A few years back, former Disney CEO Bob Iger, who is considered one of the most respected executives in the corporate entertainment world, visited the Wharton School campus for an Authors@Wharton chat with management professor Adam Grant. Iger shared leadership and life intel from his recently published book The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company.
Iger talked streaming subscription services (Disney+ was just about to launch) and even his strategy to revitalize Disney animation with movies like Tangled and Zootopia, but not once did he express an interest in digital currency and assets (think bitcoin).
This year, in March 2022, Iger very publicly joined the board of Genies, a Los Angeles-based startup that celebrities are using to create NFT (Non-fungible token) avatars in the metaverse. “I’ve always been drawn to the intersection between technology and art, and Genies provides unique and compelling opportunities to harness the power of that combination to enable new forms of creativity, expression and communication,” Iger said in a statement.
Technology, NFTs, the metaverse – they’re among the top trends reshaping media and entertainment, a $2 trillion global industry, for which the U.S. claims a $660 billion share. The M&E industry is vast, including businesses that produce, distribute and offer digital services and products for: motion pictures, television programs and commercials along with streaming content, music, video and audio recordings, broadcast, radio, text and book publishing, eSports and video games.
A Wider Range of Representation
Inspired by crypto’s creative influence, we turned to the Wharton community to explore other emerging trends in the M&E industry. We found a focus on data-driven diversity in Hollywood.
A fundamental part of data analysis is figuring out the stories behind the numbers to gain more valuable insights and make better decisions. Jamie Moldafsky, chief marketing and communications officer of Nielsen, a data and market measurement firm for the media industry, says that this has become increasingly important in the media industry, as audiences expect inclusion and demand stories that reflect the diverse experiences of their lives.
“Hollywood is acutely aware that they want to bring in new voices, new storytellers. They just don’t know how to do it… without taking on big risks.” -Kartik Hosanagar, Wharton Professor
“The events of 2020 and 2021, up to and including the resolution of the George Floyd murder, have continued to bring into the public discourse the inequities and the injustices that exist in our society,” said Moldafsky, the keynote speaker for last May’s Analytics at Wharton Conference. “I believe we have a moral obligation as business leaders and data analytics professionals to use our expertise as agency for positive change.”
Kartik Hosanagar, a Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions, is doing just that where he sits at the intersection of entrepreneurship, data science and Hollywood. Inspired by his lifelong passion for storytelling and filmmaking, he recently launched Jumpcut, a startup to help Hollywood create more inclusive content by relying on data to show industry leaders that audiences are hungry for a wider range of representation.
During an interview with the Wharton Business Daily radio show on SiriusXM, Hosanagar pointed out that the film and television industry has not been very inclusive. “The industry, as it’s become more and more of a big business, has become increasingly risk-averse, so there is a reliance on doing what has always worked in the past,” he said. “Our big a-ha moment was to recognize that there are other ways to de-risk stories and storytellers, and data is extremely good at that.”
According to Hosanagar, stories were always born and shared in communities, and somewhere along the way, that was lost. Jumpcut wants to bring creative communities back into the core of storytelling.
The company uses algorithms to mine social media platforms, such as YouTube, Vimeo, and Wattpad, for amateur creators who are putting out promising material: stories and videos with good production value, high emotional engagement, and global perspectives. The company also conducts data-driven audience testing to lay the groundwork for selling the content. Jumpstart can poll tens of thousands of people at a time to gauge their reaction, which is predictive of success. Jumpcut also offers a network of support for undiscovered talent and connects the content creators and the data with people in the industry who can open doors.
“Hollywood is acutely aware that they want to bring in new voices, new storytellers. They just don’t know how to do it… without taking on big risks,” said Hosanagar, who is also faculty director for Wharton’s AI for Business. “We are kind of getting Hollywood to the second phase.”
And by the way, Jumpcut is also creating narrative-centric NFTs that come attached with Hollywood creators and talent. As they put it: Web3 (the platform for crypto and blockchain) is coming to Hollywood!
