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A blockbuster year in media with many plot twists

A blockbuster year in media with many plot twists



Everything has changed in the media landscape in the aftermath of the Hollywood strikes that united writers and actors last year. The result is 2024 will see the emergence of new business models, AI embedded in the creative process and the emergence of new centres of production.

Despite the disruption caused to release schedules by industrial action, cinema chains had a relatively good year, albeit as a result of a big bump in revenues in the summer with the much-hyped releases of Barbie and Oppenheimer.

The lack of a “Barbenheimer” blockbuster effect in 2024 means cinema groups are facing a year of stagnant or falling audiences and financial pressure will continue to mount on many movie theatre chains.

In recent years, filmmakers have been able to make up for losses in cinema revenue by striking distribution deals with streamers. The streaming market has been booming since the early days of Covid lockdown and has attracted a large number of new entrants taking on the established order, led by Netflix.

However, the streaming universe is now both crowded and fragmented. In fact, around of the main 100 streamers have fewer than 5 million subscribers.

It seems unlikely there is enough room for all of these services so consolidation looks inevitable in 2024. In short, streaming is a sector where I expect to see a lot of M&A activity.

We will probably see a lot of deals in advertising as well. The sector had a very tough year in 2023 and there are now two schools of thought as to how this year will play out.

The pessimistic view is that the ongoing effects of global economic uncertainty coupled with the conflicts in Ukraine and Middle East will convince advertisers to keep a lid on marketing budgets.

On a more positive note, there will be elections in 50 countries this year, a summer Olympics in Paris and the European Football Championship – all typically huge magnets for advertising.

In this more positive scenario, these major events will drive a strong bounce-back of the whole industry. As a natural optimist, I am swayed by these arguments.

During the Hollywood strikes of 2023 there was a lot of talk about the impact of AI on the film and television industry. Now that the strikes have been settled, I suspect that the level of noise will decrease but AI is now embedded in the creative process and will continue to develop both in its scope and scale.

Another unexpected outcome of the writers’ and actors’ strikes has been to shine a spotlight on Hollywood as the acknowledged epicentre of filmmaking.

Producers had to find new non-US locations to complete projects in the second half of last year and realised that California is an expensive place to make movies with many restrictive working practices.

With AI able to recreate any location in the world, other cheaper production hubs have been winning a bigger share of production work. Mexico has all the necessary skills, the border is only 140 miles from Hollywood and production costs are 30% lower.

In the UK, four new production facilities will come on stream around London, while other European countries offer attractive tax breaks and have extremely good facilities.

However, the surprises might be South Korea and Saudi Arabia. The rise of K-Pop has fuelled interest in Seoul’s tech-driven creative base while media is another industry where Saudi oil money will be used to woo producers. Around $50 billion is being invested in cultural projects, including a vast digital media hub called Neom.

So even without the next Barbie movie, it is going to be a blockbuster year with lots of plot twists.

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