By: Christopher Dean, VP & GM, Media Cloud at Salesforce
Most of us love the adrenaline and awe that comes from attending a good live event. As we all know, over the past two years, consumers have had to trade in physical events for the digital delivery of their favorite sports, concerts, movies, and stage plays. For me personally, what I’ve missed most during the pandemic is taking my son to in-person San Francisco Giants and Red Sox games, especially for opening day.
Now, as many in-person experiences return, organizations need to resist the urge to chuck all the innovative solutions and programs they rolled out during the pandemic – because they offer long-term benefits.
In entertainment, for example, Hollywood survived the pandemic by releasing major films like Black Widow, Soul and Dune to streaming services and theaters concurrently. It was a risky approach, but it turns out, most U.S. adults actually prefer that – even with a higher price tag. As a result, major studios like Warner Bros., AMC, and Disney are busy forging deals to deliver more streamed content to HBO Max, Disney+, Netflix and other services next year.
The Sound of Virtual
Innovation is booming in the music industry as well. Whereas the old model provided concert-goers with two ways to see a live performance, in a stadium or through pay-per-view (PPV) on television sets, today the options are all over the map. For example, Swedish pop legend ABBA returns to the stage next May for the first time in 40 years. However, instead of actually physically being there, Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad will send younger, digital representations of themselves for a series of shows in a 3,000-seat London arena.
Musical artists are also increasingly showing up in unexpected places like video games. Twitch, for example, has been attracting top musicians like PostMalone and Snoop Dogg who stream performances in games. Twitch, which was acquired by Amazon in 2014, hosted 91 percent of all video game streamingcontent in 2020. It has since also become an outlet for known and unknown “video game composers” to find fans and make money. And it’s a huge part of what’s being called the “creator economy,” where almost anyone with a camera, microphone, PC, and Internet connection can create their own brand and online community via digital platforms.
But, virtual content isn’t just for relaxing, it has also paid dividends for professional purposes as well. Businesses — their employees and their customers — known for sponsoring major events also stand to benefit from virtual innovation rising out of the pandemic. Salesforce’s Dreamforce 2021 this year included a live outdoor, invite-only experience for 1,000 attendees. But most of the show was broadcasted globally on Salesforce+, a new streaming service the company launched to deliver compelling live and on-demand content for every job description, industry and line of business. Salesforce+ has already attracted a huge following. One program alone, for example, the 60-episode “Leading Through Change,” has attracted 700 million views since March 2020.
What these examples demonstrate is that companies innovating during the pandemic are creating models that will stand the test of time, while making content available to the masses rather than select groups.
Enhancing Future Experiences
Despite rapid progress during the pandemic, media and content providers will need to deploy more innovation to stay competitive in the future.
For example, imagine streaming a San Francisco 49ers game at home. Instead of merely pulling up an enhanced screen with a few interesting stats, an avid football fan could put on an augmented reality (AR) headset connected to hundreds of in-stadium cameras and microphones. Suddenly, instead of viewing flat 2D images, that same fan is transported to a rich 3D world in an actual arena seat. With a turn of the head or flick of the eye, they can see the game and surroundings from any perspective and angle.
The possibilities for digitally-streamed innovation are endless.
Consider this: in the pre-pandemic world, the most exclusive events often required buying a ticket for $400 or more, driving to a stadium, paying for gasoline and parking, fighting crowds to reach a seat, paying more for concessions and spending several more hours trying to get home. But today, with so many streamed events selling for less, it’s possible to save money and avoid the hassle. And for event promoters, it’s possible to increase your audience from thousands in a stadium to millions online or through hybrid models.
What’s more, consumers can still enjoy that crowd experience by partaking in another recent trend – watch parties and “teleparties”– where friends, family and colleagues gather on digital platforms to watch a program, while sharing refreshments and conversation. Watch parties appear poised to become big business. In fact, Twitter and ViacomCBS recently inked aglobal content deal to host “Twitter Watch Parties” for Paramount+ TV shows.
More than any time in recent memory, the technology, business model, and demand all finally exist to profitably bring virtual entertainment into living rooms around the world. So, rather than taking its foot off the gas when the pandemic ebbs, the industry needs to keep racing ahead to take customer experiences – and their bottom lines – to new heights.
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