February 4, 2023
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Biggest Takeaways From the Variety Entertainment Summit at CES 2023

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The 2023 Consumer Electronics Show returned to Vegas with a plethora exciting announcements and with it, the annual Variety Entertainment Summit. Hollywood insiders and creators filled the Aria hotel with a days worth of panels bringing in big names from Disney, Netflix, Reddit and lots more.

Hollywood’s top advertisers and studio executives tackled challenging subjects in digital media and spoke in-depth as to how they spark innovation within their work. Below are our big takeaways from select panels at this year’s summit.

Recession in Hollywood is a ‘Self-Fulfilling Prophecy,’ Not a Guarantee

Universal Studios Group Chair Pearlena Igbokwe joined Variety’s co-editor in chief Cynthia Littleton for a headliner conversation reflecting on the trajectory of the four studios she oversees.

Being at the helm of Universal Television, UCP, Universal Television Alternative Studio and Universal International Studios, Igbokwe spoke firsthand about how production company executives are voicing fears of an economic recession that could turn into a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

“We think we’re headed towards a recession — and so everyone is immediately acting as if we’re there, and there’s all this belt-tightening and they’re laying off thousands of people,” Igbokwe said. “People are not going to stop buying TV shows, they need TV shows… If you’re making good things and good shows, there will be a marketplace for it.”

Expanding the ‘CoComelon’ Franchise and Building Brands

Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs, co-founders and co-CEOs of Candle Media, discussed the unprecedent positive reception to the children’s show “CoComelon,” which the media company obtained with the acquisition of Moonbug Entertainment.

“On a relative scale, it’s not the most expensive program we have, but it matters, and that’s what we like, we like programming that really matters to distributors,” Staggs said.

Staggs revealed that Candle Media is in the process of expanding the franchise, and introduced a YouTube series titled “CoComelon Animal Time” last year. In total, Mayer and Staggs have made 10 acquisitions since the 2021 launch of Candle Media, including Hello Sunshine, Westbrook and Faraway Road Productions.

How Ad-Based Subscriptions Appeal to Streamers Using Multiple Platforms

Jeremi Gorman, president of worldwide advertising at Netflix, announced her satisfaction with the streaming platform’s evolution during an interview moderated by Andrew Wallenstein, president and chief media analyst of Variety Intelligence Platform.

According to research from Antenna, subscribers to Netflix’s new ad-supported tier are gradually on-the-rise, though Gorman declined to reveal the service’s total subscriber count. The basic ad plan starts at $6.99 per month, which is a 30% price break from the ad-free basic plan.

“The whole goal of it is customer choice — for people to be able to shift between plans and platforms essentially based on what they want to pay,” Gorman said. “And in this particular macro-environment, I think you’re going to see a reasonable amount of people who want to consolidate their overall streaming bill, inclusive of all the other streaming services, and say ‘I want them all, but I want ads supported.’”

The Future of the D’Amelio Family Brand

Marc and Dixie D’Amelio, stars of “The D’Amelio Show,” were thrust into the limelight when the series first aired in 2021; since, the father-daughter duo has collaborated with fellow media personalities Charli and Heidi D’Amelio to develop their family name into a reputable brand.

“All of our family intellectual property is all owned by us,” and now we produce all of it,” Marc said in a conversation moderated by Todd Spangler, digital editor for Variety. Beyond merchandise, Marc revealed the family plans to launch a women’s footwear line in May 2023.

The family credits their traction in recent years to social media — specifically TikTok, where Charli has over 149.5 million followers and Dixie has over 57.5 million.

“TikTok showed more of an authentic side and more of a real side, where early on for other platforms, people were trying to get the best picture, the best filter, the best lighting. And as a dad… I would say to Charlie, ‘I can’t believe you posted that video; there’s clothes on the floor, your bed was a mess.’ And she was like, ‘Dad, that’s what everybody wants. They don’t want it to be perfect.’ And I had to break that cycle.”





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