The Entertainment Economy

Facts, figures and stories on how the global entertainment industry is big business.

Did you know that McDonalds is the world’s biggest toy distributor? No, neither did I, but thanks to The Entertainment Economy I am in the possession of this and other pieces of trivia. I now also realize that the trade surplus created by the Spice Girls, (pop group) Jamiroquai, Trainspotting, Tomb Raider, Mr Bean, and Miss Saigon is bigger than that created by the British steel industry. And that Shigeru Miyamoto has generated $5.8 billion in sales from creating Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, and The Legend of Zelda.

This is a book that makes interesting poolside reading. The author, Michael J Wolf, is a highly regarded entertainment consultant (or so he tells us), and has written a book that analyzes the phenomenal growth of entertainment as an industry.

The central argument – that everything is becoming about “entertainment” – is somewhat overdone, but the book is still quite interesting. And there are a lot of nice stats. Fact: the entertainment economy in the US is a $480 billion industry and as a percentage of household spending (5.4%) it ranks above clothing (5.2%) and health (5.2%).

The US controls 4% of the world’s eyeballs but dominates the present day global entertainment economy – meaning films and music. Wolf argues, however, that this situation will change, as local communities seek more and more local content.

He also says that now, more than ever, corporations are turning to “entertainment”. When he first started out, he consulted for record and media companies. Now he also consults for the likes of Citibank, telling them how they can make their banking service more “entertaining”.

A case in point is the transformation of the airline industry. Forget ticket revenue, the new growth area will be tailoring an entertainment experience to each traveller and gaining massive amounts of data as a result. Where else do you have live and kicking consumers glued to a screen for 12 hours? He predicts that airlines will be able to use sophisticated techniques to understand the passenger’s likes and dislikes and build a personal profile that will be valuable to big corporations. This will mean that specially tailored advertisements can be created. Want to buy a business class passenger’s eyeballs for 12 hours by becoming the exclusive advertiser? No problem.

The new inflight greeting: “Thank you for boarding Thought Police Airlines, we hope you buy a lot of product before you get to London.”

As a side note he says that the US Department of Transportation has calculated that non-US airlines can generate annual revenues of $500 million per year from onboard gaming. The US airlines are hamstrung by their gaming laws, and are forbidden from tapping this market.

But Americans don’t have to fly to punt. That’s why modems and Nasdaq were invented.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Steven Irvine

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