PYMNTS MonitorEdge May 2024

AI’s Showrunner Debut Sparks Debate on the Future of Entertainment

Fable Studio has launched Showrunner, an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven streaming platform that generates personalized animated shows based on subscriber prompts. 

Chief Executive Edward Saatchi described Showrunner to the Hollywood Reporter as “the Netflix of AI,” offering viewers a high degree of control over the content they consume and blurring the lines between creator and consumer.

Showrunner allows subscribers to dictate various aspects of their animated experience, from shot types and animation styles to story elements. The AI handles the writing, voicing and animation, bringing the viewer’s ideas to life. 

The platform’s launch video showcases action inspired by anime and irreverence reminiscent of “South Park,” demonstrating the AI’s ability to generate content that feels both familiar and new.

Saatchi envisions a seamless viewing experience where users can transition from watching a series to creating their own episodes with a single click. The AI understands an episode’s core conflict and develops it further by introducing new characters and locations, while subscribers can provide scene-by-scene instructions.

Kevin Susman, vice president of consulting at MATRIXX Software, told PYMNTS that Showrunner is part of a larger trend in the democratization of content creation. “First, it was desktop publishing, which made graphic design accessible to companies of all sizes,” he added. “Then it was digital creators, which enabled a new breed of creators who could produce high-quality content for a fraction of the cost. Now, with Showrunner and so many other GenAI-powered creative tools coming to market, we’re seeing the next evolution in the democratization of the business of content creation.”

Subscriber-Driven Content Creation

Susman predicts that AI-generated content will become mainstream, particularly in advertising and marketing, leading to increased insourcing and lower costs for businesses. “In practical terms, especially for advertising and marketing-related content, we should expect a dramatic increase in insourcing of work, as anyone with a device is now capable of realizing their vision,” he said.

Showrunner offers digital content creators a new revenue stream that previously required significant capital investment, Brandon Dorsky, an intellectual property and entertainment attorney, told PYMNTS. He believes that the platform could open up new opportunities for content creators and e-commerce platforms alike.

Dorsky also sees potential for Showrunner to impact advertising and drive innovation in related sectors such as merchandise, gaming, and virtual experiences. “To the extent that Showrunner proves to engage an end-user for a longer period of time or otherwise influence their behavior in ways that prove to capture more or stronger attention, it is likely that other digital marketplaces, including gaming environments and virtual experiences, would be quick to incorporate Showrunner or otherwise adopt its capabilities to capture more end-user time and attention,” he explained.

Building on Previous AI Experiments

Showrunner is not Fable Studio’s first experiment with AI-generated content. The company previously released an app that allowed users to create their own “South Park” episodes, a project that was detailed in a published research paper.

Susman acknowledged that the rise of AI-generated content will create both winners and losers in the creative community. “Those who’ve historically been able to charge a premium for their media creation expertise will likely see an overall erosion of demand,” he said. “Conversely, those capable of best using the new tools will find themselves more competitive in the marketplace and, therefore, capable of unlocking new ways to make money.”

When asked about the potential impact on the broader entertainment market, Susman remains cautiously optimistic. “There are virtual influencers on YouTube and TikTok making real money promoting goods and services right now. Yet MrBeast and those like him still rule because people are drawn not just to the content but to all of the creative choices that go into creating that content. Why? Because we are drawn to stories and storytellers, and not all content is experienced equally.”

Susman also places Showrunner in the context of broader innovations in filmmaking, such as virtual production and real-time motion capture. He believes that AI-driven platforms like Showrunner will enable more people to create potentially higher-quality content, much like how YouTube and TikTok have already disrupted traditional entertainment models.

As Fable Studio’s Showrunner embarks on its journey to redefine animated entertainment, its impact on the world of animation and eCommerce remains to be seen. The platform could either serve as a testament to the power of human-AI collaboration or a cautionary tale about the risks of relying too heavily on AI in the creative process. Regardless of the outcome, Showrunner is sure to spark important conversations about the future of entertainment in the age of AI.