What does Jamie Moldafsky mean when she says, “I believe we have a moral obligation as business leaders and data analytics professionals to use our expertise as agency for positive change.” How does this fit into our discussion of media and entertainment?
What would broader representation in Hollywood mean to you and your creative community? Share your insight in the Comment section of this article.
How is Professor Hosanagar’s business Jumpcut innovating in the entertainment industry? Visit the company link and share three key observations.
The media and entertainment industry is a business that moves people’s minds; it is the only way for this business to succeed. As Ms. Moldafsky stated, digital content that portrays the inequities, injustices, and social issues of our society naturally gains more global attention than others that don’t touch on those issues to stay on the safe side. Most importantly, she gained my respect when she stated that business leaders and data analytics professionals have a “moral obligation” to create positive change. By portraying the equity and fairness that the audience hopes for in a world that, often than not, lacks those things, the positive effect of entertainment content can be maximized. Data analysis can be used to make content that spurs the global audience’s yearning for equality and peace, therefore making changes in our world, one step at a time.
The exponential growth of digital media transformed previous viewing behaviors that relied on traditional modes of entertainment such as offline TV for steady view ratings. Digital media today virtually means endless platforms for viewing content, and the power and force of digital media are getting stronger in the current digital era. The satisfaction of viewers is more important now than ever before because of the infinite competition that arises from media platforms that reach a wider and wider audience. Due to this, smaller content producers who were not considered major voices before are gaining attention. What these rising producers have in common is that they represent the audience who wants to see a wider range of values and perspectives that come from people of different social statuses and minority groups.
As a student of Seoul International School, I am sensing the changes in the flow of global content that have begun to produce and highlight media that represent the voices of these minority groups. South Korea, as the popular phrase K-wave suggests, is well known for digital content such as Squid Game and Parasite and its entertainment industries such as Bighit Entertainment, which produced BTS. South Korea, a small country in Southeast Asia that neighbors North Korea and Japan, a country that is allied with the US, a country that is like a final, lasting symbol of the Cold War, a country that is still fighting its own cold war with North Korea, has one day become one of the most influential producers of global contents and is receiving support and attention from all over the world.
The movie Parasite expresses the excruciating pain experienced by individuals who have not been properly or justly evaluated in terms of their economic and educational capabilities in society; in other words, the people who are staggering blindly ahead but are, in reality, miserably left behind in the merciless competition of the capitalist society. Similarly, the drama series Squid Game presents the message that financial stresses can lead to people giving up their humane dignity. This message is weaved by the characters in the drama who gamble their own lives for an astronomical sum of money. Surprisingly, it was for a similar reason that BTS was able to succeed in Korea and across the world: they moved the hearts of millions of young adults around the world through the lyrics of their songs, which speak of the endless competition that the younger generation faces in society. South Korea possesses many idol groups with good vocals and flashy dances, and BTS would not have been able to rise up as a top group without their touching and all-too-true messages in their lyrics. As one of their most popular songs, “Blood Sweat & Tears,” suggests, the boy group used the lyrics to communicate the struggles they faced and the mental pressure they were forced to withstand in order to gain so much popularity. The key to their success was that they were brave and honest about their pain and suffering, therefore gaining the support and sympathy of their fans.
The pressure of unlimited competition in society has always been a major theme in South Korean culture. South Korea is like a surviving fossil of the Cold War and the only country that shares a divided land with communist North Korea. Koreans went through the grueling 3 years of the Korean War in the 1950s, which is often referred to as a proxy war between US and Russo-Chinese forces. After the Korean War, the people who had lived together and shared the same culture and history for 5,000 years in history were suddenly divided as the peninsula was split into two: one under the support of Russo-China and one by the US. It was as if a scientific experiment was made to test the effect of communism and capitalism on two separate but culturally and ethnically identical nations. Now, almost 70 years after the “experiment,” the North and South Koreas have shown completely different economic growth trends.
