Anstandig Blog

Open Letter to Disney: It’s Time to Drop Hulu and Acquire Netflix and Roblox

In this blog, we frequently talk about the subscription economy and growth/traction of streaming services. That leads me to this…

Dear Mickey / Disney,

It’s time to take a big step. It’s time to acquire Netflix and Roblox, and if you have to, sell Hulu.

I’m suggesting that there is a massive opportunity for Disney to establish an even bigger global footprint, which comes just as streaming platforms are being forced to make some significant changes.

While Disney hoped to achieve better earnings for the second quarter of 2022, Disney+ surpassed expectations. The company reported adjusted revenues of $19.25 billion, lower than the expected $20 billion. On the other hand, Disney+ added a whopping 7.9 million subscribers to bring its total to 137.7 million, surpassing analyst estimates by around 2.7 million subscribers.

Before we can explore the benefits of such an acquisition, we first must talk about Disney’s potential baggage holding the company back: Hulu.

Is Hulu Baggage for Disney?

An increasing number of investors are calling on Disney to drop Hulu and make a new acquisition, and the argument for such a scenario is strong. Hulu is struggling to keep up with its fast-growing competitors, and it is looking like the company could be hitting a plateau. With a reported 45.6 million subscribers in the second-quarter report, Hulu has only managed to grow its subscriber base by about 1.5x. Respectable but small in comparison to Disney+ growing by more than 5x and ESPN+ by more than 3x.

Hulu has two key issues: . 

  1. The platform has a very limited global footprint. Even though some of Hulu’s content is offered on Starz, which is more widely available, Hulu is largely confined to the U.S.
  2. While Hulu has had success with original series like The Handmaid’s Tale, becoming the first streaming service to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 2017, the company has not established itself among audiences as a top choice for original programming. This limits its differentiation as consumers continue to get more selective with their streaming subscription dollars.

Hulu’s Problems = Netflix’s Strengths

Netflix has a global footprint and abundant original content. Despite many challenges at Netflix over the last few months, such as a loss in subscribers for the first time in nearly 20 years, the company has been unwavering in its commitment to achieving a strong global presence. With an established presence in 190 countries, the Netflix intro has become truly universal. (Tah dah!)

Ask anyone what their favorite streaming series is, and there’s a good chance you will hear something along the lines of Squid GameBridgertonMoney HeistOzarkThe Witcher, or the highly anticipated Stranger Things, whose recent season 4 broke Netflix’s record for biggest-ever premiere weekend of an English-language series with 287 hours viewed the week of May 23-30. What do all of these have in common? They are all Netflix originals. Remember Tiger King? Netflix original.

According to 2021 Morgan Stanley Research, 39% of respondents indicated that Netflix was the premium/OTT service with the best original programming. And that is huge given the incredible amount of competition on the market. The second choice was Amazon at just 12%.

Source: Morgan Stanley Research

It’s clear that Netflix is the leader in original content, and the company has even grander plans. It is expected that nearly half (46.5%) of the company’s projected $18.92 billion budget will go toward original programming in four years, compared with 37.8% in 2020. At the same time, content acquisition costs will decrease from 62.2% in 2020 to 53.5% in 2025.

All of this makes the two companies a perfect match, and a Disney acquisition of Netflix would turn the combined venture into an unstoppable force in the realm of original programming.

Entertainment for Kids

While Netflix has a lot of great options for original content, most parents would not consider it their first choice for a streaming service that caters to kids. But Disney definitely owns that hill as a leader in entertainment for kids, providing for one of the few areas where Netflix is limited.

While there has been an industry focus on streaming content geared toward teenagers or young adults, there is also a fierce competition for content appealing to younger consumers. Disney’s most acclaimed animated series for children, Doc McStuffins, won a 2014 Peabody Award. Series creator Chris Nee decided to take her creativity to another platform after cutting a deal with Netflix despite having a “great situation” at Disney. Nee went with Netflix so that she could have more “creative freedom.” Situations like these show just how mutually beneficial a Disney acquisition of Netflix could be. It would eliminate competition while also bringing together the best creative talent in the industry.

Roblox as Another Option

This brings us to a potential second option for Disney: a Roblox acquisition. Roblox is an online platform and storefront where a community of players can play games made by other developers. Instead of a standalone game, Roblox is a type of platform where all of its included games are made by its users. To date, users have published over 20 million games, and over half of all U.S. kids under age 16 played on Roblox in 2020. The platform is showing incredible growth, with over 54.1 million daily active users and community developers pulling in over $328 million. Roblox’s market cap is $17.75 billion at the time of the publishing of this article.

A Roblox acquisition would be far cheaper than Netflix while also bringing some of the same potential regarding entertainment for kids, which is why talks are growing around the subject. Roblox would not provide the same streaming potential as Netflix, but it would help Disney get involved in interactive media and video games. And since Roblox’s audience primarily consists of children, it makes perfect sense for Disney.

Disney has made previous ventures into mobile gaming with little success, but Roblox would bring some much-needed expertise to the table this time around. With that said, Roblox would be a far smaller acquisition than Netflix, and it would take a long time before Disney noticed any significant impact.

Creating Tomorrow’s Media Powerhouse

With an acquisition of Netflix, Disney would secure its position as the future powerhouse in streaming. With the market undergoing many changes and disruptions, especially due to shifting consumer behavior coming out of the pandemic, it’s time to make some big shifts.

Hulu is showing signs that it can’t grow. The platform’s limited global footprint and lack of unique original content seem to be impossible to overcome in this highly competitive space. On the other hand, Netflix excels in these areas and would create all kinds of brand new opportunities for Disney. The acquisition would be highly prosperous for both parties, and if Netflix proves to be too big of an undertaking for Disney, the company should look towards its next best option in Roblox.

And while I have your attention, Mickey, my 8-year-old nephew is interested in early consideration for your internship program! He’s a Roblox fanatic, a Buzz Lightyear expert, and a junior entrepreneur — what’s not to love?

