DISTRIBUTION 102: Media, Movies, and Mobiles

On set at Thunder Studios under our massive Fisher light.

This is the second of a three-part series by Rodric David

Historically we have viewed distribution primarily as the physical movement of goods. This changed in 1440 with the invention of the Printing Press by Johannes Gutenberg which enabled knowledge and information to be distributed on a large scale. The printing press was the foundation for numerous transformative industries including book, newspaper, and media publishing. These industries have had enormous impacts on the course of human history because they curated and editorialized the information, entertainment, and knowledge of any given era and then distributed it to the public.

Rodric David is the CEO of Thunder Studios.

The invention of moving pictures led to the birth of the modern entertainment industry. This in turn led to the development of distribution systems for filmed entertainment, the movie theater. The addition of sound to moving images in 1927 enabled the entertainment industry to develop what is known as “The Studio System”. The period of 1927-1948, referred to as the Golden Age of Hollywood, saw the vertical consolidation and control of the entire industry, including the distribution of filmed entertainment to the public, by eight major Studios. These eight Studios were Fox Film Corporation, Paramount Pictures, Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), RKO Radio Pictures, Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, and United Artists. Combined they controlled 95% of the production and distribution all filmed entertainment in the United States. These companies became so powerful that the United States Government, through Anti-Trust Legislation and a United States Supreme Court victory in 1948, forced the breakup of the Studios and the separation and sale of their distribution systems for filmed entertainment.

Broadcast Television technology evolved between 1927 and 1941. In the United States, the first commercial advertisement on Broadcast Television was aired on July 1st 1941 on NBC for the Bulova Watch Company during a Brooklyn Dodgers baseball game. Thus the richest form of content distribution and commercialized television was born. Television was a major technological advancement in the distribution of visual content by delivering it directly into the living rooms of audiences. Significantly, the content was free to watch with the cost and investment in programing being funded by advertising. Television continued to evolve from distribution via tall antennas beaming signals in a straight line between aerials to the advent of Cable and Satellite distribution. It is currently estimated that 800 million households globally have access to Cable and Satellite distribution systems.

During the fifteen year period 1995-2010, significant consolidation occurred in the content production and distribution industries primarily through mergers and acquisitions. Surprisingly, in 2011 almost 95% of all content in the United States was made and distributed by 6 global conglomerates.

In the information age, the considerable advancement of computer hardware and software, tactile mobile devices, and near universal access to the internet will significantly affect the ways content can be distributed. Non-video content verticals such as newspaper and book publishing, bricks and mortar retailing, and music publishing have already been radically disrupted and forced to dramatically evolve their business models; it’s now video content’s turn.