Greater risk and more reward for private companies

PwC Henrik S-0990Author: Henrik Steinbrecher,  Network Middle Market Leader

Changing the way you’ve always done business is hard, but it doesn’t require superhuman powers.

This year’s private company view from the 18th Annual Global CEO Survey gives a clear message that sticking to business as usual will put private companies at a distinct disadvantage.

Nearly 60% of the 711 private company CEOs we spoke to told us they face more threats to revenue growth today than they did three years ago, yet a similar number see more growth opportunities than before. 

Private Company View, risks & rewards infographic

Pain and gain is the reality of this high-stakes operating environment where competition is more intense, customer demands are rising and the speed of change is faster. Uncertainty is the only certainty and private company leaders have a greater appreciation that they must do more to thrive in this riskier, but potentially more rewarding world.

So, what’s the best way forward? And where to start?

Keeping your company relevant means having a greater innovation focus combined with robust resilience measures to weather shocks that could derail your plans. CEOs see a whole range of threats that are beyond their control, such as over-regulation and skills shortages. But, by being adaptable and rethinking risk, they can increase their competitive capabilities to better cope.

Playing it safe won’t cut it. Companies that pursue growth must take on risk. But, by making no changes to their risk approach, this could pose the greatest risk of all. Risk management should go hand-in-hand with innovation strategies and should be viewed as a core enabler of growth, if done well.

In our private company view, we show how private companies must embed risk assumptions in corporate growth strategies to build resilience. But the challenge is understanding the wide range of threats in front of a company to be able to respond and react appropriately. The risk landscape is, by nature, an unpredictable and hard-to-control beast.

This year, we found over half of private company CEOs think it’s likely organisations will increasingly compete in new sectors; with nearly a third saying their company entered a new industry during the past few years.

Private Company View, innovation imperative infographic

It seems innovation is winning through and many CEOs see disruption as an opportunity to be a pioneer. As one of our interviewees, Rajiv Bajaj of Bajaj Auto Limited said so well, “I don’t know any way of managing a disruption other than to be a creator of it.”

The winners will be those companies that are able to anticipate change and are willing to be disrupters themselves – either in their approach to market, in their products and services, operating models, talent plans or in their willingness to change strategy - or even sector - to chase new opportunities. But even with this willingness, will governance structures give private company leaders enough agility to disrupt business as usual for this new world order?

There’s a lot for private company leaders to think about. It’s a challenging time that’s equally as exciting. Despite feelings of uncertainty about the global economy, private company leaders feel confident about finding new ways to create value and grow. Anything but business as usual is how they’ll get there.

See our report and findings at a glance to find out more.


Henrik leads the Middle Market business for PwC globally, focusing on owner-led, private, family controlled and entrepreneurial companies. He’s particularly focused on family and owner led businesses, advising them on how to address strategic issues relating to the owner's agenda. 


Not so confident? The views of the state backed CEO

Nick JonesAuthor: Nick C Jones, Director of PwC’s Public Sector Research Centre

State owned enterprises (SOEs) have become a rising influence in the global economy over the past decade, particularly since the financial crisis. And this is reflected again in the 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, with more than 1 in 10 of the CEOs surveyed leading an organisation with some form of government ownership or backing. So how do the views of these CEOs differ from those with no state backing?

There is one significant difference that we have observed when considering responses by business leaders in our Survey over the last five years: state-backed CEOs are generally less confident about long term prospects for revenue growth.

CEO Insights - Gov - State backed CEOs less confident-ref

Indeed the gap in expectations for long-term revenue growth between state backed CEOs and their private sector counterparts has been widening since the depths of recession. What might explain this?

The difference in expectations for long term growth may hint at the tension that state backed CEOs face in being commercially viable and competitive while also trying to fulfil non-commercial objectives, the latter often demanding trade-offs in terms of financial performance between the short and longer term. Political cycles and fiscal constraints may also contribute to this phenomenon as well as tightening of labour markets as private sector careers become more attractive for mobile talent.

Yet, it still appears that there are many similarities, with CEOs of state backed companies holding many of the same concerns about their businesses as their private sector counterparts. Over regulation, availability of key skills, government responses to fiscal deficit and debt burden and geopolitical uncertainty were among the top five concerns for both state backed and non-state backed CEOs.

CEO Insights - Gov - CEOs most want govs to deliver-ref
Indeed, the only real significant difference was on the importance of tax burdens, with 59% of state backed CEOs being concerned compared to 70% for our full sample. Meanwhile, a high proportion of the state backed CEOs surveyed were also concerned about social instability (65%).

There are also similarities in the priorities for government. An internationally competitive and efficient tax system and a skilled and adaptable workforce were the top two outcomes on the wish list for government by both state backed and non-state backed CEOs. About half (49%) of state backed CEOs suggest that their organisation will work with their governments to develop a skilled and adaptable workforce over the next three years (compared to 44% of private sector CEOs). And around a third of the state backed CEOs are also focusing on collaborating with government on developing an innovation ecosystem (35%) and adequate physical infrastructure (32%).

CEO Insights - Gov - Business and gov collaboration-ref
Despite the challenges of longer term revenue growth, perhaps state backed CEOs see a greater need for more collaboration and partnership to deliver on the government’s priorities.

Find out more in ‘Government and the Global CEO: Delivering outcomes, creating value’ which is downloadable from PwC’s Public Sector Research Centre.