Best,

Daniel

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Turbulent Streaming Subscription Landscape Means Opportunity for Broadcast Ad Revenue

As pandemic era restrictions ease worldwide and inflation rates hit record highs in the USA, we see signals that consumers are starting to cut costs on services they leaned on heavily amid the COVID-19 era. Streaming services and major cable companies have seen an uptick in cord-cutting in recent months—with companies like Comcast, Hulu+, Charter, and Dish Network losing hundreds of thousands of subscribers in the last year. One of the largest streaming services worldwide, Netflix reported a loss in subscribers for the first time in around 20 years.

Streaming and entertainment are not the only types of subscription models facing pressure amid changes in consumer spending and habits. Curated subscription and retail subscription models increased subscribers during the pandemic, likely because retail shops and restaurants were closed in many places. However, with restrictions easing, consumers could opt out of retail subscriptions to shop in person. Both Fabletics and Savage X—two clothing retailers that have built their empires on the monthly subscription model—plan to expand their retail storefronts in 2022 to accommodate this shift.

This shift in consumer habits signals turbulence in the subscription space for media and entertainment giants. With so many subscriptions for consumers to choose from, many opt to share accounts with friends and family to cut costs. For example, while Netflix reported a loss in subscribers, it saw a rise in new users—suggesting that many users combine accounts among friends and family.

Subscription Fatigue is Real.

With so many subscriptions to choose from and only so many dollars per month in the budget for those services, many Americans are opting to cancel non-essentials in favor of more affordable options. Sharing accounts is definitely an option for streaming subscriptions—but other, free options are seeing a rise in subscribers.

Disney has started offering park discounts to its Disney Plus subscribers as a way to funnel consumer spending dollars into different sectors of the company. The company could be trying to make up for its losses amid park closures during the pandemic (by the way, $DIS is down 34% YTD, as of time of publishing), or it could be a way to incentivize subscribers to keep their Disney+ subscription after missing growth expectations in Q1. The streaming platform will also implement a lower-cost, ad-supported tier for consumers later this year—a move that Netflix will also likely adopt in the future to combat subscriber losses.

Streaming Giants See New Competition Against Free, Ad-Supported Television

Free, Ad-supported Television (FAST) platforms such as Tubi, the Roku Channel, and Amazon Freevee (formerly IMDB TV) have all seen strong growth in recent months. Many consumers report that they would be willing to watch several minutes of advertisements per hour in exchange for lower subscription fees, or no subscription fees at all. A Deloitte study shows that consumers are increasingly turning toward FAST subscriptions to cut back on monthly spending, showing broadcasters that hope for growth in the future could come from lower consumer spending and higher advertising revenue.

Hulu pioneered the ad-supported streaming platform with its lower fee for ad-supported streaming. Networks have followed suit with low-cost or free platforms to earn revenue. With traditional streaming services such as Netflix, companies are limited to their earnings potential when they come only from subscription fees. Advertising allows streaming services to increase their earnings potential at scale.

What This Means For Broadcasters

With more consumers turning toward FAST subscription models to curb their spending, advertisers are likely to turn increasingly toward streaming. New data rules and regulations in the social media space have also limited advertisers’ abilities to hyper-target consumers with personalized ads.

Meta-owned Facebook announced that it stands to lose up to $10 billion in advertising revenue in 2022 after Apple rolled out an opt-out option on app tracking and other types of data mining in recent years. As targeted advertising on social media becomes more expensive and regulated, many advertisers are turning toward more traditional methods like television advertising and newer methods of advertising such as influencer marketing.

An IAB insights report shows that streaming ad spend grew about 21% in 2021, with continued growth expected as more streaming services adopt an ad-friendly model. Other forecasts predict that global ad revenue among streaming services could double in the next few years—with projections showing an industry valuation of about $32 billion by 2026.

While these changes in data privacy and consumer habits are good news for smaller broadcasters that seek advertisers, it does mean that competition among broadcasters will ramp up once streaming giants like Netflix and Disney begin seeking advertising revenue.

How local broadcast can compete

Smaller, local broadcasters can get ahead of competitors by using advertising and market research tools that provide invaluable data to potential advertisers. Broadcasters can provide answers to advertiser questions in real-time with sales intelligence insight from TopLine-Pivot, an AI-driven intelligence platform for broadcasters and media companies.

TopLine-Pivot combines qualitative market research from SmithGeiger with Futuri’s AI-driven engagement tools to deliver custom data to advertising sales teams in real-time. Sales teams can use the TopLine-Pivot dashboard to customize the data they collect instantly. Data provided by TopLine-Pivot can be used to strategize content and advertising presentations quickly and affordably. Learn more about TopLine-Pivot, the next generation of sales intelligence, here.

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Elon Musk Will Win $43B Twitter Bid. Here’s what will happen next.

At Futuri, we have worked with Twitter and their technologies for many years. We look forward to Elon’s takeover! A breath of fresh air for the media industry.

Elon Musk is in many ways the perfect Twitter celebrity. He’s a polarizing figure with a knack for making incendiary headlines. He’s influential and interesting enough to draw the world’s attention, but not so famous as not to participate in Twitter’s many running jokes. He’s as irreverent as the world’s richest man can be.

Recently Musk acquired a 9.2% stake not because Twitter is a well-performing stock or an investment. The $2.6 billion acquisition only represents 1% of his net worth.  He is on a red-pilled-driven mission to protect free speech. He has called himself a “free speech absolutist”, opposed to any restrictions on what someone can say online.

So what can we expect of him and Twitter next?

1.   Twitter Stock Will Soar. Here come subscriptions.

Because Musk is looking into a free (speech) platform, it will encourage and create a free exchange of ideas, and as a result, the user base will grow, as will ad revenues.

Twitter stock has been lagging behind its direct competitor Meta. The social media company has been floundering after going public. Their ad results are decelerating.

Following Musk’s acquisition of 9.2% stake, the stock price gained significantly for the first time since 2013. Investors felt optimistic about the move, feeling that it would rejuvenate the sickly business. In fact, the news of Musk taking a board seat strengthened it more. But when it was said that he wasn’t resuming the board seat the stock price descended. This is to indicate that where goes Musk there goes Twitter.

Twitter leadership is now in a precarious situation. They’ve embraced – at least publicly – Musk and rejecting his deal would likely send the Twitter stock into a death spiral.

