M&E Journal: A Decade of Digital Transformation

By Guy Finley, President, Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) –

At our recent Hollywood Innovation and Transformation Summit (HITS Spring) event, where we brought together the group charged with bringing Hollywood into the next era, we saw two themes emerge: tech takes talent, where the high-level know-how needed to advance our industry, and advance in it; and transformation, where never before have we gone through a transformation like this.

Where we’re going as an industry is incredible, with us facing a woven network of technologies where there are no buckets, and instead one giant bucket of digital, where everything is relevant to everything else. When things get tough, when it feels like we’re in a tornado of transformation, community comes together, and that community is a critical part of the future of this business.

The industry the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) entered into a decade ago was one in search of solutions. For the first time in several years, the challenge was no longer managing the hockey-stick growth of prerecorded sell-through media, but instead launching an entirely new format (Blu-ray Disc), in order to bolster declining DVD sales. At CES that year, the display manufacturers were tipping their hat to the next big trend (3D), while also introducing the new, more amorphous term “convergence,” where devices could plug into the internet.

Back in 2009, ours was an industry that needed to save, adapt and innovate. The savings would come from operations executives who began collaborating to create efficiencies in the home entertainment supply chain.

Blu-ray was itself an adaptation of what seemed then to be the inevitable trend toward better audio/video as a sales driver. Innovation was a stumbling block for the Hollywood studios, and it rested in the hands of a start-up named Netflix that delivered its one-billionth DVD in the mail in 2007, the same year that it also first saw the next wave coming and began investing in a new, non-physical media format, known as streaming.

So here we are, 10 years later.

And for whatever role MESA’s platform of collaboration, networking and information exchange has played, we are now living in a much different world. Today’s supply chain innovation is all about serving a global network fueled by digital delivery, localization and standardized metadata. Today’s adaptation is backbone-based, digitizing traditional processes, automating them and making them smarter to support today’s changing distribution models.

And innovation belongs to everyone. The mergers of Disney and Fox, and AT&T and Time Warner are indicators of how traditional Hollywood is reinventing itself for a challenge of new competitors known for their innovative prowess – that new Hollywood gang known as FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google).

Ten years ago, the membership of MESA met at one of our fateful board dinners, events known for their loud exchange of opinions, fueled by good food, plenty of drink and gloves-off conversation. There, our leadership made several prescient decisions:

* Go beyond home entertainment. Our responsibility was to serve more than just the home entertainment divisions of the major studios.

* Promote innovation. We were going to support the role of all technology teams at work, helping them break through their silos to exchange success stories about how they could facilitate what was then the flicker of a digital transformation.

* Support M&E services. We were going to support the role that third-parties played in all workflows, providing a voice for innovators inside and outside of the studios.

* Go deeper than the C-suite. We were going to promote the work of those unsung tech heroes, not just senior management, who were architecting the digital infrastructures that would support a new era for media and entertainment production, distribution and consumption.

Thanks to the guidance of our advisors in those early days, MESA is still here (and flourishing) a decade later, poised and positioned to continue to serve the information needs of a smarter, connected and data-driven media and entertainment industry.

Now representing more than 130 companies in the U.S. and Europe, MESA continues to grow in all three of its core activities (media, events and industry initiatives), focusing on four core areas of specialization: IT, data, security and diversity.

What should you expect over the next decade from our alliance of technology innovators, serving a growing and increasingly influential core of content advisors?

* Strategies for scale: Like all its members and advisors, MESA must grow to continue to help reach more M&E technology professionals in more markets within Hollywood, as well as in all emerging media marketplaces around the world. We need to scale our editorial and events to generate more conversations, share more case studies, and distribute more successful tech roadmaps.

* Go digital ourselves: Part of the strategic need to scale involves going “more digital” so we can reach M&E tech professionals anywhere they work, and anywhere they travel. Nothing will replace the need for face-to-face meetings, conferences and forums; however, we need to take those conversations everywhere, by using digital platforms that can be customized to our specific needs.

* Tech everywhere: Technology is no longer limited to traditional technology departments. The need to automate and make data-driven/enabled decisions are everywhere, and MESA needs to play a greater role in tech marketing, production, finance and business affairs.

* Research and analysis: Recognizing our agnostic role as an industry information platform, as well as the unique trust among our members and advisors, MESA intends to help our members and advisors chart their own corporate courses with increased confidence by expanding into member driven research services and expert analysis.

One thing a decade of MESA’s industry work reminds us all is that change takes time. Our industry has been at this streaming game for more than a decade now, and today, finally, the consumer is demanding it from all its content consumables. 3D may not have stuck, but 5G will flood the market with new immersive entertainment experiences.

Cloud computing is nothing new either, but now is trusted enough to transform all our industry workflows.

MESA will proudly continue to represent industry interests by supporting the responsible, secure and innovative creation, production and distribution of media and entertainment content. As they’ve done for ten years, our members and advisors will also continue to guide us all to explore both tried and true and cutting-edge technologies that can effectively help you, your corporations and your colleagues make informed technology decisions. I look forward to the next decade of innovation, transformation and community.


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