A Holiday Bounty: 5 Growth Markets in Voice-Overs

With the Holidays and New Year upon us, I’ve decided to go out of 2014 with a great big positive “bang” and present what I see as the more bountiful trends of the voiceover industry.  I’m going to specifically breakdown some individual genres of the VO biz and project where I see markets growing.  Are there things I’m missing?  Of course, but I’m focusing mostly on big ticket items. 1) Political Advertising: In 2014 more money was spent on political advertising than at any point in history and we are still almost two years from the next Presidential election.  The Supreme Court’s decision on Citizen’s United was the catalyst and by the time 2020 rolls around, there is an excellent chance that the political money spent in the 2010’s will surpass all the combined spending (over 200 years) prior to 2010.  The biggest difference now isn’t just the money spent on candidates but also the insane amounts of cash that PAC’s (fronted by everyone from the Koch Brothers to George Soros) pump into the system.  Whereby 10 years ago, a voice hoped to get a on major senate or governors race… today, a PAC can be worth significantly more and there is no end in sight.

2) Commercials: there are also more commercials being produced than any time in history yet there is tremendous vitriol and pessimism by the majority of successful voice-overs.  Why?  The majority of the growth has been in the non-union world to the detriment of union work.  PTP sites and even sites as diverse as Studio Center, Craig’s List and Fiverr have flattened the former hierarchy of union workers whereby most buyers don’t understand the talent differential or simply don’t care.  As long as media platforms continue to emerge and improve, there will continue to be ads so don’t expect growth to subside for non-union work but, all is not lost for union work either.  The celebrities in VO trend has likely reached it’s peak and given the constant downward pressures for ad agencies to curb spending, I predict that scale union commercial work will improve in 2015 (and beyond)  I also believe a technological solution for union actors (as PTP sites did for non-union) is around the corner and technology not talent will restore more of the pie back to scale actors.

3) Promos: Talk to any of the agents about on-air promotion and almost all of them will give a laundry list of negatives; 1) the networks aren’t producing as many spots, 2) no one wants to hire women, 3) everyone is cutting their rates etc..  For the most part, the pessimism is warranted for on-air work but there is a likely looming counter; social media.   Why?  Networks are learning that while broadcasting on-air may work on their own networks, social media is more about narrow casting and targeting.  For instance, if NBC knows that I am passionate about Showtime’s Dexter, they can narrow cast targeted ads to me and similar viewers about Hannibal or the Black List.   Better yet, if they know I’m often swayed by critical opinion they can send me critics’ spots lauding the acclaim of both programs.  More specific targeting will lead to more ads and thus more work and I am openly predicting that 2015 will be the year that the network’s on-air and marketing departments will begin to openly assimilate demographic data and analytics into their daily production.

4) Animation: Of all the voice-over work in the industry, animation work has been the work I’ve been least likely to do based on being in New York but, regardless, of my physical location, there is no question that animation is exploding whether in film, television or streaming subscription services.  The reason for all the work is very simple; animation is the most international of all entertainment.  The new streaming platforms (Netflix, Hulu etc.) have all committed to additional animated programming and couple that fact with English being the international language of entertainment as well as recent economies of scale dramatically decreasing costs and we may be seeing the the golden age of animation employment.

5) Reality TV (including Documentary):  Twenty or so years after MTV’s “the Real World” broke the boundaries of documentary story telling and created Reality tv, there is still no slowing down the industry.  We, at ACM, attend the Real Screen conferences every year and the size and scope of the conference is astounding and confirms that Reality tv is still growing.  The fact is that reality programming is too cheap for media companies to ignore and the networks are always looking for the next big thing in reality.  Where does voice fit into all of this?  Most shows naturally need narrators of some sort whether they be episode long storytellers or a voice only doing bumpers. Voice is often the glue that fixes the glitches in editing or storytelling and where there is more volume and necessity… there is more opportunity.

To wrap up, thanks to everyone who has been following the blog in 2014.  As 2015 begins, I’m already working on a concept for which I encourage any thoughts via the blog or twitter (@philsutfin).   The concept is… if we blew up the voice-over world today and started from scratch… what would it look like and how would it be better (if at all)?

Happy Holidays!

Phil Sutfin


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