King Toledo in 2013: The Year in Review and What's Next

2013 was a big year for King Toledo Entertainment. Judged strictly as a production company (which is a good way to judge us), we did pretty well. We produced A LOT of content - especially in the documentary space. It's a niche we've enjoyed exploring and that we will continue working on in 2014. At the center of it all has been our work with Kickstarted, our feature length documentary film about crowdfunding that will be finished in Summer 2014. Here's the latest trailer for Kickstarted.

As we've made the film, we released a number of original videos related to crowdfunding's big picture - much of which can be found here. We also produced original series and episodes for select partners, including these two docu-series for Mashable. Here's one of our favorite episodes:

Beyond our productions, we've continued to work closely with digital content leaders and brands to cultivate the overall video landscape. This is part of our commitment to contributing to the quality programming boom we're seeing in digital entertainment. It being the end of the year, we reflected on our work from 2013 to see if we could learn anything about what's coming next year. Below are 3 things we think will play a bigger role in the digital entertainment world as the calendar turns.

1) Cable is doomed, and it's going to happen a lot sooner than most people realize.

Yes, you already know this. There's been a lot written about 'cord-cutting.' Despite that, most of Hollywood and the cable/satellite TV industry are doing a great job of pretending things are the same as before. One of the more stupefying claims came from Chase Carey, COO of 21st Century Fox. In a conference call with investors (this profit-focused audience may be why he said the things he said), he called the digital "threats" against big cable a "fantasy." More specifically, he claimed that, "people will give up food and a roof over their head before they give up television." In that regard, he might be right. People probably won't give up TV, but they sure as hell will watch it through mediums other than traditional cable providers. In 2014, expect that to happen faster than anyone anticipates, especially since cheap / free / easy-to-use options are popping up everywhere.  For instance, HBO has already experimented with unbundled offerings of their content.  If other cable bellwethers, such as ESPN, AMC, etc., continue that trend, people won't drop $80-$120 a month for cable (which, by the way, is only getting more expensive per DirecTV). Tools like ChromeCast, next-gen gaming consoles, wifi-connected TVs, Roku, and other digital-friendly set-top boxes are making digital content easy to access (not to mention the increasing proclivity of viewers to watch on mobile & tablets). Then, of course, is the greater quantity and quality of content options through digital sources. Digital isn't just being led by video bloggers anymore. It's not just Netflix either. The creative world is only beginning to exploit digital, direct-to-viewer mediums. That's going to skyrocket in 2014, in part because...

2) Digital is FINALLY starting to become about quality and not just quantity.

The first thing the digital / internet age did was introduce us to the idea that almost anyone could reach a huge global audience. It's now teaching us a second (probably more important idea): you can reach a small, targeted focused group of like-minded people very easily. Social media-driven curation and community building are helping the right content find the people who would likely want to see it most.  Content creators and advertisers are just beginning to realize this enormous power en masse. As a result, niche content can survive and thrive. The idea that reaching 50,000 of the 'right' viewers is better than reaching 500,000 random viewers is powerful and contrary to traditional thought.

This is important for a lot of reasons. If you are a content creator reaching a specific group and really only focus on that group - whatever it's size - you create authenticity with them. You, the content creator, are likely a full-fledged member of that group. And brands that associate themselves with your content (assuming they are doing so authentically and above-board) will benefit from that authenticity with that same audience.  Suddenly, it might make sense for a brand to target smaller groups and get a better connection than spend their digital media dollars focused on getting a large number of broader audience 'impressions' (a manipulative, misunderstood media buying term that destroys many good ideas). For years, the bulk of the ad money being spent to support digital content has been done via metrics that reward creators for reaching huge numbers of people. That's completely understandable - and there will always be a place for that type of media buy. However, brands (and creators) are realizing that you can do better by being focused and finding the niche. This is just starting (we've been lucky to work on a couple campaigns that worked like this in 2013). As it happens, the net result will be a better curated web where creators who make quality, targeted programming are being supported financially even if they don't reach 15 million viewers a month. Quality (in terms of content and audience) will soon beat out quantity of viewers when it comes to earning ad support. That's a great thing that will lead to a wider variety of "TV quality" programming online.

3) Crowdfunding is disruptive changes we've been waiting for

We're making a film about crowdfunding and learned a few things about it over the last year. Plain and simple, the direct producer-to-consumer model that crowdfunding allows is going to do so many great things for the digital entertainment industry. Of course, it's bringing in funding for series and films that would have never otherwise been made (this is also a result of the niche / focus on quality we referenced above). More importantly, it's teaching consumers something that digital entertainment does better than TV content: it makes the viewer a part of the decision making process. You get to decide what gets made and what doesn't. Amazon played with that concept this year in piloting a dozen or so series and then selecting the best rated and most viewed ones for full season orders. The audience knew they were playing a role, and that also drives the long term engagement in those series. It also means that you can probably go back to this same audience later on to convince an advertiser to help with funding or to fund additional content.

There are so many ancillary benefits to the crowdfunded entertainment model that, once people see the long term goals and not just the money raised, it will end up being the preferred way to create digital content. That means more creative content is made, and made with a budget that increases quality. This cycle will take off in 2014 and we can't wait for it to happen.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Team King Toledo.