The entertainment business is fast-moving by its very nature. It has few tangible assets, it relies on technology to distribute its wares and its customers crave novelty. The emergence of sound in the 1920s cemented Hollywood as the centre of the global film business. But by the end of the 20th century the industry had grown as complacent as a punchline in a repeat episode of “Friends”. It relied on old technologies—analogue broadcasting, slow internet connections and the storage of sounds and sights on fiddly CDs, DVDs and hard drives. And the commercial approach was to rip off consumers by overcharging for stale content packaged into oversized bundles.
The first shudder came in music in 1999, with internet services soon putting established music firms such as emi and Warner Music under pressure. In television Netflix broke the mould in 2007 by using broadband connections to sell video subscriptions, undercutting the cable firms. When the smartphone took off it tailored its service to hand-held devices. The firm has acted as a catalyst for competition, forcing the old guard to slash prices and innovate, and sucking in new contenders. The boom has seen star writers paid as if they were Wall Street titans, sent rents for Hollywood studio lots into the stratosphere and overtook the 20th century’s media barons, including Rupert Murdoch, who sold much of his empire to Disney in March.