Perhaps then Google or Larry Ellison buy it at a lower price… but shareholders will not see the same rewards.

A subscription model will create real value. (see #4)

2.   Free Speech Will Help Advertisers.

There are many reasons why we expect that Elon Musk will be an activist for free speech. He is the CEO of Tesla and the CEO of SpaceX. SpaceX already has a satellite in space that provides the internet to all of us. It is called Starlink. He recently employed Starlink to bring the Internet to millions of Ukrainians.

He started Tesla, one of the most disruptive companies in the world today. His company built a software car that drives people around without any human assistance.

Elon Musk recently got into the cannabis industry when he bought a hemp farm in Texas. He also just launched two satellites into space funded by his own money and not by a venture capital firm.

And now he’s taking over Twitter as well.

Musk says he isn’t political. This obviously isn’t the case as he is showing with deeply idealistic moves that – yes – are benefiting humanity.

3.   Twitter Will Be Key for 2022 Midterms and 2024 Presidential Election.

Money will pour in with fewer restrictions and oversight. Twitter will also overcome Facebook in campaign/issue ad revenue. Every politician and super pac will spend huge amounts on a platform that doesn’t restrict speech.

With Elon Musk as the CEO, Twitter will have a lot of influence compared to other social media platforms. Although Musk isn’t interested in daily politics, his campaign contributions, and tweets speak volumes.

And given that he has about 80 million followers makes him an influential voice regardless. If he can move the markets as he did with dogecoin and crypto at large, he can move the needle when it comes to elections. Two separate scenario we can expect:

  1. Musk uses his personal Twitter account with a reach of hundreds of million to promote a candidate or rail against a candidate or an agenda
  2. He will remove all restrictions vis-a-vis advertising and the winner is determined according to creativity (campaign ads) and deep pockets

4.   Twitter will create a paid subscription growth plan. 

Musk floated the idea of a subscription model, suggesting a $3 monthly fee in exchange for a highly coveted blue checkmark. When high demand meets limited and carefully regulated supply, we can only imagine how many users will flock to pay a measly three bucks for the privilege of being verified. Just do the math. In 2020, Twitter raked in $3.72 bn in revenue. What’s 20m users paying $3/month?

Sure, subscription is a tradeoff and advertising will drop, but it is my belief that a subscription model will create a highly engaged user base that will ultimately turn Twitter into the largest platform of active users, leaving platforms like Reddit in the dust.

5.   Death Blow to Facebook? More competition for Locals or Truth Social?

The Zuck is often portrayed – for some good reason – as personifying all the evils of Big Tech. Recently released documentary investigates why Zuckerberg made an unprecedented $400 million investment in the 2020 presidential election and follows the money through official tax documents and seeks to set the record straight about exactly what happened.

Indeed, Facebook – whether Zuck’s donation or Cambridge Analyhtica – is mired in controversy. With Musk joining Twitter, it’s likely that Facebook continues to polarize popular opinion and bleed younger users to Twitter and TikTok. Facebook has been in the crosshairs of DC republicans and with Musk – a darling of sorts of many conservatives – joining Twitter, it’s unlikely that Twitter will face the kind of regulatory scrutiny that Facebook is knee-deep in.

With Musk’s recent Twitter activity, the question may arise: will this make it more difficult for competitors to break through and gain some sort of network effect?

Whether Dave Rubin’s Locals or Trump’s Truth Social, or Parler, Musk’s entry into the mix could make these aforementioned ventures redundant. The premise and raison d’etre for platforms like Locals is free speech. If speech is free on Twitter, why take the time to join a competing platform?

Of course, if Musk is distracted and/or unwilling to fight for free speech, new platforms will have a place in the market.

6.   Crypto’s Fortunes Are Linked to Twitter

With bitcoin maximalist Jack Dorsey and crypto generalist enthusiast Musk, Twitter will increase its position as the New Finance platform. Twitter will be the adoption gateway.

Twitter will attract more high net worth social users, more upward moving professionals, and folks who are or wish to become movers and shakers. No other social media platform has done more to advance crypto than Twitter. Sure, advertising is still an issue, but Crypto Tips and Dorsey’s unbridled bitcoin enthusiasm aren’t going away and Musk will likely accelerate both Twitter’s crypto journey and the wider, mass adoption.

7.   The edit button is a distraction. Stop it already.

Musk’s decision to take a piece of Twitter isn’t about making a better product in terms of the platform’s functionality or UX/UI. Tiny tweaks that may be expected by many, are a distraction from the main battle.

Musk has given multiple interviews – from Joe Rogan to 60 minutes – where he speaks openly and honestly about his world view. The world is about mass-scale – not incremental – change. The goal of putting a man on mars and already achieving one goal by revolutionizing the car industry, Musk isn’t looking to make 20% on his investment. He is taking on those who wish to regulate speech and will likely succeed.

Had Jack Dorsey not stepped down and had Parag Aggrwal not been appointed the new CEO, it is highly unlikely Musk would’ve invested in Twitter.

While Musk will want to focus on making Twitter a better product, whether in terms of design or functionality, the new CEO, Mr. Agrawal, is the real target. Agrawal has indicated that free speech isn’t on the top of his agenda.

For Musk, Twitter is his primary communications channel and which he seems to enjoy the most. Musk is engaged in a direct conversation with his 80 million followers. The power of this dynamic likely functions as inspiration for Musk and a crowdsourced wealth of information that has shaped his political and philosophical views.

Musk will want to not only maintain this conversation, but to safeguard it. This means, simply put, that he must purge Twitter of the anti-free speech culture.

Joe Concha, writing for The Hill, says “Musk may “inflict damage to the company’s culture” — a “culture” that has freely embraced censorship while shunning due process. If Musk is a threat to that, it’s a good thing.”

In the same column, Concha cites a recent survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, according to which “just 10 percent of Americans surveyed believe social media has had a mostly positive impact on the country, while two-thirds say it’s had a mostly negative impact”.

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Six Predictions for 2022

I really thought we’d be traveling to Mars by 2022, didn’t you? I jest (sort of). Elon says we’re 5-10 years out. Despite the lack of interplanetary journeys, technology continues to improve exponentially. So no, it’s not in our heads, technology really is improving at a break-neck speed.

