The year 2020 has brought surprises and changes to the whole world. As people have shifted their routines and daily lives, the impact on the entertainment industry is noticeable. Humans crave entertainment, and the industry is adapting to keep up. Our collective media and entertainment choices have changed and in-home entertainment choices are thriving. From video streaming to gaming to podcasts, let us check out what the top eight entertainment marketing trends of 2021 have in store for us all.
- Video Streaming
Video streaming is the most popular of the industries experiencing a 2020 boom. With widespread mobile use and easy access to the internet, using any number of streaming services is a breeze. Over the last few years, the number of online streaming trends grew significantly. Netflix and Hulu started the trend years ago, but Amazon Prime, Disney+, and others have significantly increased the market selection. As video streaming revenues are booming, it is no surprise that lots of media companies want a slice of the pie. Paid over-the-top or OTT streaming services have been popping up left and right to compete with incumbents like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. Disney is using its back catalog to attract subscribers to its service. 2021 will be a transition time, when consumers will be treated to an even larger menu of premium, streaming options. Where Disney goes, the other big media verticals will follow but in 2021, it will be a battle for the survival of the fittest, resulting in a dizzying amount of epic production, marketing and an overwhelming number of content choices. Sequels to popular streaming series will return while multiple, new “made for streaming” movies and series premiere. In 2021, Studios will be leading to a streaming universe that will make 2020’s efforts look timid, by comparison.
2. Video Social Media
Seeing Tik Tok’s explosion in popularity this year, there is no doubt that video-based social media is taking over and will continue to morph into next year. Consumers want to record and watch fun, quick, short videos. Instagram recently released “reels,” which are a fun short-form video that incorporates text and music. With Facebook Watch, Facebook is doing everything it can to steal the social media video throne and with its monthly viewers increasing, it may be working. But while Facebook has impressive numbers, it’s far from trendy. TikTok, on the other hand, is a rocket ship. At the time of writing, the biggest new video-based social network has millions of monthly active users. And those users aren’t afraid to invest in getting more followers. Meanwhile, Facebook’s social video push is extending on to its other platforms. IGTV, launched by Instagram in 2018, is now integrated into the main app. While it has not exploded in the same manner as their Stories feature, there are some signs of promise. But no matter which platform ends up on top, one thing is for sure: social video is a huge trend. As 5G coverage expands through 2021 and beyond, video streaming and download speeds will rise. And we think social video usage will, too.
- Video Calling
With the recent, abrupt decrease in face-to-face social time, webcams and camera phones save friendships and keep families connected. Zoom leading the trend, Houseparty making it fun, and other social media outlets scrambling to keep up. Multi-user video calls are an asset to maintaining social connections these days. There’s no doubt that video calling platforms’ technology and interactive ability will only improve next year.
Another trend in the booming computer gaming industry is e-sports. Unlike traditional sports, e-sports are games played entirely on a computer in a competitive environment. Similar to traditional sports, the stakes are high, and the competition is fierce. The game League of Legends is currently the most popular, with contesting tournaments. Competitive gaming is gaining so much interest that more and more games are played by professionals. E-sports is an excellent option at the moment, for they don’t require travel or formal teams to function. Players from around the world can compete from just their computer screen. These e-sports activities may not be totally new, but they’ve been getting more popular each year. And they’re poised to hit the mainstream in 2021.
- Cloud Gaming
This new technology creates another way for players to socialize while playing a game from home. Xbox has jumped on the cloud gaming scene, introducing the “Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.” The pass gives access to over 100 games that can be played across different devices, including Android. This accessible way of playing and socializing is the future of the online entertainment industry. Gaming is the new entertainment. Leaders need to prepare to understand gaming culture, the memes and the dreams and fears of the community. It’s a world where authenticity is key, but so is honesty. Gamer and streamer culture will take a foothold in driving popular culture. Personalities and preferences originating from these spheres will drive commercial consumption across a variety of categories, from consumer packaged goods to apparel and entertainment. There are lots of entertainment trends in the gaming industry happening right now. Virtual reality and augmented reality gaming tech is making strides. And mobile gaming is more popular than ever. But the most important gaming trend of 2021 may be cloud gaming. There are innumerable gamers in the world. And very few of them have the hardware required to play the latest, most demanding games. Cloud gaming solves this problem by streaming video game content from remote servers to your device. That way, your computer (or phone, or smart TV) isn’t the one doing the heavy lifting.
