Show/hide main menu


Digital Distribution and Entertainment Media

S-3.20 Strand building Strand campus
Conference/Seminar, Culture, Lecture
18/01/2017 (13:30-19:00)


This event is free but as places are restricted booking is required. Visit


Music streaming, video-on-demand and downloadable games are just some of the signs of how digital distribution is transforming the landscape of entertainment media. Digital delivery dematerializes while rematerializing the means of disseminating entertainment. For media industries, the potential of digital distribution to disrupt traditional structures has been accompanied by the emergence of new power players as cultural gatekeepers. Reflecting on these developments, this half-day symposium conducts a comparative analysis of how digital distribution is now impacting the music, television and game industries.



Paul McDonald (King’s College London)



Virginia Crisp (King’s College London)

Andrew Leyshon (University of Nottingham)

Amanda Lotz (University of Michigan)

Jeanette Steemers (King’s College London)

Patrick Vonderau (Stockholm University)




13.30-13.45         Convene - tea and coffee served


13.45-14.00         Introduction: Paul McDonald (King’s College London)


14.00-14.45         Is Netflix Television? Theorizing Portals as Internet-Distributed Television

                               Amanda Lotz (University of Michigan)


14.45-15.30         International Sales of Television Content: Change and Continuity in a Period of Disruption

                              Jeanette Steemers (King’s College London)


15.30-16.15         From Activision to Ubisoft: Academic Enquiries into Publishing and Promotion in the Gaming Industries

                              Virginia Crisp (King’s College London)


16.15-16.30         Break - tea and coffee served


16.30-17.15         Platform Capitalism: The Intermediation and Capitalization of Digital Economic Circulation

                              Andrew Leyshon (University of Nottingham)


17.15-18.00         Scale and Value: Spotify and the Automation of Advertising

                               Patrick Vonderau (Stockholm University)


18.00-19.00         Wine Reception



Presentation Abstracts


Is Netflix Television? Theorizing Portals as Internet-Distributed Television

Amanda Lotz (University of Michigan)

Television audiences and its industry alike have been confused by the emergence of new ways to watch television. On one hand, the programmes seem every bit like the television we’ve long known, while the ways we can watch, what we can watch, and the business models supporting these new forms of television differ significantly. This talk draws from my forthcoming Portals: A Treatise on Internet-Distributed Television, which pushes understandings of the business of television to keep up with the considerable technological change of the last decade. It explains why shows such as Orange is the New Black or Transparent are indeed television despite coming to screens over Internet connection and in exchange for a monthly fee. I explore how internet-distributed television is able to do new things – particularly allow different people to watch different shows chosen from a library of possibilities. This technological ability consequently allows new audience behaviors and new industrial practices. Portals are the ‘channels’ — the organizing mechanism — of internet-distributed television, and Portals identifies how the task of curating a library of shows differs from channels’ task of building a schedule. Instead of conceptualizing internet-distributed television as wholly different from broadcast- and cable-distributed television, I identify the characteristics that distinguish portals and explore strategies through which portals differentiate themselves.


International Sales of Television Content: Change and Continuity in a Period of Disruption

Jeanette Steemers (King’s College London)

In the wake of Brexit, European Union initiatives to reform the media market, and potential policy shifts around free trade globally, this presentation addresses key issues facing the international distribution industry, focusing on the UK as a case study.  Programming exports have long been identified in the UK as a policy priority by industry and successive governments, not only to maintain production levels of first run originations, but also to boost ‘soft power’ and overseas receipts. However, commissioning of original TV content remains largely the preserve of mainstream broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4), although they may not be the main funders of exportable drama, documentaries and children’s content, because of producer investment, tax credit and other supports. In spite of the fragmentation of audiences and revenues worldwide, the arrival of over-the-top digital distribution to new players such as Netflix and Amazon has boosted overseas revenues. Building on the identification of audience fragmentation and over-the-top delivery as key drivers in a transforming international distribution landscape, this presentation investigates first the extent to which UK distribution has changed over a ten-year period, pinpointing continuities in the destination and type of sales alongside changes in the role and structure of the industry as UK-based distributors adapt to a changing broadcasting landscape and global production environment. At one level increasing US ownership of UK-based distributors and the arrival of OTT players like Netflix, highlights the tensions between the national orientations of UK broadcasters and the global aspirations of independent producers and distributors.  At another level VOD has boosted international sales of UK drama. However, the combination of Brexit, EU initiatives and wider policy changes at a global level might suggest that the future of UK created content is rather less certain based on future exclusion from EU funding supports, the potential shift of key players away from London, and the difficulty of building revenues and audiences in emerging markets beyond the US and key EU markets. 


