Crossing the Streams

A very good interview on the business model and economics of streaming here:

Episode 5: Jozefien Vanherpe on the Economics of Music Streaming | Machines & Masterpieces (castos.com)

Worth reading this Steve Albini thread as a complement to it:

I wonder whether the success major labels have ultimately had in negotiating the shift to streaming will also play through into video/broadcasting. Netflix unquestionable turned the tables up by making incredibly innovative, far-sighted use of CDN technology (Content Distribution or Delivery Network), Edge connectivity and variable bitrate management, but they face/faced two challenges:

  1. It’s a content first world – which means paying up front for subscribers by creating content, and as Jozefien Vanherpe points out, it’s difficult to predict the return on cultural goods.
  2. Once you reach saturation point with subscribers in the US, the job of expanding becomes a lot harder for localisation reasons (cultural, language and indeed compliance and technical). China is closed off to Netflix as a major revenue generator outside sharing some content via a partner, see my bit on Peppa Pig. Network technology coverage in India and the African content is a challenge. Europe is highly fragmented in terms of language and legislation per viewer.

Broadcasters have existing distribution channels and play the rights/D2C risk balance much more easily. Are we going to see the equivalent of the major label dominance in video streaming?

Publishing is of course the other area where incumbent businesses were extraordinarily slow and defensive in their approach to new technologies, but it’s not clear to me that e-books have disrupted to the same extent – certainly we’ve seen v little innovation in the publishing space as far as I know. Academic publishing is still in a heavily fortified mode. But this is no longer an area of strength for me, so this is just guesswork based on what little I see.

Slippery Pig

(An example of the sort of thing I’ve been posting on LinkedIn. This was originally a fairly lightweight bit of fun, but in fact it opens up a lot of interesting avenues about how the increasingly monopolised and siloed digital spaces – FAANG – seek to work the PRC over the control, aesthetic and exploitation of that online territory, and the vectors of attack and defence.)

This viral Chinese ad for Peppa Pig is wild. 

Here’s the explanation. You’ll need an explanation.

It’s doubly interesting because Peppa was actually banned last year or purged according to the NYT.

As with much of Chinese culture it takes a real expert to understand all the cultural subtexts, but it seems that she had been associating with shèhuì rén (社会人). This literally means ‘society people’ but seems to refer to young, jobless slackers. Not sufficiently culturally aligned it seems (or ‘anti establishment’). Friends of mine don’t like her because she perpetuates gender stereotypes, which shows… something anyway.

Someone who does know about Chinese culture has pointed out how much heavy lifting this ad is doing. It’s relocating Peppa from her foreign context into new soil (or muck). It’s very strenuously placing her in an approved socio-political context. And in doing this, by reducing her foreign caché and boosting her state approved credentials, it’s also presumably reducing her desirability for those ‘soceity people’.

All designed to help rehabilitate her in time for the release of Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year.

When I posted this on LinkedIn, I’d kind of missed the important point that this a major example and case study for the sort of work that brands will need to do if they want to be able to distribute effectively in China.

The aesthetic of this seems likely in some way designed to meet strict cultural and political rules on what is and isn’t appropriate.

Media distribution platforms and content owners will still struggle though. Despite high ambitions in China, Netflix ended up taking the time-honoured approach when faced with significant cultural and regulatory hurdles, and ended up partnering with a local platform, producing ‘modest‘ revenue. (Stranger Things, Black Mirror: yes; House of Cards: absolutely not).

This hasn’t stopped the likes of Google contorting uncomfortably to try and find a way into to what would be the world’s biggest growth market, the worth of whose data will be seen to be astronomical. It will be interesting watching the heavyweights of surveillance capitalism go up against the heavyweight of the surveillance state. My money’s on the PRC.

There’s a useful article here that covers the specific issues around digital publication in China. Short version – nothing much has changed around foreign interests publishing directly: they can’t. It’s more about trying to reframe publishing to include digital platforms – where “material that would traditionally be published in print form is clearly intended to be included”. However:

The unclear area applies only to new forms of publishing developed solely for the Internet and with no traditional print analog. 

https://www.chinalawblog.com/2016/03/chinas-new-online-publishing-rules-another-nail-in-the-vie-coffin.html

As with regulation in my area – accessibility (subtitles, captions, audio description) – regulators are struggling to define the content the rules cover, and the companies to whom it applies. That’s probably a post for another day.

Follow up:

Who made the ad and why did they take the approach they did?

A partial answer here:

“Besides drawing attention to the movie, what I wanted to do through this trailer was to share the same values that are highlighted in the movie – family, reunion, harmony and love,” its director Zhang Dapeng told local media last month.

And, Who is distributing Peppa in China – who is set to make money here?

And another partial answer from the same article: the film is a joint venture between the British ‘Entertainment One’ and Alibaba. And there’s a shitload of merch.Who made the ad and why did they take the approach they did?

Other

Surveillance capitalism v surveillance state – exploiting a population’s data? (worth thinking about the burglar’s guide to the city – helicopters for LA, cameras for London).

The aesthetic and style of western firms attempting to enter China.

Regulating online – working out what and who does and doesn’t count.