ETC Executive Coffee: Universal Execs on Consumer Behavior

During ETC@USC’s second Executive Coffee with… installment, executives from Universal Pictures discussed trends in consumer behavior. “What’s the future of entertainment; in your hands, on a wall, and in the world around you?” was the topic of Universal’s first of two sessions with USC students. The September 29 session was hosted by CTO Michael Wise, along with VP of technology partnerships & innovation Greg Reed and media technology manager Lindsey Townley. Twelve students from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts plus four students from other USC schools took part.

A number of students said that they loved going to movie theaters and they expect the tradition to return post-pandemic. But they also thought that drive-ins and emerging in-car drive-thru experiences will stay a part of the out-of-home entertainment mix.

Senior cinema student Ben Shiff and others mentioned the importance of enhanced features, such as in-theater bonus commentary and special events as well as meals and drinks, to motivate people to leave home and come into the multiplex “because we can see the movie much cheaper and much easier just from our homes.”

Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5, which can do photorealistic real-time rendering, was mentioned as a way to enhance both the immersion and the interactivity of in-theater entertainment.

Aubrey Isaacman, a grad student in the cinema gaming program, noted that the disruptions from the pandemic have given her and her friends more time to play longform games together. MBA grad student Alexander Petrosian added that his friends who gamed as kids are buying new gaming platforms that they wouldn’t have bought otherwise because they have the time to return to gaming.

Cinema grad student Lorenzo Mendoza wants to create VR experiences, but he couldn’t envision the logistics of headset management and how VR experiences could go mass market. Cinema freshman Vicky Mejia noted that experiencing a theme park in VR is in no way the same as being in the theme park.

For more of the discussion, check out the 8-minute highlight video online.

The ETC@USC’s Executive Coffee with… Series

The Entertainment Technology Center at USC produced a series of virtual “executive coffee discussions” during the Fall semester. These one-hour discussions provide an opportunity for students and ETC member company executives to connect and discuss topics of mutual interest during this period of remote learning and social distancing.

For each session an executive posed one question or topic, students from across USC submitted brief statements of interest, and the ETC invited between 5 and 16 students to participate in the Zoom meeting. Each session was recorded and an 8- to 13-minute highlight video was produced.

The sessions were hosted by Verizon (September 23), Universal Pictures (September 29 and October 9), Fox Corporation (October 14), Equinix (October 22), ETC execs (October 29), Vubiquity (November 4) and Dolby Labs (November 12).

The videos are available on the Executive Coffee with… page online.