From Activision to Ubisoft: Academic Enquiries into Publishing and Promotion in the Gaming Industries

Virginia Crisp (King’s College London)

While research into media distribution is starting to represent a central concern within media industries studies, the attention has thus far largely focused upon the transformations taking place within the TV, film, and music industries. Such a bias is potentially unsurprising if one considers the ways in which the distribution modes of these industries have been significantly disrupted in recent years. However, while the gaming industries have similarly witnessed dramatic changes (e.g. the growth of casual gaming on smartphones, the dissolution of the physical rental market and the shift to downloadable games and associated additional content (DLC)) little academic attention has been directed at analyzing these shifts in the ways games are published, promoted and distributed. Such a lack of attention is perhaps unsurprising given the relatively nascent status within academia of games studies more generally. However, at the same time popular publications abound with truisms regarding the exponential growth of the games industries, the importance of these industries to national economies and the increasing role of games in everyday life. This paper seeks to address this imbalance through a review of the literature within games studies that specifically considers game publishing and the changes and challenges facing this sector of the wider cultural industries. In doing so, the paper will outline what research has been conducted so far and the conclusions that have been made so as to identify key questions and avenues for further research.


Platform Capitalism: The Intermediation and Capitalization of Digital Economic Circulation

Andrew Leyshon (University of Nottingham)

A new form of digital economic circulation has emerged, wherein ideas, knowledge, labour and use rights for otherwise idle assets move between geographically distributed but connected and interactive online communities. Such circulation is apparent across a number of digital economic ecologies, including social media, online marketplaces, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and other manifestations of the so-called ‘sharing economy’. Prevailing accounts deploy concepts such as ‘co-production’, ‘prosumption’ and ‘peer-to-peer’ to explain digital economic circulation as networked exchange relations characterised by their disintermediated, collaborative and democratizing qualities. Building from the neologism of platform capitalism, we place ‘the platform’ – understood as a distinct mode of socio-technical intermediary and business arrangement that is incorporated into wider processes of capitalization – at the centre of the critical analysis of digital economic circulation. To create multi-sided markets and coordinate network effects, platforms enrol users through a participatory economic culture and mobilize code and data analytics to compose immanent infrastructures. Platform intermediation is also nested in the ex-post construction of a replicable business model. Prioritizing rapid up-scaling and extracting revenues from circulations and associated data trails, the model performs the structure of venture capital investment which capitalizes on the potential of platforms to realize monopoly rents.


Scale and Value: Spotify and the Automation of Advertising

Patrick Vonderau (Stockholm University)

One way to compare how distribution practices are currently changing between different media industries is to focus on overarching issues of scale and value. This paper takes Spotify’s recent development as a starting point to think about scale and value in digital environments. While previous research on digital distribution has studied Netflix’ global expansion, for instance, or the ways multi-channel networks have aggregated and scaled video content on YouTube, the work presented here suggests to go beyond platforms to investigate the “content wars” taking place in a wider, emerging cross-platform culture. Spotify here makes for a case in point. With its integration of video the service once more underlines the degree to which sound has become a screen medium calling for analyses of its industries. Establishing partnerships across industry sectors, Spotify also epitomizes the current transition to a ‘multi-platform ecosystem’ where digital firms have to integrate ‘vertical content’ because of pressure to scale user growth and revenue. Still even more important in relation to scale and value is Spotify’s reliance on advertising. It is thanks to its advertising-financed ‘freemium’ versions that Spotify could scale into what by June 2016 was reported to had become the ‘biggest streaming service in the world.’ Based on research conducted within the collaborative project Streaming Heritage: Following Files in Digital Music Distribution (2014-2018), this presentation specifically asks how new advertising technologies contribute to change distribution practices. Using digital tools alongside more conventional media industries research methods such as stakeholder interviews, the paper provides a close analysis of ad tech networks and what is called programmatic advertising, a mechanism using personal data and algorithms to buy and sell ads. In doing so, the paper will complicate the notion of Spotify being just about music streaming, or distribution