What will be the big areas of tech focus/ innovation in 2022? Here are some predictions.

1. Blockchain will rapidly expand adoption and NFTs will be a hot(ter) topic among entertainment fans and art collectors.

NFTs were not a flash in the pan, as the crypto-obsessed Art Basel can attest. Expect even more investment in massive mining servers. One interesting company is Redivider, who is building a fund to bring blockchain mining into “opportunity zones” throughout the US.

As The Guardian’s James Ball recently wrote, “If people are buying NFTs and driving up the price because they truly value the artworks on offer, then the gold rush could prove sustainable. If people are buying them solely because they think someone else will buy one for more, lots of people will lose big. One special thing to watch out for, for buyers and sellers alike, is platform fees. These can amount to hundreds of dollars – do remember the house always wins.”

Pro Tip: Get familiar with the ten most common cryptocurrency buzz words here.

2. In Healthcare, we will see more focus on longevity medicine.

Of course, keeping good health is the daily goal for so many of us, and the pandemic will reach its second year in March.

Both Pfizer and Merck have created antiviral pills, and vaccine rollout will continue, and target new variants. Telemedicine grew during the pandemic out of necessity but will be here for a long time as many patients actually prefer interacting with doctors from the comfort of their homes versus trekking to a clinic or office. And vaccine cards will be streamlined even more. Right now individual cities have digital cards (like the Excelsior pass in NYC), but companies like Clear, who normally focus on the travel industry, are now branching into the live event space to make verifying someone’s vaccine status as simple as scanning a QR code.

Apart from Covid, we’ll be embracing more virtual and artificially intelligent solutions in healthcare for our personal longevity. Everything from AI prescriptions/diagnostics to widely accepted telehealth will become more commonplace. We’ll see more wellness and immunity clinics, wearable sensors that help us to live healthier, medications engineered to make us strong and sharp, and concierge medicine for those who desire (and are willing to pay for) time with experts.

From a tech perspective, Blockchain will also provide a foundation for protecting patient records, such as the app Ever, which currently operates in Thailand. And finally, there will be more and more apps that can make a doctor’s visit instant and entirely virtual. Even insurance companies like Oscar provide virtual primary care visits to members for convenience (and of course, to save the company itself costs.)

3. Live Events will be off to a rocky start in Q1; People will push to be together in-person more from April forward.

In terms of events, music and tech events will be back, with giant caveats in place and lots of safety precautions. Simply put, until the pandemic ends, live events are a slippery slope. Take, CES, which has already begun seeing tech giants pull out of participating in their early January conference.

It’s not just a fun addition to have virtual/hybrid options on deck, it’s essential if you want to stay afloat as a conference. On the music side, many concerts are still being planned for 2022, such as the large “Lovers and Friends” Hip Hop and R&B festival occurring in Las Vegas in May, and an Elton John world tour. However, as Broadway’s shutdown in December due to Omicron is any indication, artists should be prepared to have to reschedule their tour dates.

4. Demand will continue to rise in the Auto Industry, despite more virtual workplaces and seemingly less need for cars.

Of all industries, the auto industry has arguably been the hardest hit by supply chain issues during the pandemic. It all began with chips. Automakers assumed that new car sales would take a while to bounce back during the pandemic, and so did not order enough computer chips — leaving semiconductors on the table for big tech to snatch up. And it’s not just chip shortages, auto manufacturers are facing a lack of steel, rubber, resin and most importantly, labor. Some estimate that 7.7million fewer cars were built in 2021 due to supply chain issues– costing the auto industry approximately 270 billion.

But there’s a strong demand for both new and used cars, and car prices are on the rise. In 2022, the rise of electric cars is upon us, but there are also some amazing new gas-powered vehicles. Dream cars include the Nissan Z, the Corvette Z06, Porsche 911 GT3 and Porsche 718 GT4RS. People are growing comfortable with plug-in hybrids, like the Rav 4 Prime. The Tesla SUV is top of mind for all electric-fans, which is more aesthetically pleasing than their previously heralded Cyber-truck. Of course, you can always forego cars completely and stick to bikes. And the Smart Tires, the tires that never go flat, will be available next year.

5. Gadgets will be more advanced but more difficult to get for at least the first half of the year. (supply chain issues)

Like the auto industry, tech also suffered due to the supply chain. In 2021, some media and tech businesses were forced to reduce their production by up to 25% due to semiconductor chip shortages. Expect the tech supply chain to continue to suffer in 2022, at least through Q2. To help mitigate these effects, companies are aiming to steer customers towards available products, and better prepare themselves for future shortages (what HBR calls “availability” and “resilience”).

Despite chip shortages, there are some great gadgets coming out in 2022. These include the Google Pixel Watch, Netgear’s NFT Canvas and the Apple “Mixed Reality” headset. The one that’s the most interesting to me is the Apple headset, as it’s really a test run for their future AR glasses offering. Given the amount of Quest 2s sold during Black Friday, people are interested in VR. However, Apple’s headset will most likely have a higher price tag than Oculus, so it remains to be seen how it fares in the marketplace. My prediction is that Apple won’t have a big XR hit until they get those AR glasses up and running, and that won’t be for a few years. (bummer).

CES 2022 will also feature a gadget I’ve had my eyes on, LG Display’s flexible OLED TV. Curved TVs are not new, but I’ve never seen a TV that can bend and shape like this before. These displays can literally bend like a piece of paper — it’s super futuristic-looking. This tech is great for incorporating into seating for a dynamic viewing experience (LG’s “Media Chair”) but is also handy for fitness, as you can surround someone on an exercise bike with screens (“Virtual Ride”). Flexible screens may be a concept/ true luxury item for now, but given how quickly flatscreens became wildly affordable, I’m confident that displays of the future will be even more out-of-the-box (pun intended.)

6. Every tech giant will make a Metaverse play this year.

Zuck was not playing around when he renamed Facebook “Meta”. Get ready for every tech giant to make a metaverse play this year, and for all sorts of companies to try to cash in.

