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How the Digital Age Is Transforming the Entertainment World

Principally by creating many new opportunities that, as Ari Emanuel puts it, are Not Showing at a Theater Near You

Philosopher of technology George Gilder interviews Ari Emanuel, CEO of entertainment and media agency Endeavor Group Holdings, Inc., about the new decentralized media landscape powered by dramatic advances in technology. Endeavor, which was founded in 1898 and has 6500 employees, represents “talent across entertainment, sports, and fashion, such as actors, directors, writers, athletes, models, musicians, and other artists in various mediums comprising film, television, art, books, and live events.” (Yahoo Finance)

A partial transcript of the talk Emanuel gave at COSM 2021 (November 10, 1:00 pm), on navigating the new media landscape, follows:

George Gilder: What did you see in the early nineties that led you to leave your comfortable position and then move out and create a new force in Denver? (01:38)

Ari Emanuel: The [transition to digital media] is going to enable brands like Dwayne Johnson to create content on their own, not needing to go through places like Netflix or Amazon or Apple. They’ll be able to go direct. (01:53)

What I’ve tried to construct over the last 26 years is the ability for brands and stars to own their
distribution system and the value chain throughout it, whether that be licensing, original content, old content… (03:23)

George Gilder: So this, this is decentralizing, isn’t it? The power migrates to individual celebrities, individual creators…? (04:01)

Ari Emanuel: In the Nineties, there was four networks going to six. There was three cable channels, right? Who would have thought 15 years ago that food would have been an entertainment product? Right. and we’re just now expanding sports. It just keeps on expanding.

With the likes of Netflix, Apple and, and YouTube, there’s more and more kinds of creators out there. It’s all becoming very, very decentralized. And you can’t kind of put your arms around it.

Note: Probably, no one in the 1990s would have expected the proliferation of networks like the Food Network, the Cooking Channel, and many others.

Ari Emanuel: Who would have thought that the most valuable artist in the world would become that through his social channel. He just sold a piece at Sotheby’s for $25 million yesterday. All, all through social channels, not through any advertising, which was the former form of communication and marketing. When you have this ability through social, and then you have expanded distribution, it enables a decentralized system to really take shape.(05:25)

Ari Emanuel

And actors [can] continue on in the world for a long, long time and have primary and secondary market value (08:37) …

Here’s my sense of where the movie business is going… If you just look at the movies before [COVID-19] that they’ve been bigger than they’ve ever been. I think people are gonna want to get out. Just looking at the numbers on a global basis, people want to go and they want to be with each other. Will that last past the post-pandemic period, I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’s it’s going to zero.(11:12)

Ari Emanuel: There’s a certain audience that will want to go to a theater. And there’s a certain group of people that will want to watch it at home and especially with the growth of in-home theater. So I don’t think they diminish the economics. (12:09)

George Gilder: So, these what does this mean for the position of Google? I wrote a book called Life after Google. 90–95% of its revenues come from advertising. Similarly with Facebook — all these companies, are based on an advertising model. Do you see a kind of eclipse of the old advertising model? (15:21)

Ari Emanuel: I see an eclipse. The movie business might diminish by 25 to 30%. I think the linear television business will over time, in the United States and globally, diminish… by about 50% from where it currently stands. (15:57)

[Right now] it’s the only place to get to, to broadcast to a large audience. So even though that is diminishing, the ad market in the United States on network television and cable is sold out for the last quarter. The Superbowl used to be $3 million. It’s going for $6.7 million, a 32-second spot they’re selling into next year.

Now how long that continues. I don’t know, but since I’ve been in the business, a trend [is] that ratings have come down and an ad revenues have gone up. It’s very hard to explain. But, you know, there’s now a flood of money into the YouTubes of the world and to the Facebook. And Hulu and Peacock because they’re ad-supported… Also, those ad rates are going up because it’s very hard to find an audience because it’s so spread out right now. So I don’t think the ad is going away but we’re definitely in the beginnings of the decentralized media market and it’s very hard to navigate. (16:41)

George Gilder: So China, do you have, operations in China?

George Gilder

Ari Emanuel: We have a ton of business in China. One of our golf tournaments, because of what’s going on with COVID just got canceled there.The UFC has a Performance Institute in Shanghai. We sell tons of sports rights into China from Wimbledon. One of the biggest sports there is snooker. (18:39)

Movies and television, local production of Chinese entertainment, they’re getting very good at that business right now. (19:34)

George Gilder: Do they have content? They have movies they’re making in China? (19:46)

Ari Emanuel: Oh yeah. So just for their market, [it’s] harder and harder for American product to get in there because there’s a lot of back and forth on that. And there’s politics in that situation but it’s a very vibrant media business, both in sports and in entertainment. (19:49)


You may also wish to read: Ari Emanuel, COSM 2021: Movie nite’s changed; it’s not just COVID. How are both streaming services and the global pandemic changing the way we watch movies? Emanuel is known in Hollywood as a super-agent; he has represented names like Oprah Winfrey, Martin Scorsese, and even Donald Trump.

A partial transcript of the talk Emanuel gave at COSM 2021 (November 10, 1:00 pm) on navigating the new media landscape follows:


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How the Digital Age Is Transforming the Entertainment World