The concept of entertainment is in every culture. We sing, dance, play games, tell stories, and dramatize stories. In the past, people used to gather as a community to enjoy the latest shows on offer. Festivals were grand occasions to showcase complex entertainment pieces.
The way we make and consume entertainment has changed with technology.
We told stories orally until we were able to print. Suddenly, we could share and record information more reliably. It also allowed storytellers to write intricate stories. The arrival of the printing press also marked a major turning point. More people could access written pieces, such as novels and newspapers. However, it came at a huge cost. So, entrepreneurs came up with a solution by allowing people to purchase the publication at a price. The entrepreneur covered the writing and printing cost with the proceeds of the sale.
Radio and television brought new ways to enjoy entertainment. All you had to do was to buy a radio receiver or TV set and you could enjoy entertainment.
However, the TV broadcasts were available for limited periods due to huge establishment and maintenance cost. Satellite broadcasting made it easier for TV stations to reach more people. More private companies entered this market due to the relatively cheaper costs to access more people.
Radio broadcasts were relatively cheaper than TV, so there were more radio stations. The variety of content was also higher as it was cheaper to produce them.
The music industry emerged with the invention of recording studios. Initially, they distributed music on vinyl records, then CDs. The music industry was very profitable because you had to buy a whole album to enjoy just one song that you like.
Movie theatres were the only way to watch films initially. Eventually, VHS and DVD players allowed people to own home theatres. Again, you had to purchase a copy of a movie to watch at home.
In the pre-internet age, we purchased entertainment products on expensive physical media. Consumers paid directly when they purchased anything. For example, your DSTV subscription includes satellite rental costs. Also, the subscription is bundled such that the most in-demand channels are on the most expensive tier.
The internet has dramatically changed the way we consume entertainment. The internet is a general-purpose infrastructure provided by telecommunications companies. It allows people to connect and share information wherever they are.
Napster, a pioneering peer-to-peer (p2p) file-sharing software service, was very controversial when it launched in 1999. It allowed people to share music they had purchased with others for free. Napster garnered over 80 million users before it was sued by established industry players till it went bankrupt.
However, change was inevitable. Apple launched the iTunes store in 2003, and this changed the music industry forever. For the first time, people could buy digital copies of music legally. Also, they could buy the track they liked and not the whole album.
More products and services followed the digital delivery trend. You could buy a copy of the latest movie or video game online.
Many people and companies took advantage of the reduced barrier of entry to venture into different market segments. For example, you could start a weekly video cooking show on YouTube for free.
Netflix was founded in 1997 as a DVD sale and rental company. A year later, they stopped selling DVDs to focus on the rental business. In 2007, Netflix launched its trademark streaming service. They wanted to use a subscription payment model that was not proven then. Many, including Blockbuster one of their main competitors, were skeptical about the viability of the project. The Netflix subscription model was so successful that it has been replicated by many companies in different industries. Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Microsoft 365 are just a few examples.
Generally, technological advancements make entertainment more accessible and affordable. The present rise of subscription services has allowed more people to afford previously inconceivable things.
Presently, we are witnessing a rise in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies. I cannot wait to see how they shape our consumption of entertainment in the future.