Think, virtual reality real estateavatar creation companies, and even virtual time-share properties. Per Bloomberg Intelligence, by 2024, the global Metaverse market is expected to hit $800 billion. Ark Invest estimates that revenue from virtual worlds could approach $400 billion by 2025. Keep an eye on NvidiaMeta (Facebook), RobloxMicrosoft, Unity Software, Snap Inc, Autodesk, Apple, and Amazon in 2022. Together, they provide computing power, connectivity/network, virtual platforms, digital payment systems, content, and hardware used to power and access the Metaverse.

The best way to stay up to date on the metaverse, is to play around with it yourself. Some suggestions include: snagging a Quest 2 and experiencing some content (I’m a big fan of the fitness app Supernatural), have team meetups in the gaming metaverse Fortnite, or even just download SnapChat and experiment with AR filters. The metaverse provides an accumulation of layers on top of our existing reality. Right now, we’re in Web 2.0, and Web3 (when the internet is decentralized and based upon blockchain technology) is coming fast. In 2022, I see Web3 and metaverse tech continuing to merge, and getting us closer to the virtual reality environments and digital economies promised in books like Ready Player One (but hopefully, with less 80’s references.)

Here’s to 2022!

Let’s make 2022 a fresh start. Wishing you a year of health and peace, where we can be with our friends and family and do the things we love, all while innovating along the way.

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How will VR change our future?

We might associate virtual reality with games, but as I discussed in my latest episode of Anstandig on the Future, VR has the potential to shape the future of fitness, the workplace, and much more.

Let’s look at a few points discussed in Anstandig on the Future of VR.

VR and Fitness

The pairing of VR and fitness is only natural.

VR provides lots of capability to shake up your workout routine: from delivering a personal trainer and your favorite music to you mid-workout to transporting you to workout in some of the moth breathtaking places in the world.

The benefits can be traced back to gaming, including reports of people playing Beat Saber for so long that they lost weight thanks to the game’s full-body movement.

And that’s just a game. Imagine what VR can do in the world of fitness when it’s designed for that purpose. Thankfully, programs like Supernatural VR Fitness help with exactly that.

VR and Commerce

In Anstandig on the Future, we’ve discussed several technologies that can change the way commerce works. VR is another to add to the list.

Imagine modeling an outfit that has yet to release or seeing your new car before it ever arrives at the dealership. All this and more is possible thanks to VR.

Its power is washing into real estate, too. From home designs to touring places and museums, VR is being used much more frequently in that sector, too.

VR and Business/Enterprise

On-the-job training can be effective when done well, but imagine if you could show employees exactly how to do their job.

That’s the potential of VR training, and it even expands to something as serious as military sector training.

Enterprise VR training revenue is projected to hit 4.2 billion by 2023, and that covers anything from teaching employees how to stack boxes currently to teaching doctors how to do open-heart surgery.

Onboarding and training might be looking a LOT different pretty soon!

What’s next with VR?

VR might have as much life-changing potential as anything we’ve talked about thus far in Anstandig on the Future… if not more!

If you enjoyed thinking through these different use cases for VR—all of which came from my newest episode of Anstandig on the Future—I hope you can give the rest of the show a listen and learn more about how VR can impact the world we live in.

While this is a fun blog, it’s only the tip of the iceberg of what I covered in the show. I hope you can listen and share your thoughts with me here, or on Twitter, @anstandig.

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Common Truths and Myths about the Growth of eSports

eSports have come a long way. As I discussed in my latest episode of Anstandig on the Future, the very first eSports match was a competition for a magazine subscription and beer.

Now, according to New Zoo’s Global eSports and Live Streaming Market Report, the 2023 projected revenue of eSports is 1.6 billion dollars.

An industry experiencing such phenomenal growth bears opportunity for not only media companies, but for other companies as well – particularly in an advertising and marketing role.

As eSports continue to boom, let’s look at some of the common ideas associated with eSports and decide whether they are a MYTH or the TRUTH!

Idea 1: All eSports viewers are men

Fact-check: MYTH.

This is far from the truth. In fact, the current gender split is about 70-30%, men-to-women, and that number continues to level out as more women are joining the eSports circle as both viewers and players.

Companies are taking strides to ensure that eSports are for everybody, regardless of gender. Several initiatives are underway, including Global Gaming Women and Women in Games.

On top of that, eSports is the only major sporting scenario where teams can be co-ed. Not only does that mean it’s in everybody’s best interest to seek out the best players regardless of gender, but a mixed team shows that gaming truly is for everybody.

Idea 2: The people investing in eSports are companies with money to burn on experiential ventures

Fact-check: MYTH

Another myth, and another that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Instead, almost the exact opposite is true here.

Many small brands are getting into eSports. A great example is Otter Pops popsicles, which invested in an Overwatch league and reignited interest in their brand with a younger audience.

If anything, eSports are probably more small-company friendly than any traditional marketing channels because they cost a fraction of the amount as something like a nationally-televised football game or major sporting event.

On top of that, audiences of eSports are younger and have disposable income… plus they’ll spend an average of 100 minutes watching the stream!

Idea 3: eSports tournaments don’t make money.

Fact-check: TRUTH.

While this might come as a surprise, this one is actually true.

It’s the ripple effect of tournaments that results in brand growth, game sells, and income. eSports make the most money when viewers go and buy the games for themselves, which is why companies keep hosting these tournaments.

They’re not a cash cow—they’re an investment in the brand!

What’s next with eSports?

Technology trends are all pointing toward an explosion in eSports. We see faster internet, the advent of 5G, growth in streaming popularity, cheaper gaming systems, and better mobile games as signs that the ever-growing market could boom very soon.

If you enjoyed these myths—all of which came from my newest episode of Anstandig on the Future—I hope you can give the rest of the show a listen and learn more about what this growth in eSports might mean for you.

While this is a fun blog, it’s only the tip of the iceberg of what I covered in the show. I hope you can listen and share your thoughts with me on Twitter, @anstandig or here on LinkedIn.

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The Future of Retail and Omnichannel Shopping

Imagine you walk into a store, and after a bit of shopping, you find a jacket and pair of jeans you like. You scan them into the store’s app with your phone and complete your purchase right there. Just like that, you’re good to go.

