Monday, June 17, 2013

Digitainment what?

The grouping of technologies and technology companies can run in a myriad of directions.  "Verticals" as they're so often called, are people's efforts to lump companies together based upon industry focus in hopes that efficiencies and/or value will be gained through overlapping skill sets and interests.  One of the verticals that caught me off guard when I first heard of it is digital entertainment, also called digitainment by some.

Take a moment and consider the question for yourself... What might digitainment include?  My first thought was movies. And I was right (sort of). But there's more.

Digital entertainment includes five categories of seemingly unrelated business types. They're all highly digitized and they all entertain us, but there are a lot more inter-relationships than you might realize. They frequently interact, sharing ideas with each other, providing content to one another, etc. They're concerned with many of the same issues (tax credits, IP protection, technology evolution, etc).  And the first four categories would never get to us if it weren't for category number 5.

There are also a couple of challenges in the sector.  One issue exists in all organizations, but seems more present in digital entertainment: the business people, product creators, and technology people have a common goal but very different focal areas.  For some reason, these areas seem to intermingle more at digital entertainment companies than in other sectors.  The second issue is that there are MANY small companies in the sectors and discovering them all is very difficult.   Just when you think you've uncovered all of the companies in a category, someone shows up that you had no idea existed.

Here are the five areas that comprise digitainment:

  1. Interactive. Most people would call this category gaming, but they'd fall short. It includes games you play online, games you play on your home system (think Wii or Xbox), games you play on your mobile phone, and other venues I'm sure I'm missing. You might be playing against the computer, against a person sitting next to you, or a person around the globe. It ALSO includes things like training simulators that the military and pilots use. Organizations like the Georgia Gaming Developer's Association oversee this realm, and it's big business. The best overview I've see on this sector comes from Scott Burkett's article identifying the factors making Georgia a great place for the gaming industry.

  2. Broadcast. You and I would typically call this television. It has to do with the production of content for the world to watch. Turner Broadcasting is Atlanta's 900-pound gorilla in this space, but there are hundreds of other companies involved in some form or fashion in this space.

  3. Film. This is movies. Tyler Perry's studio in Atlanta is an example.  And his studio has been joined by many others in recent years.

  4. Music. You'd think this one is related to the music we listen to as we're going about our day, but there's a whole other side to consider. What about the music we listen to when we're watching movies or television? Or when we're playing those games? Somebody's gotta' produce that also.

  5. Distribution. Finally, the support structure for it all. All of these bits and bytes have to move from place to place to while they're being produced, and then they have to be delivered to us, the end user. You may not be aware, but television and film content frequently moves all over the country getting ready to be put in front of us. And think about those online games... they have to originate in a server that's in a REALLY reliable environment. And you wouldn't believe all of the various protocols and encryption methods used along the way. Distribution includes hardware devices, data transport services, data centers, optical media, and so much more.
So that's Digitainment.

The final question one may ask is, "Why would a technology-centric real estate guy like you write about a sector like this? I thought you guys just got paid to complete transactions." You're right about how I get paid, but there's more to it.  After spending 16 years in the technology space before entering real estate, I'm still a nerd at heart and I love seeing what these companies are able to do with technology.  The marriage of creativity and technical know-how makes for a truly fun work environment... one it's very easy to be passionate about!