Navigating Change: Insights from the 2024 Media Insights & Engagement Conference

About a 5 min. read.

Sasha McCune
VP, Media, Entertainment & Culture

The 2024 Media Insights & Engagement conference in Miami brought together insights industry leaders to discuss the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the media landscape. Featuring keynote presentations from data-driven leaders at TikTok, Snap, Warner Brothers, NBCUniversal, Paramount, ESPN, Nickelodeon, EA Games, Starz, and more. In a time where change and disruption are the norm, connection was in many ways therapeutic for the researchers at the forefront of navigating these tidal shifts.

The Landscape

It is no secret that most big names in media and entertainment are making massive shifts in their business strategies. Or, as Andrew Wallenstein from Variety’s Intelligence Platform said, “We are moving past the days of studios spending like drunken sailors.” Media companies have been vocal about pivoting to focus on prioritization (being more selective about what gets created) and profitability (protecting, optimizing, and growing revenue streams).

These shifts in strategies starting to take shape in many ways: AR/VR technologies being implemented into the viewer landscape, opening new engagement and revenue doorways; businesses exploring new profit levers through content distribution strategies and partnerships. Short-form, social video formats are reshaping the landscape, with ongoing brand consolidation making the inner dynamics of the category a (stressful) challenge to keep up with.

Fragmentation & Oversaturation Are the Enemy of Engagement

With more content options than ever before, audiences are feeling overwhelmed and struggling to find what they want to watch. The overloaded attention economy presents a big problem for consumers and a thorn for media companies recognizing the unsustainability of the current ecosystem.

The media landscape is more complex and fragmented than ever, and audience and viewer measurement strategies can feel impossible for insights teams to execute. With so many streaming services, social media platforms, and other sources of entertainment (including games) vying for our attention, it is becoming harder to get the eyeballs, and in turn, get the dollars.

The Rise of Social Video & Short-Form Content

A clear call to action emerged throughout the week: get smarter about your strategies for integrating short-form social content into the discovery and viewing experiences. The insights team from TikTok and Snap shared their transformative work in social media and short-form content in the entertainment and ad experience landscape. The session, “The TikTok Takeover,” particularly inspired other leaders, and was mentioned throughout every presentation in the conference. ESPN and the NBA have been successful with their strategies: ESPN is the “most-followed brand on TikTok” according to their VP of Research, Flora Kelly. Melissa M. Proctor from the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks also shared how the franchise managed to transform their fan engagement strategy by making social and short-form videos an integrated part of the fan and broadcast experience. Adapting and integrating these new consumption habits into the ecosystem is critical or risk being left behind.

Keeping up with the Next Gen(s)

Paramount and Warner Brothers Discovery (WBD) shared generational trends of Gen Z (Born 1997-2012, ages 12-27) and Gen Alpha (born early 2010s – 2024, 0 to 12 years old). Vera Chien from WBD reminded us of a favorite trope: “Gen Z is the first generation who learned how to swipe before they learned how to wipe.” However, this figure of speech no longer feels relevant as this group gets older (many Gen-Z consumers are now 18+). While we catch up with Gen Z, we must start paying attention to the new wave of Gen Alpha consumers and the impact they will have. Paramount’s Alex Cammy and Sophia Ingram Ross shared results from their Cultural Insights team’s annual flagship research study, the Rise of Alpha, highlighting the changing parent/child relationship dynamics, a confidence and compassion-forward cohort who now influences 9 out of 10 household purchases. And while Gen-Z may be digital natives, Gen Alpha will be the first AI-native generation.

The Future of Immersive Media is Right Around the Corner

Vicki Dobbs Beck’s keynote speech, “Storytelling Reimagined: Step Inside the Mosaic,” focused on the potential of immersive technologies, such as AR/ VR, to change the way we consume media. These technologies have the potential to create more engaging and interactive experiences that could rekindle people’s interest in experiencing media in new ways. Many media companies are ready for this next wave of experiential engagement, but are waiting for the technology enablement to catch up: will Apple and Meta’s next generation of wearable devices open new paradigms for AR/VR to become mainstream?

What Does This Mean for your 2024 Research Objectives?

With so much trepidation around reorganizations and shifting business strategies, insights teams should lean into the change and make themselves a central part of helping our business partners execute the shifting strategies. Are some of these topics and approaches on your research roadmap? If not, they should be!

  • Keep a Pulse on your Audience Demographics & Psychographics: Viewers are aging in and out of key life stages, changing habits post-pandemic, and evolving with recent technology. Are you keeping up? Update your segmentation strategy, bring your audience profiles to life, or conduct specific audience or fandom deep dives.
  • Optimize & Prioritize Content: If we must be more judicious with what shows and content makes it to the screen, or what features get built, how do we make data-informed decisions about our investments? Make smarter investment decisions by leveraging MaxDiff or Conjoint to prioritize spending.
  • Explore the Attention Economy: How do we keep up with, and adjust for, shortening attention spans? What is competing for eyes, minutes-watched, and loyalty out in the real world–not just in lab environments? Think about these types of questions from both a cross-device, longitudinal, and mixed methods point of view, to see the full picture of the broader attention economy.
  • Refine Monetization Strategies (Follow the Money): Are you ensuring your research goals have the core business objectives that focus on finding and growing revenue streams or exploring monetization paths? Build them into your research plans and consider advanced analytics techniques to address the business questions.
  • Stay Ahead of Emerging Tech: Are you beginning to build the business case for new media formats? Consider what the future impact of AR might be across new advertising experiences, fan engagement, social video, partnerships, experiences, and e-commerce interactions. Some studies have shown that AR interactions increase conversion and purchase intent with younger audiences, asking for more experiments and driver analyses.
  • Keep Pace with Fast-Moving Industry Trends: Category trends and industry shifts are moving too quickly to keep up with, requiring more agile research approaches to supplement the bigger, ongoing research programs. Consider partnering with CMB Accelerate to field micro-topic trackers or focused qualitative sprints to stay in the loop.
  • Amplify the Impact of New Content: If you make less content, how do you ensure that your studios land a smash hit? Winning the coveted viral spot is not always pure luck, it is also deeply driven by strategy. Study past successes and failures and develop “recipes for success.” Leverage guiding principles, and frameworks to support strategic planning and marketing initiatives (e.g., “What makes a successful transition from video game to TV?,” “What are the ingredients to generating viral moments or awakening nostalgia?,” “what elements of success are due to the content itself vs. generated off-platform?”).
  • Maximize Existing Intellectual Property: Are you making the most of your assets? What do you resurface and when and where do you resurface it? Consider deploying ongoing trackers and social listening to sense the early signals of interest in the resurgence of content franchises that could be revived or creatively resurfaced.

The fast pace of media entertainment and culture is rapidly changing – need some help keeping up? Please reach out to me if you would like to talk more about the state of the media and entertainment industry. Otherwise, let’s get to work!