Or, perhaps, you don’t want to browse the entire store, so maybe you do the shopping on your couch using your laptop. After finding the clothes you want, you pay online and go to the store to pick them up.

These situations are simple examples of omnichannel retail shopping. Omnichannel is shopping that combines both the physical and digital experience with new ways of marketing to provide a seamless customer experience with connective tissue running through all marketing efforts, fully encircling the potential customer. If done well, it ensures brick-and-mortar stores maximize every square foot of space.

If you polled the public, the consensus might be that retail shopping is transitioning into a more online-exclusive experience, this is not the case. Instead, omnichannel retail shopping is an opportunity for brick-and-mortar stores to get the most out of their storefront in exciting new ways.  It’s a more cohesive shopping experience that uses all the channels—as “omni” suggests.

The latest episode of Anstandig on the Future discusses how omnichannel shopping ultimately provides new potential for innovative businesses and a more convenient shopping environment for customers.

Brick and mortar shopping is not transitioning into a future of online-only sales. It’s evolving, improving, and becoming more customer-centric as digital marketing campaigns not only drive awareness of brands, but also educate consumers about the brands as well through socials, videos, and even blog posts. When mastered, this can turn a brick-and-mortar store seeking foot traffic into a retail superhero.

Omnichannel consumers and their relation to revenue

As online shopping has increased in popularity, consumers are more frequently exhibiting one of two behaviors when it comes to researching a product before purchasing.

The first is “showrooming.” This consists of an individual testing a product within a physical store but then proceeding to purchase the product online. The other behavior, “webrooming,” is the opposite. The individual will research a product digitally, then go and purchase it in a physical location. Without an omnichannel presence, there would be no shifting between the digital and physical, meaning these consumers are more likely to purchase a product because of the two interactive spaces.

This interaction between physical and digital when purchasing a product may seem abnormal at first, but according to Harvard Business Review, consumers who used more channels when deciding on their purchase were more likely to be loyal customers. Additionally, individuals who had interacted with both physical and digital locations spent four percent more in-store and ten percent more online when compared to single-channel consumers.

This provides a visible example of how the omnichannel approach can be effective.

Existing businesses shifting to omnichannel

As a result of the pandemic, companies such as Walmart and Best Buy started converting sections of their physical stores into fulfillment centers. Kroger is touting the strength of its omnichannel shopping ecosystem as part of its recent earnings results, and Target is talking about the future of the omnichannel customer experience.

Another example is a startup by the name of Alert Innovation, which has designed a futuristic model for a grocery store. In this design, the customer only physically gathers fresh market goods, while a robot collects the packaged items that the customer had electronically communicated.

Ultimately, we can see that even in the rise of digital abilities regarding consumption, it would still potentially involve a strong omnichannel approach.

The power and future of retail shopping

Individuals shop at a retail store for several reasons – some of which online shopping will never be able to imitate.

For example, there’s a sense of destination when it comes to brick-and-mortar shopping. Consumers are taking an excursion out of their house, going on an adventure to seek unexpected bargains, buys, and loot from their favorite stores. This is experiential shopping unlike anything a web browser can provide… and when customers go, they also spend more!

Another strength of physical stores is that they offer more personalization to individuals. Many of the brick-and-mortar stores with the most foot traffic are the ones offering more personalization in the shopping experience and therefore playing on a natural human desire.

As technology improves, so does a store’s ability to combine personalization and advertising more and more simply. In the future, companies will be catering to individual customers. In other words, retail is going to be solely about you!

A current example of this is online simulators using face recognition to show how you’d look in specific clothing items.

The future omnichannel shopping experience

Here are a few different ways the omnichannel shopping experience will continue to evolve in the future.

1. METHODICALLY DESIGNED VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE OF PHYSICAL STORES. Retailers create a VR tour of their physical store. There are resources such as Obsess that make it simple to build. This allows consumers to roam the store virtually.

2. STRATEGIC DATA GATHERING ON CUSTOMERS. Many SMBs are already using services like Shopify, which allows you to log an individual’s information and streamline the process while building a database.

3. THE POWER OF LOYALTY PROGRAMS. Retailers will invest in loyalty programs or leverage products like Smile.io, which provides customer loyalty programs both online and in-store.

4. CONVERTING DIGITAL BROWSING TO IN-STORE VISITS. A new metric of success: how many digital browsers showed up in the store? There are already technologies designed to accelerate conversion, like Hero, which encourages customers to browse physical stores digitally while also giving them the ability to set up appointments to buy products in person or remotely.

5. RATING AND REVIEW MANAGEMENT:  Over half of consumers read at least four reviews before buying a product, and half of internet users post reviews at least once a month. In other words, customers are more likely to trust a shop and buy from it if reviews are present, so review and brand management are crucial.

6. CONNECTING IN NEW WAYS. Well-placed influencer reviews and physical ads are essential to becoming an omnichannel operation. While happy customers will always be loyal customers, retail marketers will constantly have to learn new ways of connecting with customers as we evolve.

The Omnichannel Experience

The omnichannel will not only change shopping… it will improve it. If you’re interested in learning more, give the episode a listen, and be sure to check out all the other episodes of Anstandig on the Future.

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The Metaverse in Business, Socializing, and Play: Anstandig on the Future

Daniel Anstandig

A metaverse is a collective digital experience that can be shared by multiple individuals at once. While the definition might seem simple, the potential is off the charts.

The latest episode of Anstandig on the Future gears up to explore the metaverse, and the results are an exciting blend of social, business, and play potential.

For an idea that traces its name back to science fiction, there’s an undeniable amount of very real effects that the metaverse could have on daily life if the idea comes to fruition. That’s why Mark Zuckerberg recently called Facebook “a metaverse company” and why Epic Games announced a $1 billion funding round “to Support Epic’s Long-Term Vision for the Metaverse.”

In this post, let’s take a look at a few ways the metaverse could impact how we socialize, do business, and even play. For more, be sure to listen to the episode of Anstandig on the Future.

Business potential of the metaverse

While the pandemic was devasting in many ways, it also accelerated our drive toward a more digital future. The business potential of the metaverse is the next logical step.