There may be a bumpy road ahead for cloud gaming, like any new technology. But it looks like in the future, anyone with a good Internet connection will be able to play the best games. PokemonGO took the world by storm in 2019, making the notion of augmented reality games accessible and irresistible to players around the world. AR creates gaming environments where players socialize with other players and enjoy interactive gameplay right from their phone. Virtual reality is a step above AR, creating fully-immersive experiences for the user or player. VR requires special equipment, but as this technology becomes more accessible, the possibilities are expansive. Some industries that are embracing VR technology are. A client can enjoy a robust experience, exercise class, or art exhibit with limited human interaction in each case. The games sector, already boosted by the pandemic’s lockdown and our desperate demand for in-home entertainment, continues its meteoric rise. Cloud-based mobile gaming and 5G networks accelerate things further. Other entertainment sectors finally take notice, and gaming’s highly-lucrative free-to-play business models increasingly find themselves adopted in the world of music apps and experiences.
Podcast popularity was already on the rise before 2020 but the recent worldwide events have made them even more popular now. Podcasts are an excellent option for many people for they cover every topic imaginable and are easily accessible on a cell phone. One of the new trends in the entertainment industry in 2021 will be podcast. In 2021, it’s expected that people are expected to listen to podcasts at least once. By 2023, that number is estimated to grow to hundreds of millions. Amateur podcasts are springing up every day. But the industry is also getting a lot more professional. Branded podcasts prove the format can work as marketing just as well as it does as entertainment. And podcast networks are aggressively buying and developing new series. Some include tie-ins to current events and popular TV shows. These podcast networks have attracted plenty of attention from investors. While the podcast and entertainment network has so much money at stake, you can bet that the writing, stars, and production quality of the average podcast will just keep getting better.
- Creator Based Content
We will continue to see a huge shift toward artist and creator control. For the past few months, creators have had a direct connection to fans via social media and other online platforms. Creators and consumers of culture and entertainment will naturally gravitate to new forms of interaction as established distribution fails to meet their needs. We’ve seen the beginnings of this trend in 2020 and expect that there are more changes ahead. Creators in the culture space will continue to collaborate across different sectors and they’ll begin to monetize in new ways. More and more of the value they create will go directly to them and have positive impacts for decades to come. Direct fan support has become one of the biggest trends in entertainment over the last few years. While many folks turn to streaming services to fill the gap, others find themselves consuming content directly from individual creators on YouTube. The problem is: many creators have a difficult time making a living off of YouTube ad its revenue. Especially those that cover a niche topic, like knitting or a specific gaming or movie genre. Crowd funding sites like Patreon have exploded to help fans support creators directly. Patreon supporters voluntarily pay a monthly fee that goes directly to the creator. In exchange, supporters usually get some sort of bonus content, like live Q&A sessions. While most creators use Patreon to supplement their income, others are making a killing from this model.
- Live Events
Already the nightlife and events space was polarizing into either more intimate, smaller venues or a massive festival. Mega-clubs were already becoming less trendy before 2020 hit us. This trend will now be accelerated, with people seeking to attend more intimate events and venues with smaller groups of people. This forces people to evaluate who they want in their social circle. Large-scale festivals will take a long time to come back. As movie-going returns to our culture, so will attendance at other “in-person” spectaculars, especially those where outdoor seating is possible. Sporting events, concerts and ultimately Broadway itself will not only return but is likely roar back, meeting the desperate desire for a public bursting at the seams to experience their favorite teams, rock stars and live shows in a communal setting. Look for scores of creative new live events featuring mega-concerts on the scale of Coachella and one-of-a-kind exhibition games and events, unimaginable before 2021. Speaking of theaters, out-of-home entertainment in all its forms (movies, concerts, theater, sports, theme-parks, location-based and experiential entertainment) stage an early comeback in the latter half of the year. We are humans after all and demand real world communal engagement in an increasingly insular, heads-down digital world. And once the pandemic ultimately passes (or is at least controlled via vaccines and verifiable negative COVID-19 testing), the overall sector benefits from massive pent-up demand. Despite grim forecasts, one thing’s certain: the theatrical experience isn’t going to go away, it’s simply changing. Whatever the behind-the-scenes drama, there’s no question that by 2021, theatrical will start setting records again, in a massive way.
In 2021 the need for a digital-first strategy will be more important than ever. Being digital first means considering the needs of the user within the context of digital for any project in a meaningful way. Interaction has changed, and cultural organizations should have a digital-first solution to keep us all connected as consumers whether it is driven by objects or experiences. The entertainment industry is in a rapid state of adaptation. Virtual entertainment with a social twist will continue to thrive as people look for distraction and human interaction. Video services and podcasts will always be reliable players in the industry as long as new material continues to entice viewers. As culture changes, so does the way we consume it. The way we entertain ourselves with movies and television, art exhibits, games, music and live shows is a reflection of our needs, wants and traditions, our culture. It makes sense then that the unforeseen changes we’ve experienced this last year would affect the way we spend our free time.