As a result of this 70-year test, the equality and justice communist North Korea emphasized cannot be found in its government. Instead, only the nation’s poverty, disparity, and governmental oppression are evident to the eyes of the rest of the world. For South Koreans who are neighbors of such a struggling yet forceful regime, capitalism is not considered evil because we have seen the miserable results of communism. Yet, we cannot call it all-good because the pressure of the competition that arises for capitalism is so agonizing. As a South Korean whose grandparents can clearly remember and retell the Korean War and its effects, I, too, am aware that once you deny the egocentrism that exists as a congenital part of human nature in order to increase equality and fairness, everyone will become poor and the only thing that will remain in the end will be the oppression that forces people to conform in the name of equality. Like Hegel’s Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis Model, South Koreans seek the economic wealth brought by capitalism which recognizes human egocentrism while at the same time wanting to escape from the pain caused by competition; by pursuing equality, we want to resist social oppression. As a result of our recent history and the experiment with economic wealth and social justice, the public’s desire for a consensus model that pursues social equality and fairness based on liberalism is stronger than in any other country.
Even in the media and entertainment industry, content that achieves a consensus among a wide range of social classes by addressing the concerns of the public will be able to succeed and gain attention. If big-data agencies such as Nielsen can identify the needs of the public based on data analysis to analyze the factors of content success, content that spread awareness about social justice and fairness which many global media users strive for will become successful and spread their messages further. I believe from the bottom of my heart that if this social effort continues, the media and entertainment industry will be able to contribute, even in small ways, to make a positive change in our world.
Hyun’s comment that media and entertainment should be used to express the opinions of a wide range of people in order to positively influence the world made me think about how much media impacts society.
His comment interested me because he used Korea as an example to show how influential media and entertainment is. Korea is an interesting example to use when talking about influential entertainment because many of Korea’s films have critique of materialism as their main theme.
He used the post-Cold War Koreas as examples of how different influences can impact a society. This is interesting because the two Koreas began with nearly the exact culture, but in 70 years, the difference between them became extreme due to communism and capitalism. He states the negative effects that communism had on North Korea, but also critiques capitalism for the pressure it puts on people, which made me think about how society could improve through big influences such as media and entertainment showing inequality.
Shows and movies such as “Squid Game” and “Parasite” are mentioned in the comment as examples of how people live sad lives due to the competition of society. While watching “Squid Game”, I wondered if people could really be so desperate for money that they would risk their lives. In the show, the players were given an option to leave the games or to continue after the first round, where they saw how violent the games were. However, the players chose to keep playing, which showed how much they wanted the prize money. This part of the show especially made me question how realistic the show and characters are. The original comment also mentioned BTS, which surprised me because I did not think they could relate with the topic of the comment. I do not know much about BTS, which is why I was even more surprised when the comment talked about how their lyrics are about their own struggles with the competitive society.
Wow, this commentary is amazing! I am also Korean, and I love your details about the Korean war.
As the years progress, with the help of social media, new voices have surfaced from the depths of various societies, speaking for a handful of people that belong to their community. However, people telling their own stories weren’t enough: they wanted to see a tangible form of themselves in TV shows and movies—the media. This article mentions how Hollywood has been slightly aware about being more inclusive in their storytelling, but it has been hesitant and unsure about taking the risk. Well, this is where Kartik Hosanagar’s “Jumpcut” comes into the picture—a startup that uses data to show leaders in the industry what its audiences actually crave and find interesting. I think this is a chance for small creators to surface and integrate their own experiences into popular entertainment. Not only could this ensure more authenticity, but it could also be one more step toward normalizing representation in Hollywood.
