In the first six months of 2013, Americans are estimated to have spent roughly $3 billion dollars on home entertainment (defined as paid digital delivery of films and other programming content through cable, online distribution platforms and wireless) – an increase of 24% from the first half of 2012. The Motion Picture Association of America identifies 95 individual homeÂ content distributors althoughÂ even that number is likely a significant undercount given theÂ rapid proliferation of services outside theÂ United States andÂ the difficulty of accounting for pirated content – a practice that continues to flourish despite numerousÂ governmental and industry-ledÂ crackdowns.
One of theÂ most fascinating realities about this rapid rise of electronic content consumption is an unusual paradox: while it would seem thatÂ content creators and distributors ought to have more access to consumerÂ data thanÂ has ever previously existed, the situation turns out to be significantly more complex. Consider thatÂ inÂ the pre-digital era,Â measuring consumer behaviorÂ basically came in only two flavors: NielsonÂ ratings (that is, statistical projections) and box office receipts.Â Today, instead of relying on projections and ticket sales, it should be relatively easy to determine exactly what a consumer watches, how many times they watch,Â whether they exhibit particularÂ consumption patterns (e.g., turning off a film midway through),Â in addition toÂ countless other metrics.Â Nevertheless,Â the age of real-time data has yet to emerge and new confusions abound.
In large partÂ due to the proliferation ofÂ novel distribution platforms as well as individualized confidentiality agreements (sometimes on production by production basis),Â aggregating viewership dataÂ remains execeeingly difficult and in some cases impossible. AÂ particular film, therefore, may be reported as languishing when in realityÂ it’s cult Internet phenomenon.Â As with all technological conunundra, the development of more accurate measurementÂ systems will eventually take hold either through the negotiation of uniform agreements between content creators and distributors or by looking to new methods of observationÂ and tracking such asÂ the frequency of “mentions” across leading social networks like Twitter.
As noted earlier, digital distributionÂ hadÂ always been predictedÂ to become the ultimate source of reliable data. Ironically, it has actually increased the number of variables by magnitudes. One thing is certain: There’s A LOT of money toÂ be made by anyoneÂ whoÂ can begin effectively unraveling theÂ unforseen complexities ofÂ this 100% organic marketplace.