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Accelerating Change in the Film Industry – Datafication & the Streaming Era by Michael Franklin

Ben Pimlott Building, Goldsmiths, University of London

This September ICCE Lecturer Dr Michael Franklin was invited by Film London’s Head of Talent Development and Production to speak as part of their Production Finance Market scheme. The work formed part of the agency’s producer focussed work prepping new talent for discussions with financiers, investment funds, sales companies, distributors, post houses, online platforms and public agencies.

He discussed his work on data analytics for the film industry, as appears in the 2020 Journal of Cultural Economics paper with co-authors from the Mallen Conference. The recent research focus on data driven methods of evaluation, including from colleagues in the Mallen network e.g. on SVODs, has become increasingly pertinent over the year as film consumption has increasingly moved online and the pandemic has accelerated business strategy towards PVOD models.

The British Film Institute recognised this area in the summer when responding to the DCMS Select Committee Inquiry on the Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS Sectors. In proposing a new Global Screen Fund (GSF) to mitigate market failures inherent in the independent film industry, the solution emphasises linking data driven research with production, promotion and distribution, to leverage investment at each stage. The GSF intervention was a relatively rare instance of creative industries support in the UK Spending Review of 25.11.2020 with a £7m pilot backed to increase ROI and a fund lead is being sought, with workflow to include procurement of a promotion and data platform.

The vital nature of film data analysis is increasingly being recognised as major shifts in industry practice are regularly announced and debated, from pandemic-led responses of virtual cinemas and digitised ticketing, to acceleration of long-term trends. Warner Bros will release their 2021 theatrical slate simultaneously via HBO Max in the US, a process necessitating some complex evaluation of future revenues to buy out talent participation in theatrically led financial performance, and generating the opportunity for analysis and leverage of D2C audience data – an activity WarnerMedia may be well placed to undertake, having acquired the knowledge of Legendary Entertainment’s Applied Analytics into their own organisation.

UK companies, and the independent sector in particular are not so well furnished (p20), but are extremely familiar with key issues, not least in relation to deal terms in which traditional market actors are detached both from incremental revenues and audience understanding. Related subjects of content availability and prominence, SVOD investment and taxation in specific territories of operation, and how to collect and exploit data, have moved increasingly front and centre through recent investigations concerning Public Service Broadcasters, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, Digital Single Market, and rebuilding the creative landscape.

These issues determine the contextual environment for the highly international film business, for which the UK is a key centre. In particular they impact the value and evaluation of IP rights and thus the economics of individual projects and related companies. Key research on this field, as proposed by the BFI’s Independent Film Commission (p21), was announced as an important upcoming activity by BFI’s CEO and Head of R&S at December’s 2020 edition of the ThisWayUp Conference.

There are multiple extremely promising initiatives at the heart of the film & audiences (meta)data, IP (e)valuation and finance arena. Most importantly, interventions demonstrating the need for critical analysis, not just data collection, to restructure to address bias and inequity are being developed by industry and academia. Applications of innovation to questions of interoperability, data sharing, and leveraging of audience data point toward an agenda that is gathering pace, and Dr Franklin has been awarded funding by the British Screen Forum to work collaboratively on research and development towards a Film Data Initiative proposal.

Dr Franklin contributes to the BA in Arts Management, MA in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship, and MPhil / PhD Programmes in ICCE, and is currently working on a book examining film risk for Routledge.

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