Women in Home Entertainment 2019: A Q&A With BASE CEO Liz Bales

The British Association for Screen Entertainment’s mission statement seeks to champion the growth of screen entertainment across a £2.34 billion U.K. disc and digital video market, while maintaining a business environment with few regulatory burdens.

U.S. studio members include Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Lionsgate U.K., Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures International Entertainment, The Walt Disney Co., and Warner Home Entertainment.

As CEO of BASE and Industry Trust for IP Awareness, Liz Bales has headed the trade group since 2014. A commercial lawyer by trade in the acquisition, exploitation and protection of intellectual property, Bales also leads The Digital Entertainment Group Europe.

Bales is recognized for leadership and creation of partnerships and executing targeted initiatives to grow audience engagement, deliver industrywide behavior change and incubate innovation in established trading environments.

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With a successful track record supporting diverse stakeholders on complex challenges with a focus on measurable results and sustainable solutions as well as delivering efficiencies, Media Play News asked Bales about ongoing cyclical change across the world’s No. 2 home video market.

MPN: At the end of 2018, you cited ongoing “high street retail” challenges in packaged media while attempting to accommodate a “broad variety” of home entertainment content and format options. How have those challenges been met through the first half of 2019?

Bales: The home entertainment category has been effectively managing change for over a decade, and in 2019 we are meeting ongoing challenges head on. BASE is driving physical retail innovation in collaboration with a leading U.K. grocer and alongside industry experts, leading ground-breaking trials with exceptional indicative results at an early stage. Focusing on digital formats, the cross-platform ‘Mega Movie Week’ campaign resulted in the U.K.’s largest week of sales for digital ownership on record, topping 1 millionm units with the highest reported incredibly strong new user activation from a host of the participating platforms.

MPN: The U.S. home entertainment market is now 60% subscription streaming video, led by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. Yet, consumption of packaged media continues (albeit slowly) while increasingly dwarfed by digital. The trend appears similar in the United Kingdom. How are BASE members adjusting their marketing approaches?

Bales: The rapid evolution of technology is a dominant force, and home entertainment is just one of a plethora of categories taking advantage of the benefits. Ultimately this evolution is about the consumer, whose love of and engagement with content in all forms is enduring and still showing huge growth; the home entertainment category value is up 10% in the last year. An established U.K. production base sees the welcome addition of bold new players, which is a huge positive for both our creative industry and U.K. audiences and while format fragmentation is obviously not without its challenges, the industry is proactive in its response, as witnessed by the remodeling being seen across the distribution landscape.

MPN: How does BASE convince consumers to purchase rather than subscribe to media? Can both distribution models co-exist?

Bales: BASE runs a variety of initiatives that focus on informing the consumer on the benefits of the various formats including ownership, rental and subscription. There is a broad range of different needs and spaces in which consumers consume entertainment content, and clear areas where transactional purchase has natural advantages over subscription and vice versa. As long as consumers are made aware of the myriad benefits of ownership across all formats, then both distribution models can continue to co-exist and meet the differing needs of a range of audience types.

MPN: With Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, complete ownership of Hulu and pending launch of a branded subscription streaming service — the latter two likely earmarked for the U.K. — how does traditional home entertainment retail compete?

Bales: Traditional home entertainment retail has already been competing with subscription streaming services for over a decade and Disney is one of a number of entities that will launch direct-to-consumer services in the coming months and years. The response from traditional home entertainment is of course insight led; gaining an understanding of audience behavioral trends and consequent engagement is a high priority. We know that consumers view content from multiple formats, and fans of film and TV have a range of choices; to visit the cinema, buy the latest content digitally or on disc as well as streaming exclusive content from subscription services.

Customers love choice and across the category content owners provide just that. With all of the current and future developments in the home entertainment business, it is imperative that we consider any possible impact on copyright infringement; the category as a whole must work together to ensure that the customer experience comes first, and ensure clarity and simplicity when it comes to accessing content easily and legally even as habits evolve.

The consumer will ultimately vote with their wallet and define the success of new services, but all evidence points to transaction and ownership continuing to be a desired option for many.

MPN: With studios and media companies increasingly focusing on subscription and ad-supported VOD, it would appear BASE has to wear multiple hats to satisfy industry members. Is that true? If so, how has that changed the internal focus at BASE?

Bales: Navigating change has been a constant for many years, the pace of which only escalates. Members have always looked to the organization for a comprehensive category level understanding of current market performance, but now increasingly look to us for a view on future challenges and opportunities.

Ultimately, home entertainment is one part of an expansive and interconnected value chain, and to genuinely add value for members our expertise in home entertainment has to be complemented with a thorough knowledge of surrounding sectors, not only subscription and ad–supported VOD, but extending to theatrical distribution and broadcast.

This is quite a task, but it is one that makes for dynamic and exciting roles within the team and is a challenge the organization has risen to with a passion.

Click here for the 2019 list of Women in Home Entertainment

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