Living in an Asian country and being Asian myself, I regularly see foreign movies achieve great popularity here. When I was little, passing by the theaters, the large, lurid posters were uninteresting to me. Promoting the latest American movie, covering yet another typical superhero trope and starring tall, buff men and slim, curvy actresses, all white. The local audience, eagerly buying tickets at the counter, however, seemed to be eating it up. Now, thinking back, I wondered which one of the little kids would come out thinking that they’re not muscular enough and which one of them would stare into the mirror for ages questioning their own skin tone. So it’s a foreign movie, what did we expect? The invisible borders between race, ethnicity, gender, and backgrounds seemed awfully evident.
I’ve seen some of the newer attempts at inclusion in 2022. On Disney+, a new miniseries—Moon Knight—based off the Marvel Comics of the same name, ran for six weeks. In the second episode, the villain, played by Ethan Hawke, has a brief conversation with one of his followers in “Mandarin.” As a native Mandarin Chinese speaker, the dialogue sounded nothing like the language to me, and instead sounded like a blur of muffled nonsense. After a quick Google search to confirm my suspicions, I saw that many has already called Marvel out for this, criticizing the scene for “butchering” the language. Even Simu Liu, the Canadian-Chinese actor starring in Shang-Chi, Marvel’s own Asian “breakthrough” movie in 2021, joked on his Twitter account saying, “Alright Arthur Harrow needs to fire his Mandarin teacher.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Marvel has yet to respond to a request for comment.
And, through further research, it was revealed that this isn’t the first time that Marvel has been called out for similar actions. In a gangster fight scene set in Tokyo in “Avengers: Endgame,” which came out in 2019, Hawkeye garbles Japanese across from scene partner Hiroyuki Sanada, a Japanese actor. In “Black Panther,” released a year earlier, three characters from a mythical African nation travel to South Korea, where viewers have pointed out that the African characters spoke better Korean than the “locals” they encountered. In both films, the conversations were subtitled.
“Shang-Chi” and “Moon Knight” have been heralded for bringing Chinese and Chinese American representation to the Marvel Universe and dissipating Asian stereotypes in Hollywood-produced media, but the controversy that these careless mistakes with Asian languages has brought kept getting swallowed by the media. When will all this stop? When would everyone else that’s not the white, alpha businessman sitting on top of the film industry dictating representation…get to reveal their voice?
Maybe there’s hope with Jumpcut, which will reach out beyond the Hollywood executive circle and look for true stories from everyday people of various colors and backgrounds. Accurate representation would help everyone grasp different cultures better, at the same time building natural respect for them. Entertainment—which is extremely mainstream anywhere—doesn’t have to be sacrificed in the process. Jumpcut can be the first attempt, the first bridge, that would connect creative minds from all over the world and use their valid stories to produce genuine representation in film and media. Jumpcut has great potential; however, with the poor record of depictions of different cultures in past American media, it is left for the audience to decide if they resonate with it as much as they enjoyed the plot.
While I agree that major production companies and franchises, including Marvel, have failed to contribute to the further diversification of the entertainment industry beyond checking off representation boxes, a survey of the entire entertainment landscape provides ample evidence that the industry has become much more inclusive. In fact, streaming companies like Hulu have made it a priority to include productions that capture the depth of different cultures and the stories of minorities in America today. The hit show Ramy premiered in 2019 on Hulu; for many, it acted as a window into the lives of young Muslim Americans who are tasked with balancing restrictive religious beliefs with the open-ended freedom America offers. This show, along with many others, has not only brought new stories into the fold but also the diverse creators who conceive them. In this instance, the show’s star, Ramy Youssef, is also its creator. This is true for many “prestige tv” productions that have earned the accolades of critics and received industry awards. Issa Rae’s Insecure, a celebrated HBO show that ran for five seasons, fits this mold as well. Other shows in this vein include Bust Down, Woke, Black-ish, East Lost High, Master of None, and Never Have I Ever.
Similar inroads have been made in feature films. For example, the recent movie Fire Island infused a fresh take on the romcom genre, focusing on the romantic entanglements of gay Asian men at a storied queer destination. Joel Kim Booster, a comedian, wrote and starred in this highly personal film. In the past, many of these voices might have been marginalized or deemed counterculture. In today’s world, however, they have received the same media attention and marketing dollars that have accompanied traditional fanfare.
