In an entry in this space a couple weeks ago, I touched on the efforts of Nick Searcy — the actor and filmmaker who has since become a viral sensation with his hilarious cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” in response to a few virtue-signaling Hollywood leftists who used the song to attack the president — toward developing an answer to the Left’s stranglehold on American pop culture.
Searcy, who has been in dozens of recent movies and TV shows (Justified; Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri; The Fugitive; Fried Green Tomatoes; The Shape of Water; and more), gave an inspiring speech at Hillsdale College in February. He sounded a call to arms for conservatives to create and invest in cultural content not to participate in Hollywood, but to compete with it and break it.
The YouTube video of the speech has more than 119,000 views as of this writing, which is an awfully large amount of traffic for an hour-long talk.
Searcy’s take — which is correct and which echoes the beliefs of many other conservatives working in film, TV, the record industry, and other pop-culture industries — is that the people who run Hollywood and the arts community have essentially mastered what the 20th-century cultural Marxist guru Herbert Marcuse called “repressive tolerance” — namely, that they’ve managed to all but shut out and blackball outspoken conservatives or even those challenging the leftist establishment by calling dissenters “hateful,” “bigoted,” “racist,” or whatever. You’ll hear over and over that there are a lot more conservatives in Hollywood than anyone thinks, but they’re terrified to show their faces for fear of what that exposure would do to their careers. And most Hollywood conservatives tend to be on the downside of their careers, because to be outspoken about traditional or conservative beliefs can end things for you before they even get started.
Things are so bad that even expressing a commitment to Christianity and its values, or in the case of Elizabeth Warren supporter John Krasinski, acting in a TV series based on Tom Clancy novels, puts one in poor odor with the in-crowd.
And if you write a script telling a story rooted in traditional morality or American values, you can pretty much count on it being thrown in the trash before a studio picks up on it. Hollywood makes movies for Chinese audiences now, not American ones, and the values of those audiences aren’t the same. Go and watch the remake of Midway, if you want. What you’ll find is that it’s Chinese-financed, and the real heroes seem to be the Chinese who helped shelter the American survivors of the Doolittle raids.
The American public has already rendered judgment on this New Normal. Theaters were empty long before the coronavirus came on the scene to largely finish off that delivery sector. Now, Hollywood studios are offering first-run films straight to streaming video in an effort to stop the bleeding. Streaming services are destroying cable television, as consumers “cut the cord” in droves, throwing both providers and TV networks into the abyss. And the record industry, which years ago gave up attempting to promote quality artists and sold out to produce largely unlistenable sex-and-violence-driven trash, is in a tailspin it’s unlikely to recover from in its current form.
Streaming services are going to replace the traditional delivery channels of cultural content. This virus-driven economic pause in American life, with families bored out of their minds and desperate to fill time they can’t spend at public gatherings, ball games, or even church, is an orientation of sorts into that new world. Last Tuesday, Netflix’s servers went down thanks to a demand overload.
You may have seen it, but a few days ago Motley Fool put up a post touting a stock that plays in this sphere:
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of months, you’ve seen that the future of entertainment is already here, and it’s challenging Netflix’s dominance of your screen!
You see, research firm PwC anticipates revenue from media and entertainment will reach an estimated $2.6 trillion by 2023. According to Nielsen Ratings, U.S. adults spend an average of 11 hours and 27 minutes per day connected to media.
With Netflix reaching $15 billion in revenue in 2018, that still leaves $2.58 trillion left over.…
According to Nielsen, 57 percent of Americans rank the variety of content as a service’s most important feature.
Which is bad news for Netflix, as it’s losing shows from NBC, Disney, and Warner Media, which all launched their own streaming services. These are major “bingeable” shows such as The Office and Friends.
Even Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said he would be a Disney+ subscriber!
If you think Disney is the one stock to own, we think you’re missing the big picture; the real “Netflix Killer” is still lurking out there.
The stock they’re pushing isn’t a streaming service. It’s an advertising medium for these platforms. But the point is recognizing the gaping hole developing in the entertainment business.
Some 30 percent of the worldwide TV and movie market is American audiences, and Hollywood doesn’t focus on us anymore. It used to be that Hollywood exported American values with its offerings; now, it imports values of foreign audiences by making movies in which the bad guy is more often than not an American businessman.
The music industry might be further down this path than movies or TV. Napster is the only music streaming service that still turns a profit, amazingly enough, and that’s despite the fact the artists themselves are largely impoverished by those services. They get almost nothing when their songs are downloaded. Why do you think the casino down the highway is booking two concerts a week by bands you listened to when you were in high school? That’s the only way a lot of these guys can earn a living in the music business anymore. They get next to nothing in royalties from streaming plays or downloads from their work.
