also attract new audiences. The fact that YouTube stars Dan and Phil have been given their own slot on Radio 1 is an example of how serious the BBC are about this. Their YouTube channels has millions of viewers and a loyal following that fits well with the target audience that Radio 1 are aiming to attract – 15-25 year olds, tech savvy, love social media, who watch and listen to a range of content across different platforms. The fact that Dan and Phil produce content with the internet in mind is what makes them unique from other shows and the key factor that will help Radio 1 to stay relavent to their target audience and evolve in the future.

YouTube stars and Radio 1 presenters Dan and Phil

Personalised entertainment entertainment experiences are becoming increasingly more and more complex but vitally important given how much more demanding audiences are and how much choice is available to them. People are moving between devices a lot more now and the services they access for entertainment are also becoming a lot more diverse.

What’s missing is a way to connect all these things up. Currently YouTube knows what I watch and Spotify knows what I listen to but there isn’t one place that actually brings this data together to create one entertainment profile and provides a method of recommending content based on the device, context and my overall interests at that time.

Here’s a quick sketch of how this idea might be expressed with data stored and accessed from various services on the left and then stored in one central space that devices can access and then provide a personalised experience.

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Another potential idea is by thinking how data around a specific interest or passion can influence my experience of entertainment across multiple platforms and media types. If for example I’m trying to lose weight, the data that tracks my progress can be used to recommend specific tv programmes, my choice of music when I go out for a run and even influence my experience of a video game (the number of calories I burn influence my leaderboard position or my avatar in the game for example).

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Fitness as a concept to prototype works well because of the numerous apps that are available to track performance and weight loss and often it becomes an all consuming activity that people enjoy reading up on it, watching YouTube content, sharing on forums, listening to podcasts etc.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, entertainment is very broad. It’s a whole industry that is currently having to rethink itself and data is only one of many factors that are shaping its future.