Speaker Profiles


Virginia Crisp is Lecturer in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College London. She is the author of Film Distribution in the Digital Age: Pirates and Professionals (Palgrave, 2015), and co-editor of Besides the Screen: Moving Images through Distribution, Promotion and Curation (with Gabriel Menotti Gonring, Palgrave, 2015). She is the co-founder, with Gabriel Menotti Gonring (UFES, Brazil), of the Besides the Screen Network


Andrew Leyshon is Professor of Economic Geography and Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research & Knowledge Exchange in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Nottingham.  His work has focused on money and finance, the musical economy, and the emergence of diverse economies.  Books that reflect these interests include Reformatted: Code, Networks and the Transformation of the Music Industry (Oxford University Press, 2014), which explored the implications of P2P networks and MP3 software on the musical economy; Money/Space: geographies of monetary transformation (with Nigel Thrift, Routledge 1997), which argued that not only does money have a geography, but that it is inherently geographical, and; Alternative Economic Spaces (with Roger Lee and Colin Williams, Sage, 2003), which sought to account for the diverse ways in which ‘alternative’ economies have emerged within contemporary capitalism.  He is a member of the Editorial Board of Environment and Planning A and Journal of Cultural Economy, and of the Editorial Advisory Board of Economy and Society.


Amanda D. Lotz is Professor in the Departments of Communication Studies and Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Television Will Be Revolutionized (New York University Press, 2007; rev. 2nd ed. 2014), Cable Guys: Television and American Masculinities in the 21st Century (New York University Press, 2014), and Redesigning Women: Television After the Network Era (University of Illinois Press, 2006), and editor of Beyond Prime Time: Television Programming in the Post-Network Era (Routledge, 2009). She is co-author of Understanding Media Industries (with Timothy Havens, Oxford University Press, 2011; 2nd ed. 2016) and Television Studies (with Jonathan Gray, Polity, 2011). She has also authored or co-authored thirteen articles and contributed chapters for more than fourteen edited collections.


Jeanette Steemers is Professor of Culture, Media and Creative Industries in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King’s College London. A graduate in German and Russian, she completed her PhD on West German public service broadcasting in 1990. After working for Research Company, CIT Research, and distributor HIT Entertainment, she rejoined academia in 1993. Her books include Changing Channels: The Prospects for Television in a Digital World (University of Luton Press, 1998), Selling Television: British Television in the Global Marketplace (BFI Publishing, 2004), European Television Industries (with Petros Iosifidis and Mark Wheeler, BFI Publishing, 2005), Creating Preschool Television: A Story of Commerce, Creativity and Curriculum (Palgrave, 2010), Global Media and National Policies: The Return of the State (with Terry Flew and Petros Iosifidis, Palgrave, 2016), European Media in Crisis: Values, Risks and Policies (with Josef Trappel and Barbara Thomass, Routledge, 2015) and Children’s TV and Digital Media in the Arab World: Childhood, Screen Culture and Education (with Naomi Sakr, I.B. Tauris, 2017). She has published widely on UK television exports, public service broadcasting and the children’s media industry with support from the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. She is a Trustee of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, and Board Member of the Children’s Media Foundation.


Patrick Vonderau is Professor in Cinema Studies at the Department for Media Studies at Stockholm University. His most recent book publications include Films that Sell: Moving Images and Advertising (with Bo Florin and Nico de Klerk, Palgrave, 2016), Behind the Screen: Inside European Production Cultures (with Petr Szczepanik, Palgrave, 2013), Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media (with Pelle Snickars, Columbia University Press, 2013), and The YouTube Reader (with P. Snickars, National Library of Sweden, 2009). He is a co-editor of Montage AV and a co-founder of the European Network for Cinema and Media Studies (NECS).

Rss Feed Atom Feed

Event Highlights:

Sorry, there are no current events

Follow Us


Live Twitter feed...

Join the conversation
Sitemap Site help Terms and conditions Privacy policy Accessibility Modern slavery statement Contact us

© 2017 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454