Hollywood and Silicon Valley have a complicated relationship. They are at once co-dependent and at odds. As the music and publishing industries have shown, nothing has the potential to disrupt a media industry's business model like technology. And yet, technology time and time again has created the distribution, storytelling tools and revenue streams that have allowed something as old fashioned as "the movie" to survive for nearly a hundred years. Today, as Hollywood continues to feel its way into the strange, uncertain future, they are finding that their own content is being distributed and monetized--with mixed results--by large, cash-flush technology companies (see: Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix). But their content is also being competed with-- by the very same companies they now need in the face of declining home video revenues and unprecedented competition for audience attention. Instead of paying the enormous license fees that Hollywood is demanding for its movies and television, these technology companies have realized it takes little more than cash and talent to create their own. And thus the technology companies of the last decade will become entertainment companies of the next.
Much has written about how TV has replaced the motion picture with regards to cultural relevance -- (sure, Argo is good but we all know if you're not watching Homeland, you're not in the conversation) but what is a TV show? As Netflix resurrects busted TV series' and Amazon is making network-developed-but-not-greenlit shows, the line between digital and TV is officially blurred. Sure, Hollywood's top creative talent remains at the helm but who has the leverage?
Amidst these changes, the often ignored little brother of the content ecosystem continues to be short form digital content. Though nearly any hot YouTuber has an agent, Hollywood on the whole looks down on the DIY production values and lack of curation in online video. On the other hand, Funny or Die, College Humor and MyDamnChannel have built advertiser-friendly and loyal audiences (not to mention proving themselves as valuable marketing engines for talent and brands alike) and YouTube continues to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into its original content initiative.
Sure, the vast majority of content creators on these platforms are not making a living doing so (Machinima and Maker Studios being notable exceptions). But the argument can be made that at the very least, short form video is a low cost, technology-enabled development and discovery tool. Shane Dawson, Rebecca Black and the Annoying Orange owe their existence to YouTube. So while new talent can leverage Google's ecosystem (and even dollars) to reach audience at a cost of $300 per minute, Hollywood will continue to rely on technology to create $1M/minute experiences that hope to get people to shut of their laptops and head to the theater-- and to monetize the long tail of their movies, TV shows and (gulp) digital originals.
But ultimately, what about YouTube? Is it's abundance of cash and creativity, its real time analytics and socially-oriented feedback loop a threat to the old fashioned experience of sitting in a dark room with strangers to be taken somewhere else? Like I said, it's complicated.