Now, as you sign up for almost any event, you’ll see the “virtual option.” The metaverse will present that, but instead of watching the business conference on our computer screens, we’ll experience it in virtual reality.

Imagine a world where we all strap on Facebook’s Oculus Quest VR headsets and sit in a board meeting in which we’re all in the same virtual room, interacting with avatars of our peers and even our own computers screens. We could be doing this from anywhere in the world, and when that becomes the possibility, new frontiers of work and commerce will be unlocked, too. We’ll have new jobs, new opportunities, and a new way to look at “business.”

It might just be sooner than you think, too.

Socializing potential of the metaverse

The metaverse will also affect the way we socialize—and this doesn’t just mean how you interact with your friends and neighbors.

For one, a metaverse will connect us on a much wider network so that we will be able to virtually meet people from all around the world. Connectivity will increase as the internet shrinks distance.

Consider the ability to attend a conference, concert, or even a dance with people from all around the world and being able to interact with them face-to-face, thanks to our avatars. Social circles could grow tremendously.

Ownership will change, too. Presumably, the metaverse will have its own digital currency, and  “owning” something in the metaverse will point back to conversations about cryptocurrency and NFT’s. When assets become less physical, we’ll have new ways to think about what we value.

Play potential of the metaverse

Most people think of the metaverse, in its current form, as a game-like reality. There’s a lot of truth to that—currently, it is.

The best active example of the metaverse is Epic Games’ Fortnite, where there are tons of avatars piloted by real people, and they converge and play together in a virtual world.

As the metaverse becomes more subversive, meaning more virtual reality and fewer screens, the play potential will increase, too. While four friends can play Fortnite from four different countries today, there’s potential for a future where four friends can go inside a game with astonishing virtual avatars of themselves to play sports, video games, or even just hang out.

While the business and social ramifications are important, we can’t ever forget our need for play, too!

Ready to explore the metaverse?

The metaverse could be a disruptive technology in a whole new way, changing the way we live our lives, work our jobs, socialize and play.

But the potential alone is enough to get me giddy with excitement.

If this post piqued your interest, you should listen to the full episode of Anstandig on the Future. In the episode, I discuss everything from the history of the idea to the technology needed to make it come to life.

Whether you’re listening while washing dishes, driving to work, or perhaps while entering your own metaverse on Fortnite, this is an episode you need to hear!

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How NFTs can Impact our Future

Daniel Anstandig

This past year, cryptocurrencies have seen a rise in popularity. As a result of this, the term “NFT” has started to float around. Although NFTs are not a cryptocurrency, it is part of the Ethereum blockchain.

An NFT can be considered a one-of-a-kind digital art form with the ability to be purchased. It is exclusive to the buyer, by certificate, which identifies the digital asset as solely the buyers.

The latest episode of Anstandig on the Future provides a further look into the NFT market, beginning with a brief assessment of the NFTs’ background, while also incorporating a current understanding of NFTs. The episode transitions into the potential benefits (and risks) the NFT market can affect our world. Specifically, this includes things such as contracts, fraud, and the environment.

While in the midst of the NFT golden age, there are various aspects to consider before getting involved in the NFT market.

What Does an NFT Look Like?

There is much confusion on what an NFT can actually look like, so let’s clarify.

Let’s say there’s a musician wanting to make an NFT for their fans. One way of approaching this could be releasing a few seconds of a music video, and that would be the NFT. Or a portion of a song that hasn’t been released yet. Then the NFTs will be auctioned off, where fans would have the ability to bid.

It must be noted that there are no limitations to the digital art being sold as NFTs. The opportunities are endless. In other words, there is no definitive list of what an NFT has to be.

This is certainly one of the more exciting characteristics of the NFT, creativity is encouraged. There have already been unique NFTs that consisted of GIFs, Tweets, and even articles. As the NFT market progresses even more creative NFTs will appear.

How NFTs Hurt the Environment

As a result of NFTs relying on the Ethereum blockchain, large amounts of energy are required.

This is due to cryptocurrencies involving lots of computer power in order to function, which of course means massive amounts of electricity are being used. Specifically, Ethereum is mostly mined in Eastern Europe where energy costs are extremely low.

Not only are the energy costs low, but it is being sourced from non-sustainable energy. So, the energy is coming from something like coal which is more harmful to the environment, rather than a source like solar or wind.

Is There a Way to Make the NFT Market More Green?

Yes, companies are working toward solutions to shrink this energy footprint, while also supporting the NFT economy.

One example is Green NFTs, which is providing bounties for individuals who mint NFTs using green energy while powering the Ethereum blockchain.

Another current solution that’s being created is new blockchains that require less energy and still allow the NFTs to link.

Moving Forward with NFTs

As established, NFTs have a lot of potential influence regarding digital properties and creativity, although it comes with various risks including the environment.

The biggest concern of NFTs is energy consumption, now energy-reduced options are available to minimize this concern. Together, let’s do our part and make sure we’re making environmental-friendly choices when involved in the NFT market.

Whether you’re listening in the car, on a commute to your office, or while preparing lunch in your own kitchen, I hope you enjoy Anstandig on the Future.

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Before Anstandig on the Future, we had a podcast called Innovation19. Here’s what we learned from the first season of the podcast.

Last year, during the pandemic, on top of my work as CEO of Futuri (and learning to bake a lot of sourdoughs), I hosted a podcast, Innovation19, produced in-house using Futuri’s POST podcasting system. The goal for the podcast was to dive into the technology and innovation topics that are shaping our future that would also compel my friends and colleagues in the media, marketing, and entertainment industries.

My next endeavor is a new podcast, Anstandig On The Future, which will launch July 7 (more about this later!). With Innovation19, I produced 20 episodes about all things technology and new discoveries. The common thread was this — even during the most uncertain time in recent history, humans kept innovating and my guests stayed hopeful about the future. As an optimistic futurist (I hate dystopian narratives), this filled me with hope, too. Here’s a breakdown of some of the highlights from the season, and a look at what’s next.

