Entertainment Science

Thorsten Hennig-Thurau and Mark Houston published a comprehensive review of research in the entertainment industries. This book gives more attention to movies than music, games and books, mainly for reasons to do with available research, but it is still a fascinating look into all these industries.

The recurring theme of the book is a powerful one. They seek to combat the idea that nobody knows anything. It turns out that quite a lot of people know quite a lot. This is not to say gaps don’t exist — but the sheer volume of research and data that they provide shows that quite a lot of knowledge is out there for anyone who wants it.

One of the key ideas that they need to convey is that of probabilistic thinking. This is important in a number of areas and people regardly get confused by it. Someone winning a lottery doesn’t mean that buying the lottery ticket was a good investment. A cold day doesn’t mean that the world isn’t warming. Bad marketing occasionally gets lucky. In essence, the world isn’t fair. Do the right things and you won’t necessarily be rewarded. That said, if you pay attention to best practice you are more likely to do well. Don’t be put off by the occasional lucky person who did all the wrong things and landed on their feet. You can’t learn from luck.

They cover a lot of the classic problems I touch on in my teaching of movies. Agency problems, sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t get rewarded, risk mitigation strategies, don’t make all your movies look exactly the same, and the importance of merchandising rights.

I was interested by their argument that “culture-related arguments often serve as a straw man for reactionary thinking by producers”. “Looking down on a certain channel because of its low ‘cultural esteem’ fails to address changes in consumer preferences” (Hennig-Thurau and Houston, 2018).

Two other nuggets I’ll draw attention to. Firstly, they talked about actors having brands which makes sense. Although, given his tweets derailed him from presenting the Oscars, time has not treated well the Kevin Hart quote that he makes “smart decisions for my own brand” (Hennig-Thurau and Houston, 2018). I also liked the idea that films targeted at families are less impacted by reviewer’s ratings. It makes sense to me. I went to My Little Pony despite my strong hunch that it wasn’t a movie classic.

Read: Thorsten Hennig-Thurau and Mark B. Houston (2018) Entertainment Science: Data Analytics and Practical Theory for Movies, Games, Books, and Music, Springer