As MarketWatch turns 25, we asked the former CEO of DreamWorks Animation and producer of hits like Shrek about the future of Hollywood.
In the 25 years MarketWatch has been reporting on business and finance, Jeffrey Katzenberg has helped reshape Hollywood. He cofounded DreamWorks with Steven Speilberg and David Geffen, produced the smash animation hit Shrek, and ran DreamWorks Animation, which made blockbusters like Madagascar.
Not everything Katzenberg tried panned out. His big bet on short-form streaming platform Quibi famously tanked. But Katzenberg generally has a good read on where the media and entertainment business is going, as well as technology in general.
As MarketWatch turns 25, we wanted to ask Katzenberg for his five-year outlook on showbusiness and other areas he is focused on, like cybersecurity. He is currently backing cybersecurity startup Aura. Here are his lightly edited comments.
What opportunities do you see today that you think might be more clear in five years?
Katzenberg: When you look out over the next five years and think about what’s in the future, I’m going to go back five years to sort of make that prediction. If you look at the last five years, the impact of digital technology on every facet of our lives, including MarketWatch, has been spectacular. It has impacted every facet of our business lives, our personal lives, our social lives. What will happen in the next five years will be by a factor greater than the past five years. So the rate of innovation and impact, I think, will be more dazzling going forward than it is going backwards. And going backwards, you would say, it has been pretty breathtaking.
What do you fear that you might be reading in MarketWatch in the next five years?
The thing I fear, it’s in our business, it’s in our social world, it’s in our political world, is just the weaponization of communication and the deterioration of fact. If we can’t have a foundation of what is and is not fact, I don’t know how we stay together as a civilization. So when you talk about that, that’s why something like MarketWatch is essential and invaluable. And let’s just agree first on what is fact and is not fact, and then we can go from there.
What opportunities do you see today in movies and entertainment specifically?
I don’t think you can look at the movie and TV-streaming landscape today and actually be predictive of the next five years. The reason for that is that I think this is still sort of the center of the storm. We are in a truly transformative, tectonic, shifting moment for the consumer. I actually don’t believe the consumer has yet found what is that balance in terms of, where the value is for them, either in their home, on the go, on their device, or in an out-of-home experience. And those are all part of that ecosystem. And so we’re on a rollercoaster. So you could sit here and talk about the demise of moviegoing in movie theaters. And then I would say, ‘great, we’ll go see Top Gun: Maverick.’ And that will instantly, I think, show the fallacy of that idea. Or watch House of Dragons and see the television continues to be an undeniable experience. It’s the pleasure of being able to have a water cooler moment around that on every Monday morning, which is incredibly exciting.
What opportunities do you see today in cybersecurity that might be more apparent in the next five years?
Cybersecurity is to me one of the lanes in which there is great clarity about the next five years. What that clarity is, is that we are all becoming more and more vulnerable, and therefore, our needs become more and more essential. There is greater theft from our digital lives today than there is theft and burglary. It already surpassed it 18 months ago and continues to now accelerate and outgrow it significantly. Why? Because if I come to your home and I break into your home it is very high risk. And what is the reward? Some consumer electronics, TV, computer, a little bit of jewelry, virtually no cash. If I break into your phone and I get access to whether it’s your credit, your bank account, your Social Security, the damage that can be done and is being done to people every day is extraordinary and growing. And so as we become more and more connected and more of our lives exist on these digital devices. Cybersecurity doesn’t become a nice-to-have. It will become a must-have. So five years from now, I think that business will be explosive. It’s global. It’s not unique to the U.S. or anywhere. Everybody around the globe requires it.
What do you fear you will be reading about cybersecurity?
I don’t know since I think we’re ambitiously and aggressively tackling it. I’d like to be optimistic rather than fearful that we (Aura) are a solution and we are a very viable one. Maybe the answer is, if we could be to consumer safety and security for the family what Netflix (NFLX) or Disney (DIS) is for our media and entertainment, which is not an essential, by the way, it’s a great-to-have, it’s a love-to-have, but it’s not a must-have. Whereas my argument is your cybersecurity is actually going to be a need-to-have.
What do you fear you’ll be reading about the entertainment industry?
I don’t fear for the entertainment industry. I’m quite optimistic about it. There’s never been more content being made. There’s never been more content being consumed. What is not clear is the balance, or really just what is the best consumer mix and experience, of what we watch at home, what we watch on our devices on the go, and what we will go out to a movie theater to experience. And so all of those things, and whether it’s streaming or cable or, you know, broadcast, all of those things are in flux. To the point where I don’t know how to be predictive of what it looks like five years from now, other than there will be great opportunities and there will be massive winners. And it doesn’t mean they’re massive losers because it’s not a zero sum game. There can be many, many winners. There are just going to be winners at different scales and different sizes and with different ambitions. Apple’s ambition in terms of what they’re doing in the entertainment space is singular and unique. It’s brand building and they’re doing a brilliant job, but they’re not looking at that investment. Nor is anybody investing in Apple (AAPL) because of Apple TV+. That’s not there. It’s the ecosystem that it is. All boats within that system are rising. With that brand building that’s going on. That’s not what anybody else is doing. So how do you compare that to, Warner Discovery (WBD) or Netflix? You can’t, it’s apples and submarines. They have nothing in common.