That said, one can argue that the attention these shows receive still pales in comparison to that of the blockbuster movies that take the world by storm. In 2022, the highest grossing movies are currently Top Gun: Maverick, Doctor Strange Multiverse of Madness, and Lost City. Still, progress on this front persists. In 2018, Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians dominated the worldwide box office. Furthermore, companies like Disney have become leaders in diversifying big-budget productions. In producing films like Turning Red and Encanto, Disney has provided viewers with stories told by and featuring Asian American characters and Colombian characters, respectively. Targeting younger viewers, Disney is expanding the cultural palate of the next generation of moviegoers.
Sure, the entertainment industry is far from achieving true equity. However, relative to the industry 10 years ago, there has been substantive progress. As we look to fully diversify the industry, tools like Jumpcut are invaluable in helping the industry encourage diversity and authenticity in every major production.
After, for those of us who own a Netflix account, surely would have seen this cover appear once or twice as we were scrolling through, figuring out what to watch.
The pressure behind releasing an upcoming movie, worrying if it would be a risky gamble on their profits slowly diminishes with time. As we step further into the modern era and a thriving age of technology, we rely on statistics to determine what viewers are hoping to watch, thus giving script writers and movie directors the upper hand in guaranteeing popularity of the movie as well as success.
I’m an avid fanfiction reader. Fanfiction is defined as a fiction written by a fan of, featuring characters from, a particular TV series, movie, etc. My purpose for reading fanfiction is just because I felt the story was incomplete. They never went into depth about certain couples that I fawned over, which forced me to dig into the internet. Of course, there was always the possibility of writing them myself, giving me the creative freedom. However, I enjoy reading other people’s writing as they always present something new and unpredictable to me, in which case, I am more of a reader than a writer. When coming across what I deem to be a work of art, I want everybody to know about this artist, I want their effort to be recognized.
After was a Wattpad fanfiction that was written solely for fun and inspired by a fandom — One Direction, that the author, Anna Todd, was interested in. She claimed that upon the first chapter, multiple readers gave opinions and suggestions for her to build upon, and incorporate into the next chapters to come, this is referred to as “social writing.” She continued to write purely based on her love for romance, stating how she took inspiration from several big name romance movies and shows. These include Twilight and Vampire Diaries. She created her own realm of possibilities in which she could escape to. They say your fans are practically your editors because it’s through them that she realizes the realism behind every detail. Using this form of critique or editing, she was able to become a scriptwriter and director of the aforementioned movie (which I very much enjoyed watching and reading).
Kartik Hosanagar states “Hollywood is acutely aware that they want to bring in new voices, new storytellers. They just don’t know how to do it…without taking on big risks.” This is where data comes into play. As for the sort of data they should collect, fanfiction takes the data from their readers in attempts to appeal to them. Anna states “There’s a really big disconnect between publishing houses and what actual youth wants.” Her success stemmed from the fact that her interests were similar to her fans’, in turn creating something that people could relate to and love. Between fanfiction writers and readers, there lies a common factor, which was their original interest in the topic. Simply publishing books that people may not enjoy or releasing movies that people are hesitant to watch would result in major losses. Rather, collecting the right kind of data will secure the right audience and profits.
Data collecting is a very simplistic idea that people of the 20th century use as a first resort. The kind of data they gather is the key factor behind the profits, interacting with readers or fans is ideally the best way to go. Appealing to the reader who is the consumer, hearing what they have to say, and providing them with what they want, ensures that they are willing to offer their money to obtain it. It’s simple supply and demand.
I think a broader representation in Hollywood would be interesting to see come about. I think my creative community would enjoy more applicable and inclusive-to-interest films. For instance, in a world where Christianity is sadly diminishing, if more accurately depicted Christian films came out I would feel that my interests (and others’) would be given more consideration, and we would feel much more included.