Yes, it’s still a place, but more than that, it’s a synecdoche: Hollywood is shorthand for an industry that is now decentralized, and the cause of decentralization is streaming.
Rachel Cannon, co-founder with Matt Payne of Prairie Surf Media (pg. 38), explains the context like this:
“Before, with network television, there were only so many time slots, and they often had themes, like Thursday nights for comedy,” she said. “Studios would produce 50 pilots of which six were picked up to go into the new time slots. The show had a couple of weeks to connect with an audience, and if not, it was yanked off the air and replaced. Everything had to fit in a box. Now, we have streamers like Amazon, Netflix and Apple, and they don’t have time slots, and they don’t care about viewers. Really. They care about subscribers. So, Amazon doesn’t care if you like the show. They want you to buy laundry detergent.”
Imagine that you have a television with – to borrow a now quaint lyric from Bruce Springsteen – “57 channels and nothin’ on,” but it’s hundreds of “channels,” and dozens of “networks” – the old words are losing their currency in this industry, as you can see. While Springsteen’s critique was directed at the poor-quality content that first filled cable television in its early days, the new film and television industry would be much like a television with nothing on if there weren’t enough shows to lure subscribers. As Cannon points out, the days of needing six shows for a single network on Tuesday night are long gone.
Gone too are the days of NBC telling viewers, “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you,” a clever campaign to draw viewers in during the rerun portion of a year. (Remember that?) With streaming, the time slot is now, the choice is whatever is on a dozen different platforms in addition to networks, and the proliferation of content is staggering compared to 20 years ago.
“There will be about 3.28 billion OTT (over-the-top or streaming) video users by the end of this year, up from 3.08 billion in 2021,” said Emily Taylor, partner and CEO of Boiling Point Media. “This is just OTT streaming placement. There are also OTT movies, stories and shows.”
That is the context. Streamers need content, and California and New York City are only so large, and compared to states toward the middle of the country, far more expensive. Filming in Oklahoma makes good financial sense provided the state develops a robust industry including trained professionals. There are obstacles, of course, one of which can be dealt with quickly.
“When we talk to some people in Oklahoma, they’re scared we’re bringing in the ‘perverts and Scientologists,’” Matt Payne said. “That’s not what the Oklahoma film industry is or can be. It’s an industry that creates high-paying, recession-proof jobs with an average salary of $106,000 a year, and many of those jobs are for non-degreed professionals who have transferable skills.”