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Distribution and Marketing in the Age of AI

As AI tools democratize content development and production, traditional distribution and marketing channels may ironically be more influential than ever.

The entertainment industry has undergone a significant transformation over the past decade, spurred by rapid technological advancements and the proliferation of digital platforms. In just the past year, artificial intelligence (AI) has had a seismic impact on content development and production, arguably democratizing the process by empowering individuals to create high-quality content faster than ever.

In this brave new world, traditional distribution and marketing channels may ironically be more influential than ever — serving as qualifiers to distinguish the work of content creators, producers, and stakeholders from the overwhelming glut of entertainment options presented to consumers at all levels.

The democratization of content development and production

AI tools such as Midjourney and ChatGPT are disrupting the entertainment industry by lowering barriers to entry and enabling individuals to create high-quality content faster and more efficiently. This democratization of content development and production is due to several factors:

  1. AI-enabled software and tools — ranging from chatbots to animation platforms and full virtual production environments — are now accessible to amateurs and professionals alike. As a result, the time/cost required to create content is significantly reduced, particularly for those who combine their existing skills and experience with the new affordances.

  2. AI-enabled tools not only make content creation more accessible but can also improve quality when applied mindfully. AI-based algorithms can analyze large datasets to suggest improvements in story development and screenplays as another “voice” in the writing room. AI-enhanced animation and VFX platforms can generate complex scenes, characters, and effects with minimal human intervention, significantly reducing the time and resources required to create compelling content.

  3. AI-powered platforms facilitate collaborative, crowd-sourced content creation — allowing creators to work together and build upon each other's ideas (a mindful process distinct from the mindless data scraping that has everyone’s dainties in a twist). By leveraging AI algorithms, collaborative platforms can efficiently aggregate contributions from multiple sources and refine them into cohesive content — a boon to virtual studios already leveraging global creative talent pools.

The glut of entertainment options

As content development and production are increasingly democratized, the entertainment industry is increasingly saturated with a vast array of content, from independent projects to high-budget productions. This glut of entertainment options has several implications:

  1. The sheer volume of available content has increased competition among creators, studios, and platforms. Contemporary audiences have a virtually unlimited selection of content to choose from, making it more challenging than ever for content creators to capture and keep eyeballs.

  2. The proliferation of content options across a growing spectrum of digital platforms has fostered audience fragmentation. Consumers have access to a diverse array of content tailored to their specific tastes and preferences, producing niche markets with narrow audience targets. As a result, traditional mass-market entertainment is skewing in favor of more bespoke experiences (or at least the impression of such).

  3. The over-abundance of content has produced decision fatigue in many consumers. With so many options at their fingertips, overwhelmed viewers often find it difficult to choose what to consume. This challenge underscores the continued importance of effective content curation and recommendation systems to help guide consumers through the wealth of entertainment options. Hence…

The continued importance of traditional distribution and marketing

In this supercharged content landscape, traditional distribution and marketing channels are more important than ever as a success factor for content creators seeking to distinguish themselves. These channels — which include theatrical releases, television broadcasts, and online streaming — differentiate content and promote visibility among the vast array of available options. There are several reasons why I believe traditional distribution and marketing channels will continue to dominate the entertainment landscape:

  1. Traditional distribution channels act as a form of curation and quality signaling. Consumers often perceive content released through these channels as higher in quality and/or more reliable in brand. McDonald’s doesn’t have the world’s best hamburgers, but you know what they’re going to taste like.

  2. Traditional marketing channels play a crucial role in building buzz and driving audience engagement. Advertising campaigns, premieres, and press events generate the anticipation and excitement necessary to attract interest and overcome decision fatigue. Leveraging the star power of actors, directors, and other high-profile talent generates media attention and further increases visibility in a crowded entertainment landscape. Jeffrey Katzenberg figured this out decades ago when he started using celebrity voices in animation, to the chagrin of working voice actors.

  3. Forming strategic partnerships and engaging in cross-promotional activities with other industry players further amplifies the reach of traditional marketing channels. By collaborating with established brands and key opinion leaders (KOLs), producers can tap into existing fan bases and leverage the brand equity of their partners to raise awareness of their content. These partnerships typically take various forms such as product placements, co-branded merchandise, or tie-ins with other media properties — all of which serve to increase the visibility and appeal of content in a crowded market.

  4. Traditional distribution and marketing channels also provide qualified access to global markets, which significantly increases the potential audience for content that speaks to shared human experiences and emotions. Content that captures the hearts and minds of international audiences has “legs” that can produce greater marketplace longevity and financial success. Furthermore, the ability to market and distribute content globally helps mitigate the risks associated with audience fragmentation and the emergence of niche markets.

So, where do we go from here?

Independent content producers such as myself face a unique set of challenges in distinguishing their entertainment productions amidst the glut of content available. However, by adopting innovative strategies and leveraging the power of digital platforms, indie creators can effectively stand out and attract audiences. The following options can help independent content producers distinguish their entertainment productions:

  1. Focusing on Authenticity and Storytelling — Independent content producers can best distinguish their work by focusing on authentic, original storytelling that resonates with audiences. By exploring unique perspectives, underrepresented narratives, or innovative storytelling techniques, indie creators set themselves apart from major studio fare and create memorable content that stands out in the crowded entertainment landscape.

  2. Targeting Niche Audiences — One way for independent content producers to differentiate their work is by focusing on niche audiences with specific interests and preferences. By creating content that caters to targeted groups, indie producers can establish a loyal fan base and foster a sense of community around their projects. This strategy can help content stand out by appealing to the unique tastes and preferences of specific audience segments.

  3. Building a Strong Online Presence — Independent content producers can benefit from building a robust online presence through social media, blogs, and podcasts. By consistently engaging with their audience, sharing behind-the-scenes content, and providing regular updates, creators can foster a sense of connection and anticipation around their projects. This active online presence can help build buzz and generate word-of-mouth marketing, which is particularly effective for independent content.

  4. Crowdfunding and Fan Engagement — Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer independent content producers an opportunity to raise funds while simultaneously building a dedicated fan base. These platforms allow creators to share their vision, engage with potential audience members, and offer unique rewards and experiences in exchange for financial support. Successful crowdfunding campaigns can generate buzz around a project, demonstrate audience interest, and provide a valuable source of marketing and distribution support.

  5. Innovative Distribution Strategies — Independent content producers can explore alternative distribution strategies to differentiate their work and reach new audiences, using digital platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, or TikTok to release short-form content, episodic series, or even feature-length films. Additionally, indie creators can access global markets and connect with new audiences through video-on-demand services, niche streaming platforms, and virtual film festivals.

  6. Collaborations and Cross-Promotions — Forming strategic partnerships with other independent creators, KOLs, or brands can help independent content producers increase the visibility and appeal of their projects. By collaborating on content or engaging in cross-promotional activities and sponsored posts, creators tap into the fan bases and resources of their partners: expanding their reach and generating additional buzz around their projects.

Independent content producers have various options to distinguish their output in the age of AI-assisted content development and production. By prioritizing authentic storytelling, targeting niche audiences, building a robust online presence, utilizing crowdfunding, pursuing innovative distribution strategies, and engaging in promotional collaborations, independent creators can effectively stand out and attract audiences in today’s entertainment multiverse.

It’s simultaneously easier than ever to create great content and harder than ever to get people to see it. Good luck to all of us with that.

Kevin Geiger's picture

Kevin is the author of AWN's Reality Bites blog, his musings on the art, technology and business of immersive media (AR, VR, MR) and AI. You can find Kevin's website at and he can be reached at