Technology and entertainment have been closely tied together for over a hundred years. Ted Schilowitz, a Futurist at Paramount Global, discusses the past and future of the media industry, and what established media companies need to do now to stay relevant and competitive in the world where agile startup companies are taking the risks to create innovative new technology that is chipping into the profit margins of larger companies.
Some things have changed, however. Where devices in the past may have had one use, like televisions, devices like iPhones now have thousands of uses. Schilowitz states, “So when you talk about the complexity of fit and finish of a device like an iPhone or Android phone these days, it’s a tremendously complex thing…Which requires huge amounts of resources and dynamics.” Media companies need to be consistently investing their creative resources in experimenting, testing, and researching emerging technologies like virtual reality glasses that will become the products of the future. It is risky to invest resources in something that may never make a profit, but it is that experimenting that eventually leads to that next technology that everyone is eager to purchase.
The key takeaway is that media businesses can’t just live in the present. They need to be looking ten years down the road, and dedicating part of their resources and creative talent into investigating what the next areas of profit margin and profit motive are going to be. These teams need to be allowed to take risks in creating and experimenting with new technology, because it is this risk-taking of today that will lead to the technology of the future.
Schilowitz acknowledges that it can be hard to convince leadership in the media industry to invest in something that won’t produce short-term fruit. He states, “The media business is a hard business. It’s hard to make profits. It’s hard to be successful…on top of that, asking your CEO, your chairman, your executive board, to commit a sense of resources on things that are even more unknown can be a hard ask. So you have to…say here are companies that didn’t exist a generation ago that are now in many ways chopping into our profit margin, our profit motive. Do we want to start to investigate what the next profit margin and next profit motive agents are going to be and how we take an ownership stake in that.”