Why Doesn't the M & E Industry Embrace New Ways of Thinking?

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Are media and entertainment executives listening to the wrong people and not bringing younger and more diverse voices into the conversation, and is it holding the industry back? While valuing the expertise of boardroom inner circles, are there ways to expand the table to encourage more forward-looking thinking? Media Industry Cartographer Evan Shapiro, CEO, ESHAP, discusses this topic with Quincy Olatunde, VP, Products Direct-to-Consumer, NBCUniversal/Peacock TV, in this clip from their keynote at Streaming Media Connect 2023.

“Why do you think we keep not embracing new thinking? Is it because we don't have new points of view in the room?” Shapiro says. He mentions that earlier in their chat, Olatunde spoke of not only a generational gap but also a lack of focus on regional preferences. “It does seem that a lot of decisions are made in very high floors in very tall buildings without the younger generations in the room, without people from these regions in the room and specifically writ large without a span of experience from anything other than Ivy League economic class structure,” he says. “So I think that's a big part of why we wind up in these cul-de-sacs sometimes…we're talking inside bubbles. And I wonder, in the ‘context of context switching,’ how you feel about that.”

Olatunde says that gleaning insights from established industry experts remains useful. “They know the industry, they have the relations,” he says. “The way I look at it is how can we expand that table, so it is not just that, but it's [truly] inclusive.” He stresses that thinking only in the context of short-term profits doesn’t ensure the staying power of any media company. “You have to be thinking 3, 4, 5, 10 years down the line.” He uses an analogy of the hockey player Wayne Gretzky talking about always “skating to where the puck is going.”

Olatunde emphasizes that it is not an easy balancing act for executives to focus less on immediate economic and profit concerns due to constant profitability pressures. However, bringing more diverse perspectives to the table should not just be for the sake of optics. “It's a balancing act. I don't envy anybody who has to do that,” he says. “How do you expand that table so those people equally have a voice,” he says, instead of just having them there as an empty display of diversity.

“Right, exactly,” Shapiro says. “As opposed to actively listening…diversity and inclusion are actually two different things.”

Olatunde cites situations where brands try to influence the influencers they hire, which misses the whole point of why they connected with these figures in the first place. He says there is, of course, a good reason influencers have large followings in their communities. “I want to understand your goals and let me do what I do best,” he says. “I liken it to Steve Jobs when he said, ‘We don't hire smart people to tell them what to do. We hire smart people to tell us what to do.’ And I think the more we do that, and the more we open that aperture up, the better we become…as an industry.” He notes that this is an issue across all industries, not just media, and that truly listening to new and diverse perspectives can only help any type of business improve its ability to evolve with the times.

Learn more about a wide range of streaming industry topics at the next Streaming Media Connect in November 2023.

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