The Blurring of the Lines: Technology and Content Production

As we move into 2019, the investment team at Edge has been reflecting on trends which have emerged and shaped the creative economy.

The last couple of months have seen exciting developments and our team is expertly positioned to leverage these new opportunities. Brexit has brought industry changes, but we’ve seen the creative economy increasingly gain value and prominence.

I would like to take this chance to update you on some of the key trends which have shaped our deal pipeline and vision.

To provide some colour on our investment criteria, at Edge we focus where the creative economy intersects with Technology. However, there is a fundamental shift occurring, which sees the lines between technology and content production increasingly blurred.

Audience Immersion

Changes in consumer spending habits, especially amongst millennials, have highlighted a tangible preference for experiences.

For any trend there can be many drivers, but we see immersion as a major force pushing audiences and consumers towards the experiential economy.

We are targeting business that leverage immersion, both physical and technological. Since the inception of theatre, cinema, music and art, the creative industries have always encouraged the patron to step outside her comfort zone, demanding response and emotion. But now, these platforms demand reaction and immersion from audiences. The trend of immersion is creating new and exciting opportunities across the gaming and theatre industries and this is particularly driven by virtual and augmented reality.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual reality has long been discussed at the dinner table, but only recently has it become affordable and accessible. This has prompted 360 movies, the opening of VR Arcades such as DNA VR or Lost Rivers Elephant, as well as increasing home ownership of devices such as Google’s Daydream and Samsung’s Gear to more sophisticated options such as HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. According to Tech UK, the virtual and augmented reality market is estimated to grow from £3.6bn to over £116bn by 2020.  At Edge, we see the scope of new content that VR and AR could create and its role in delivering narrative, events, news and games.

The success of VR is its ability to pull the user into the experience and to fully immerse audiences in a new world or dimension.

Immersive Theatre

Audiences increasingly demand interaction and traditional forms of entertainment must now utilise innovative means, to be compelling.  Punchdrunk is an example of pioneering immersive theatre, which sees audience members get a self-guided experience as they are placed into a play that is acted out around them.  Other examples include Les Enfant Terribles, who brought Alice Underground to the Waterloo vaults, or Hartshorn Hook’s Immersive Gatsby, which further develop the concept of immersive theatre through a narrative style that takes groups through different stories within the same play, to great success.

The appetite for audiences to take a role in creating content, has gained momentum across sectors.  The Void, which runs a Star Wars themed experience in Westfield, is a fantastic example of an immersive experience which enables participants to see, hear, touch and even smell the world created around them. Audiences are becoming more cognisant to the dimensions of experience on offer. The Secret Cinema, which specialises in “live cinema” experiences, combines film screenings with interactive performances in purpose-built sets. Traditional, innovative and emerging forms of entertainment must become more responsive and behave in a way that is almost ‘game-like.’

It is clear that gaming, cinema and theatre are becoming intertwined – and this is enabled by the emergence of new and accessible technologies. A recent VR World panel discussed the need for alternate methods of story-telling in cinema as audiences yearn for greater interactivity and blurred creative media. This is good news for entrepreneurs and creative agencies that often forego the traditional limits of the sector to create owned and branded content, both with audiences and for audiences.

Increasingly, we are also seeing creative entrepreneurs increase their offerings in-house, amalgamating teams and pushing out blended content. It is these kinds of businesses which Edge is interested in.

Adoption of quality VR and AR content is still in its infancy and there remains a wealth of opportunity for storytellers and creatives to leverage and pull these technologies to the forefront of the arts. To facilitate this, there needs to be a push in development of quality VR and AR transformative technologies. The UK government recently announced a £33m commitment to VR and AR as part of the Creative Industries Sector Deal. Our investment team sees huge potential in the use of VR and AR, and immersion, and it is great to see support from the UK government.

At Edge we are extremely excited by what we see coming out of the UK creative sector, both on and off line. If you would like to discuss this article or other aspects of UK creativity, please email one of our investment managers whose contact details are below:

Niall Santamaria: Niall.Santamaria@edge.uk.com

Joshua Burge: Joshua.Burge@edge.uk.com

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