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Hollywood's second century will be shaped by powerful creative and technological forces from across the globe.
Netflix hit "Squid Game" reflects the entertainment industry's increasingly international focus.
Insider is highlighting 10 people transforming media and entertainment for worldwide audiences.
Visit Insider's Transforming Business homepage for more stories.
If Hollywood's first century was defined by the dominance of America's creative output, its second is shaping up to reflect powerful forces — artistic, economic, technological — from across the globe.
Look no further than Netflix's South Korean export "Squid Game," which took the streamer's own executives by surprise when it became an international phenomenon, racking up an audience of 142 million households — or around two-thirds of Netflix's total subscriber base — to become the service's most-watched series ever.
The race for global streaming dominance is what drove two huge media M&A deals that were announced in May and are set to close in 2022: Pending FTC approval, Discovery will acquire WarnerMedia, the parent of HBO and Warner Bros., for $43 billion and Amazon will shell out $8.45 billion for film studio MGM.
At stake is the $843 billion that the global streaming market is expected to command by 2027, per Acumen Research and Consulting.
"Size and global scale matter," said Pivotal Founder and CEO Jeffrey Wlodarczak, an analyst who specializes in entertainment and streaming research. The battle for subscribers has a ripple effect, he added, "increasing the barriers to entry for the competition and raising the bar on a player's ability to pay up for the best talent."
Pandemic shifts ramped up the globalization of entertainment
Now in its second year, the COVID pandemic continues to accelerate the globalization of the streaming wars, pushing media giants NBCUniversal, Disney, and WarnerMedia to release tentpole feature films online and driving a 26% increase in global streaming service subscriptions (to 1.1 billion), per the Motion Picture Association.
"Consumers were looking for new and unique content and were being attracted to try things outside of their norm," said Kevin Westcott, who leads the US technology, media and telecommunications practice for Deloitte.
For its third annual list of the leaders transforming business, Insider is highlighting 10 visionaries who are leveraging these technological innovations and societal changes to transform media and entertainment for audiences everywhere.
Streaming leader Netflix has a head start with worldwide audiences (it has operated in more than 130 countries since 2016) largely thanks to Bela Bajaria, who was promoted to global head of TV in summer 2020 on the strength of her ability to spin local-language programs like "Lupin" into worldwide hits.
Disney+ is in hot pursuit, however, with its 116 million subscribers, and it's expected to surpass Netflix by 2025 according to Digital TV Research. Some of the most resonant content on the service was created by the teams under Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, who has deftly adapted the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the small screen with juggernaut series "WandaVision," "Loki," and "Falcon and the Winter Soldier."
Media companies are seeking global reach in all formats
Global reach also drives media outside of streaming screens. Finding an international audience for podcasts like "Dirty John" and "The Shrink Next Door" was a big reason that Jen Sargent, CEO of podcast studio Wondery, was able to sell the business to Amazon Music at the end of 2020. "Wondery has always had a culture of taking risks," she told Insider, adding that she believes consumer behaviors in the U.S. "absolutely apply to global markets."
And it's the devoted worldwide fan base for online game "Fortnite" — 56 million players and counting — that gave Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney the juice to take on Apple over how it does business on its App Store.
The power of the popular is also changing the path to stardom, as more and more creators accelerate their rise via video-powered social platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.
Lil Nas X — who rose to megafame as his single "Old Town Road" took off on TikTok — leveraged his online fanbase into a chart-topping album release when "Montero" debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Streamer Rachell "Valkyrae" Hofstetter has parlayed her 3.5 million YouTube subscribers into a rich multi-year deal with the video platform, an equity position in gaming organization 100 Thieves, and sponsorships from AT&T, Lexus, and others.
Even a much more traditional medium, the email newsletter, is being remade as Substack — led by CEO Chris Best — has opened the door for writers to create, distribute, and monetize their own work.
Diverse artists and creators are finding new opportunities
This proliferation and democratization of platforms also has created more opportunity than ever before for fresh voices from historically underrepresented groups. Just ask Billy Porter, who won an Emmy for his portrayal of an HIV-positive fashion designer in FX's "Pose," or Chloe Zhao, who became the first woman of color to win the Oscar for best director and went on to helm Marvel film "Eternals," which features the franchise's first deaf and first gay characters.
Or Michaela Coel, who burst into the zeitgeist with a bracingly original narrative about sexual assault and trauma with her HBO series "I May Destroy You" — and who'll take her own place in the MCU with a role in 2022's "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."
Together these creators, artists, and storytellers, along with the business leaders who work to amplify and monetize their work, are making the most of a new world of audiences and opportunities.
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