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6 key trends in the Australian entertainment industry and what they mean for grads

Elise Tornos

Marvel vs Pokemon: there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to careers in the entertainment industry. Find out the key trends and how they affect grads.

Australians love entertainment, and always have, from the heyday of cinema in the 1920s and 30s, to the current meteoric rise of online content. Indeed, if anything, the entertainment industry is larger now than ever before—between 2008 and 2017, it grew at an annual rate of about 2.9 percent, ultimately generating nearly $36 billion.

However, the overall health of the industry shouldn’t distract from the volatility within it—not all forms of entertainment have grown at similar rates, and there are signs that some forms of traditional media might even be in decline. So, to help you make sense of the industry, and see where your career might fit within it, we’ve identified six trends that are shaping the industry and, in some ways, transforming the type of employment it supports.

1. The entertainment industry is growing at a phenomenal rate

According to a 2017 report by PwC (‘Australian Entertainment & Media Outlook’), the Australian entertainment industry will maintain an average growth rate of 2.1 percent in the near future, causing it to be worth $43.7 billion by 2025.1 However, as mentioned above, this growth will be distributed unevenly across different segments of the industry. For example, while digital entertainment revenue is expected to grow by about five percent in the years leading to 2021, print media revenue (including newspapers and magazines) will decline by about 10 percent.

For graduates, this uneven growth is reflected in the differing fortunes of specific careers within the entertainment industry. To take one example, while growth in the number of journalism students recently exceeded predicted future growth in the number of journalism jobs,2 programmers and web developers—both of which play a key role in online entertainment—remain in high demand.

2. The advertising industry is increasingly important to the Australian economy

The overall growth of the entertainment industry is set to create thousands of additional jobs in one of its most influential segments: advertising. Advertising spending is expected to reach $17.3 billion by 2021, representing a compound annual growth rate of 1.9 percent.3

However, much like the entertainment industry at large, the total growth of advertising conceals the ongoing decline of traditional advertising channels. For example, while investment newspaper and free-to-air television advertising are expected to shrink by 8.9 percent and 4.7 percent respectively by 2021, internet advertising is expect to grow by about 10 percent.4

These numbers correspond to ongoing changes to the composition of the advertising industry, in which the decline of some traditional careers (such as copywriters and certain media buyers) has been counterbalanced by increasing demand for digital media experts (many of which have graduated from disciplines such as programming, digital media, communications, and design). By 2021, online advertising will account for 55% of the total Australian advertising market.5

3. The largest driver of growth in the entertainment industry is online video

By a wide margin, the largest generator of recent (and future anticipated) growth within the entertainment industry is online video. Major players in online video production include subscription video-on-demand services, such as Netflix, Stan, and Amazon Prime, which are expected to expand at an annual compound growth rate of 16.4 percent in the years leading to 2021. (Note, however, that, over the past five years, growth forecasts for such businesses have tended to underestimate the speed of their adoption by the Australian public).

While figures are frequently revised upwards, a recent Nielsen report found that Australians spend an average of seven hours and 28 minutes each month watching online videos, including streaming content, YouTube videos, and visual media on sites such as Facebook and Instagram.6 Astoundingly, rates of online video consumption are expanding by around 27 percent each year, with video-oriented services and apps like Netflix and HQ Trivia achieving viewer number growth rates in the double digits.7

4. While movies and music continue to be popular, video games generate more revenue

Between 2008 and 2017, the release of 16 films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe earned some $12.6 billion, making it the most profitable film franchise of all time by global box office earnings.8 While this is certainly an impressive figure, it pales in comparison to the money being made within the modern video game industry. For example, Call of Duty, a video game franchise founded in 2003, has achieved sales of 250 million games across multiple platforms, generating about $15 billion of revenue. Meanwhile, the most popular video game franchise of all time—Pokemon, which is owned by Nintendo—has earned about $55.2 billion since its inception in 1996.9 Similarly, while the record for the highest grossing film opening belongs to The Fate of the Furious, which earned about $542 million during its first three days in cinemas in 2017, the record for the fastest-selling video game goes to Grand Theft Auto V (2013), which earned more than one billion dollars during its first three days on the market.

This pattern of video game revenue far outstripping revenue within the film and music industries is expected to continue, especially as more and more attention is directed towards video games on portable devices (such as tablets and smartphones).10 This will create more jobs within the digital entertainment industry, improving career prospects for graduates from areas such as game development, digital design, programming, animation, production, marketing, and sound design.

5. The field of entertainment and media law is in the midst of significant reforms

As the composition of the Australian entertainment sector continues to shift, legislators and regulators are rushing to update the legal frameworks that govern the industry. For example, in 2017, the Federal Government passed the largest media reforms in three decades, instituting changes such as the abolition of broadcast license fees and the deletion of media ownership rules that formerly limited how much control a single individual could have over different media types.11

The short-term and long-term effects of these reforms is an issue of fierce debate. However, what seems clear is that they represent a growing concern among media organisations that existing media laws had been rendered obsolete by the nature of online entertainment, and that certain types of media (such as community radio and regional television) require more support in the form of federal funding.  

6. A growing proportion of entertainment revenue is driven by smartphones and the apps they support

Changing consumer preferences, especially in terms of how and when they access content, have transformed the ways in which the entertainment industry connects with customers. For example, 88% of Australians now own smartphones, and the number of Australians using portable devices to access entertainment tripled between 2016 and 201712.  Smartphones have truly become portable all-in-one entertainment systems, with 56 percent of Australian smartphone owners aged 25-34 having exceeded their data limit at least once due to consuming media on the fly.12

In addition to streaming services and online videos, smartphones have become an indispensable entertainment device due to the rising prominence of mobile apps. According to a recent report, global app revenue climbed by 35% in 2017 to nearly $60 billion.13

What does this mean for graduates? Essentially, we are witnessing the ongoing evolution of a new industry that promises enormous returns for those who are qualified to cash in. Key careers within the app industry exist for app developers, software engineers, business graduates, coders, digital media specialists, sound designers, web developers, programmers, and more.

Want to start your career in the entertainment industry? You can learn more about graduate employment opportunities in this area by visiting the GradAustralia website.