The Digital Entertainment Industry can be broken down into a value chain with four main components:
Content creation: this includes writers, artists, filmmakers, and investors in these endeavors (such as producers). The value of the content depends primarily on quality and reputation of the creator
Content Distribution: this includes portals such as Yahoo or Myspace, television networks, radio stations. The value comes from a combination of quantity, quality and accessibility
Content Communication: This is the value of the “pipe.” There is value in bandwidth as well as geographic spread. In particular, this is the “last mile” problem – the astronomical cost of building a network capable of reaching many individuals’ homes. Currently, the two types of companies with their own last-mile solution are telecom companies (Local Exchange Carriers) and cable companies (MSOs). Satellite companies generally don’t have uplink ability. Next-generation technologies such as WiMAX may avoid the cost of laying wire, but have yet to emerge as a dominant force.
Content Display: the consumer devices required to decode and display the content. This includes ipods, televisions, DVRs, and radios. Value comes from form, functionality, and integration with other devices and services.
Based on the above value chain, one can see how a few of the current trends will continue to play out over the next few years:
1) The “long tail” of content creation: user-generated content is essentially the lengthening of the tail within content creation. As more independent artists/authors are able to distribute their work, we will see demand for the top performers weakening. As competition within the Content Creation category increases, the next leg of the chain – Distribution – will have increasing influence and be able to capture more value (and revenue).
2) There are two countervailing trends in the Communication sector: first, alternative “last-mile” access are becoming available. For home use this includes, triple-play products from cable-cos and telcos, and next-generation fixed wireless solutions. For mobile communications wifi will continue to evolve, and compete against EVDO/WCDMA 3G networks, and WiMax 4G networks. The second trend is in the increasing need for speed. People will pay more for faster, better, more ubiquitous. DSL isn’t fast enough – so upgrade to HDSL. EVDO isn’t fast enough – so upgrade to WiMax.
3) The age of the standalone gadget is over. As hardware capabilities become increasingly commoditized, the value will shift to integration with content distribution services.
The largest opportunities in the next 3-7 years are among services that seamlessly connect the elements of the value chain: content creation with communication; content distribution with device. The incumbent distribution networks aren’t equipped to manage user-generated content; nor are the communication companies capable of integrating hardware display with distribution services. Third parties will emerge to perform these enabling roles.