Summer 2012 is set to be epic for the UK, with Jubilee celebrations across the country, music festivals, the excitement of the Euro 2012, the usual Wimbledon fortnight and the Olympics of course. Some may also be aware of the Cultural Olympiad of 2012 - the World Shakespeare Festival, celebrating the fantastic work of Shakespeare, performed in a multitude of languages, by theatre companies from around the globe.
Media Technology: Amplification and Consolidation
When Shakespeare's plays were being premiered at the Globe Theatre, they served as the avant-garde of entertainment. Since then of course, the media from which we can receive our entertainment has proliferated. No longer do we need to attend a seated theatre to catch our fill of fantasy, drama, comedy or music (though the fact that we still do, shows how far is left to go in media technology).
Until recently, we had specific devices for different forms of entertainment: we watched film television through a TV box, we listened to music through a portable music player, or CD player, we played games on a console, and we actually read books! Now three different machines are competing to be the sole source of all our media: the laptop computer, the tablet computer and the mobile phone. Irrespective of which triumphs (likely none), this consolidation of media has made easier the innovation of multiplatform entertainment - where the same entertainment product is released in a variety of forms.
For example, should William Shakespeare turn up today to his playing company, The Lord Chamberlain's Men, saying, "I have a great idea for a play... It is about a man and a woman from two rival families falling in love..." he may well be met with the response, "No William. You do not have a great idea for a play - you have a great idea... We will start it as a TV series; we will have a grand soundtrack that will sell as an album worldwide; we will release a Montague versus Capulet game at the end of season two; we will release a film at the end of season four; we will create line of soft drinks called 'R&J Poison'; we will create a fragrance range for men and for women. This will be a project co-ordinated with our sister music company, film studios and distribution house, which are part of the same parent company that bought us out many years ago."
Entertainment Up-selling and Cross-selling
And that is multiplatform media in its most basic form. Of course there is the useful Shakespearean tool of 'the play within the play', as demonstrated by the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe within A Midsummer's Night Dream. This concept is also present in multiplatform, with the most successful modern example being the music performed in the storyline of hit TV series Glee, forming multiplatinum selling albums. Another example was the release of The Beast, an alternative reality game which revealed some of the context for Steven Spielberg's blockbuster AI: Artificial Intelligence. The technique of multiplatform storytelling was also used by Sacha Baron Cohen's latest chortle, The Dictator, which revealed sneak peak videos and hilarious content about the Republic of Wadiya through the website www.republicofwadiya.com.
With tightening margins in the media and entertainment industry, global entertainment groups will be looking to maximise revenues from their best-selling products. To do this, media outlets will require capabilities beyond just one particular media platform - bad news for independent record labels and film studios, but great news for the likes of Time Warner, Vivendi and Sony Entertainment, whose operations span the full range of media and entertainment platforms. So look out for the sequential release of films, books, games and music, all from your entertainment vice of choice; and be warned, you will certainly spend more than you bargained for.
"All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts." The words of Shakespeare seem truer now, than ever before.