And this failing, broken system is only really effective at denying access to conservative and traditional American content creators. Searcy is right to note the time has come to bypass the whole defective system and start something new.
What would a market disruptor in the entertainment business look like? We’re going to assume it’s a streaming service, because as Motley Fool realizes that’s what everything is moving toward. That platform would then provide a delivery mechanism for content creators to break apart Hollywood’s monopoly on film, TV, and other entertainment media.
First, it would need to be democratic. The 21st century is all about consumer choice and eliminating gatekeepers. Anybody can publish a book on Amazon, for example; you don’t need a publisher’s say-so to do it. Uber and Lyft, where local politicians have allowed it, have broken the stranglehold taxicab companies and unions formerly had on the personal transportation market. Podcasts have freed the public from the few options on the radio dial.
Because the market demands more and more choices, and because essentially half of America is being clearly underserved by the entertainment industry, it’s crucial whatever this new platform would be will embrace all audiences, or at least all audiences willing to be embraced.
As Searcy is saying, Hollywood — and Big Tech, too — has largely abandoned traditional Americans in favor of some globalist, coastal mindset that is disdainful, if not hostile, to Christianity, isn’t overly interested in free speech, has bound itself up in cancel culture and diversity of everything but thought, and has largely sold out the audience and civilization that gave it life.
But what we’re not talking about is an exclusively conservative platform, just one that is committed to telling good stories and airing quality content regardless of its point of view. If the artists taking most advantage of that platform are telling conservative, or traditional, stories, then great. If not, so be it. But any platform that would exercise disdain or animus for large segments of its audience based on their religion or politics simply shouldn’t survive in a truly free market.
The Motley Fool guys are talking about Netflix Killers. They can talk about that because Netflix isn’t set up to create wide offerings from highly diverse creators. YouTube, on the other hand, generates massive audiences and creates cottage-industry stars from content creators nobody other than audiences who find them have chosen. Democracy in entertainment is the future; gatekeepers of all stripes and persuasions are fading away. That isn’t to say Netflix won’t have a future, but there’s a lot of room for someone else to share and steal the market.
But unlike YouTube, a new institution that resets the entertainment industry has to be creator-friendly. Anyone with a YouTube channel can tell you it’s extremely difficult to make a living on what that medium will pay. You’re forced to use Google’s advertising platform to monetize your channel, and it turns loose a pittance to you — meaning that as a content creator you’re forced to put on a salesman’s hat and find your own sponsors in a changing and unfriendly market. There are some YouTubers who do fairly well anyway, but very few of them make a large investment in production of content on that channel because the back-end revenue isn’t there. And then there’s the risk of being demonetized because the “don’t be evil” gang doesn’t think you’re woke enough.
Whatever platform comes along is going to have to make it worthwhile for content creators to maintain a robust, high-quality presence, and it must be diverse with offerings. On YouTube one can find music videos, documentaries, podcasts, news and commentary, comedy, and lots of other things, but other than pay-per-view offerings of old movies here and there, you won’t see a whole lot of film and TV. That’s because the platform doesn’t pay the creator much at all. A new platform that can actually change culture and entertainment has to fix that.
And obviously, it has to be cheaper than cable. The future of entertainment will move from a few broadcast channels and a host of cable channels nobody watches (and a few that people do) along with a small number of motion-picture distributors with an iron grip on what movies you’re allowed to see in a theater, to something else — a moderate to large number of streaming apps people access from smart TVs, mobile devices, and computers, similar to the way we access cable channels now.
This has already begun. Right now, there are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, and several others, and more are sure to come on the scene. Most, if not all, of those are controlled by the same companies who broke Hollywood in the first place. So a service not controlled by those players — and also not controlled by Silicon Valley — will have to be able to offer a wide variety of quality content at a competitive price, if it doesn’t actually undercut them. Consumers who cut the cord are going to be looking to save money, not spend more, and most audiences will already be subscribing to Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney Plus, or some combination of streaming services. Their price ranges go from $5 to $20 per month, so the basic price of whatever new platform should come will need to be in that neighborhood.
That platform is coming, because the market is demanding it, and eventually the market gets what it wants. It isn’t so much that conservatives are going to overtake Hollywood, but there are simply too many of us not to be represented in the culture at our current ghettoized levels. Searcy has touted one such possible platform — Creado Media, whose website has an interesting video touching on much of the above. Creado, which is reportedly in its capital formation stage, has an opportunity to occupy that space when it launches later this year.
Somebody will, and when they do, the entertainment business will change permanently. And for the better.