In Scroll With the Punches: AI and the Future of News, we discussed Futuri’s TopicPulse and other AI-based approaches to figuring out what your audience wants, so that you can curate your news to their specific needs. The news cycle is shorter than ever before. Tech-powered assistance in the newsroom is essential.

In Episode 7, we spoke to a famous expert on change and uncertainty in the business realm, Rita McGrath, who encourages people to take calculated risks for the sake of innovation. Rita answered the question, “How do you encourage executives to look out into the future, so they’re proactively innovating?”

Advancements in Commuting: Personal Planes, Hyperloop Trains, and Driverless Automobiles was another personal favorite moment on the podcast, since I’m obsessed with all things transportation. The episode explores how we still have a long way to go before flying cars are a thing; yet in the meantime, we do have helicopter-like eVTOLs (vertical takeoff and landing machines), which Uber wants to roll out to major cities over the next few years. Your travel will be faster and more energy-efficient than ever before.

Futuri Executive, Tracy Gilliam, walked us through The State of Broadcast Advertising Sales in 2021. This was a hard year for traditional ad models, especially ones that relied on people being, you know, outside their homes, but executives got scrappy and figured out how to make campaigns sing—being innovative along the way.

Robots: MindBody, and Soul (episodes 18, 19, and 20) formed a collection regarding the nature of the robotic mind, body, and soul. Although we aimed to explore evolving technology, when dealing with robots, particularly the concept of “the singularity,” things got mighty existential mighty quick. So much of what defines a human or robot is up to the observer (or what you program a robot to observe about itself). As is the case with life’s great questions, there were no clear answers, but as the world evolves into a more automated one, it excites me to continue this conversation.

I made a lot of Baby Yoda references this season (it was a bit of a running Easter egg for my dedicated listeners). This began in Episode 2, This Is The Way: How ‘The Mandalorian’ Uses Innovative Tech Wisely. Here, we discussed how virtual production methodologies, like Industrial Light and Magic’s incredible LED screen technology, is getting so good, that executives visiting the set thought at first sight that they had built actual sets and blown through their season budget.

Hollywood’s History of the Future: What Sci-Fi Movies and TV Got Right About Today’s Technology was a total blast, flying cars (finally!) and all. Science fiction lets us envision the world how we want it to be, and oftentimes says much more about our current state of the world than how the future will realistically look. Of course, sometimes you get lucky, such as when they filmed 2001: A Space Odyssey and accidentally invented the iPad!

And finally, for Valentine’s Day, we looked at dating apps on Tinder Bender: Dating Apps As Case Studies For Marketing, Branding, and More. Apps like newly IPO’d Bumble were a window into how to brand effectively and influence people, even in an oversaturated market. The key takeaway? When you have a lot of competition, try and focus on one differentiator and do it very well, as opposed to trying to excel at everything. Also, don’t be afraid to innovate and change the plan as you go, whether with different marketing strategies or pivoting your model.

So, what’s next? Anstandig On The Future will also provide an optimistic futurist perspective on innovation, but diving into other topics with greater specificity. And with most episodes under ten minutes long, you’ll be able to learn a lot in a short amount of time about a particular facet of the media, tech, and entertainment industries. Think — NFTs, Apple, and the future of work, just to name a few upcoming topics. If you’ve read this far (I love you, too) and you’re curious to keep discovering with me, check out Innovation19, and look out for the premiere of Anstandig On The Future on July 7.

Here’s to the future!

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How Apple’s Customer First Approach Created a Tech Giant

Daniel Anstandig

The first episode of Anstandig on the Future studies Apple, and in creating the podcast, it made me realize just how massive the company is.

Basically, Apple is everywhere.

You can stream Apple TV+ on your Apple TV while reading emails on your MacBook and sending texts on your iPhone. Even the word “podcast” is a portmanteau of the words “broadcast” and “iPod.”

In many ways, Apple has extended far beyond serving as a B2C company…

It’s a lifestyle.

Or, at least, to many customers.

There’s a reason why the consumers of Apple products are as passionate about their iPhones or Airpods as most fans are for their favorite sports team: there’s a bond between company and customer that’s nearly unmatched.

In other words, Apple has become the largest company in the world by market cap not by trying to become the largest smartphone vendor, but the most beloved.

But how did Apple make this happen, and what comes next?

The History of Apple

Apple was founded in 1976 by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, and while the company sold computers and tech products for decades, everything changed in 2001 at the introduction of the iPod, the sleekest and most portable music player ever created.

The iPod was a massive success because Apple created something to engage a gigantic target audience in a non-speculative market. The combination of use and design proved effective for the 2007 launch of the iPhone, too, and since then, those two elements have heavily infused every product Apple has released.

But with so much established dominance, how can they stay on top?

Apple in the Future

Ceaseless innovation is the single most important piece to maintaining competitive advantages for tech companies, and we see that in Apple’s history. The iPod turned to the iPhone, which paved the way to iWatches, iPads, AirPods, Apple TVs, and more. On top of this, they release a new iteration of previous devices almost every year.

To keep up with the trend, Apple is working on even more products in the coming years—and many reports about each of them can be found on Mac Rumors. Of these reported projects, some of the most noteworthy are Apple Chips, Apple Glasses, and even—wait for it—and Apple Car.

In short, Apple maintains its lead on the technology race by continuing to innovate with its eyes set years—or decades—down the line.

Can Apple stay on top of the pack?

Apple has made some mistakes over the years.

One such problem has been rooted in the company’s quest to offer sticky solutions that encourage consumers to get not one Apple product, but all Apple products. For example, remember when Apple controversially removed the headphone jack from its iPhone around the same time it introduced new—and expensive—Bluetooth earphones?

Other shortcomings are more aligned with Apple’s emphasis on design outweighing practical application. My favorite example of this is the Apple TV remote. It looks sleek, sure, but it is also very easy to lose.

For Apple to stay on top, they must not only continuously innovate, but also they must never let form overtake function or forget the mindset that got them in the position they’re in: always put the consumer first.

Ready for more?

Ready for more about Apple’s future? Want a deeper dive into the past? Want to learn the 6 Pillars of Steve Jobs’s Design Philosophy?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, download Episode One of my new podcast, Anstandig on the Future. I hope to see you there!

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