How Technology Changes the Game in Entertainment

Published on February 26, 2010

Among the many changes in the entertainment industry, companies are now tracking the trend of cloud computing that, while saving costs, also presents new security risks, said Janet Pucino, ’94, vice president and MIS governance officer for Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Cloud computing, or internet-based computing that allows users to share software, information, and resources on demand, much like a public utility, is “elastic, so as our demand increases, our user base increases,” she said; as a result, cloud-based services like software and infrastructure have become more attractive. But “gravitating toward cloud services, poses a significant security risk.”

Pucino gave a keynote speech at the TechVision 2010 conference hosted by the student-led High-Tech Group February 26 at Harper Center. The daylong event also featured several expert panels, including one that examined trends in mobile technology.

“We have to work through those issues. I know technology is evolving, but we’re very protective of our IP and our content, and we like having it on our own servers. It’s a little unnerving to know that your data is somewhere on a server farm with thousands of other clients and customers. All other companies looking to lower their price point are challenged by that.”

All Media and Entertainment companies use technology to track such facts as advertising dollars spent, for which television series on DVD people are willing to pay a premium, and how many seats are filled during movie showings. The data helps the firm determine whether to continue showing a movie in a region and whether marketing funds would be better spent elsewhere. “We’re tracking it in real time, constantly and consistently,” Pucino said. “The business analytics that we need to do drives our business and our profitability.”

Advances in technology present both challenges and opportunities to the entertainment industry:

  • Digital technology means content can go to market faster.
  • Analytics means advertising dollars can be better matched to audiences.
  • More choice is presented to consumers in terms of what to watch, when, and on what platform.
  • Entertainment is becoming more interactive. A D-box chair, which simulates motion, is replacing regular seats in some theaters.
  • Pricing options are increasing.

Technological changes result in a degradation of the standard release window for films. The norm has been to release a film in theaters, then release it on DVD several months later followed by eventual non-theatrical release in prisons, churches, and on airplanes. “We’re finding today that that model is going to be challenged as the industry is distributing content at a faster pace. People are not that interested in only buying a DVD anymore. They want to take their content with them.”

A game change for all entertainment companies would occur if the standard became releasing a film worldwide on the same date on any platform. “It changes the whole business model,” she said.

Another possible game change: access to every entertainment company’s film library. “New business models would have to be created to manage, monetize, track, and secure that data,” Pucino said.

From a production standpoint, the primary technological change is the need to satisfy lovers of 3D. Most studios create original 3D films and also convert 2D films into 3D. In some ways, technology is lagging behind demand; for instance, every theater doesn’t have D-box seats, a digital projector, or screens for viewing 3-D installed yet.

Rhishikesh Peth, a student in the Evening MBA Program, said it was interesting to hear how the entertainment industry faces the same trends and challenges that many other industries do, particularly when it comes to cloud computing. “A lot of businesses, irrespective of what businesses they’re in, are looking at their IT costs, trying to reduce cost while providing superior service to their consumers,” he said.

—Mary Sue Penn

Read the experts’ views on the future of mobile technology.