Nick C Jones is the Global Director of PwC’s Public Sector Research Centre and has authored, and contributed to, reports on a wide range of public services issues. He sits on PwC’s Global Government and UK Government and Public Sector Leadership teams and is also a member of the Editorial Team for PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey, commenting on the relationship between business and government. 


Battle of the giants: China, the US and India

CEO Insights - John HawksworthAuthor: John Hawksworth, Chief Economist, PwC UK

One of the historic landmarks of 2014 was China overtaking the US as the largest economy in the world based on GDP at purchasing power parities (PPPs). This International Monetary Fund estimate reflects the total volume of goods and services produced, after adjusting for the fact that prices in China are, on average, relatively lower than in the US when converted at current market exchange rates.

But questions have begun to be asked about whether China’s success can be sustained, particularly as regards the possibility of its investment and property bubble bursting. There are uneasy echoes here of the experience of Japan, which also looked like overtaking the US in the early 1990s, but whose economy was laid low following its land price bubble bursting.

We think the Chinese economy has considerable resilience, and the new leadership has embarked on an ambitious economic reform programme, including measures to combat corruption that can only be welcome in putting China’s economic development on a stronger footing for the long run. But the transition process to the new policy and regulatory regime has increased short-term uncertainties for international companies doing business in China.

These short-term uncertainties are reflected in the results of our 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, which saw confidence levels among US CEOs overtake those for CEOs in China for the first time.

CEO Insights - US confidence level exceeds China for first time
This was also reflected in 38% of CEOs around the world now seeing the US as the most important market for their overall business growth, compared to 34% for China. The latter is still a strong showing, but it reverses the order from last year’s survey when China was seen as the primary growth engine.

This also mirrors trends in GDP growth: our latest projections show a gradual slowdown in Chinese growth to around 7% this year, the lowest rate seen for a long time, while US growth accelerates to over 3%, the fastest rate since 2005.

But, we should not overlook the fact that, in absolute terms, Chinese growth this year is still likely to be more than double that in the US. Barring a major financial crisis in China, which is a downside risk as discussed above but not our main scenario, we also expect a significant Chinese-US growth gap to persist for at least the rest of this decade.

As a result, as set out in detail in our new report ‘World in 2050’, we expect the GDP gap between China and the US in PPP terms to continue to widen. By 2030, we would also expect China to overtake the US in terms of GDP at market exchange rates (i.e. in dollar values without any relative price adjustment). China would then become not just the largest producer of goods and services in volume terms, but also the biggest consumer market in the world.

The chart below shows how we project China’s GDP share on this alternative ‘dollar value’ basis to overtake the US shortly before 2030.

CEO Insights - Shifting global economic power
However, we do expect China’s rate of growth to revert to the global average rate of around 3% per annum beyond around 2040, causing its share of world GDP to flatten out at just under 20% as the chart shows. This reflects the combined effects of a rapidly ageing population, diminishing marginal returns to high levels of capital investment, and less scope for technological catch-up as China approaches the global technological frontier and has to become an innovator not just an imitator. As we saw with previously fast-growing Asian economies like Japan and South Korea in earlier decades, Chinese growth will eventually slow down.

As the chart also shows, however, the country with the potential to be the new rising global economic power is India, whose share of world GDP at market exchange rates could potentially quadruple from only around 2.5% in 2014 to around 10% by 2050. By that time, India could be closing in on the US and the EU (and indeed might even overtake them by 2050 if measured by GDP at PPPs).

However, as discussed in detail in another recent PwC report, India needs to implement a wide-ranging programme of human and physical capital investment and institutional reform to achieve this ‘winning leap’ into the global premier league. Success is not guaranteed.

Our 'World in 2050' report argues that the same is true for many other emerging economies like Indonesia (which we think could reach 4th place in the global GDP rankings by 2050 with the right policies), Brazil, Mexico and, if it can diversify its economy away from oil, Nigeria. All of these have the potential to be top 10 global economies by the middle of the century, displacing European ‘old stagers’ like France, Italy and the UK.

But there are many risks and obstacles to be negotiated in order to fulfil this potential, and businesses investing in these growth markets need to tread carefully in order to manage these risks and turn presence into profitability.


John Hawksworth is an economist who specialises in macroeconomics and public policy issues. He is Chief Economist in PwC’s UK firm and editor of our Economic Outlook reports. He is also the author of many other reports and articles on macroeconomic and public policy topics and a regular media commentator on these issues. Read John's full biography.



New entrants are disrupting the healthcare industry

Vaughn Kauffman

Author: Vaughn Kauffman, Principal, PwC US

This year’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey found that healthcare is one of the top two industries (tied with technology) targeted by companies from other sectors. Fifteen percent of the CEOs who are planning to engage in cross-sector competition in the next three years are looking at the healthcare, pharma and life sciences industry.

We’re not surprised – healthcare represents a significant market opportunity worth trillions of dollars and new entrants recognise that their global reach, customer insights and established reputation are differentiators that can help grab market share. In addition, trends such as changing demographics, globalisation, technological advances and the growing power of the consumer are all impacting the delivery and financing of care. As the challenges mount, so too do opportunities. New entrants are partnering with or supplanting incumbents to pioneer pathways into virtual healthcare, offering more affordable and convenient treatment options and influencing the growth of preventative medicine. Drugstore Walgreen’s for example has captured a small but growing share of the $10 billion immunization market.

How are new entrants impacting care?

In our upcoming report, Global health’s new entrants: Meeting the world’s consumer, we explore how business opportunities in health are attracting new entrants, those companies whose core businesses reside entirely outside of the health space or are expanding into new health roles, in both developed and emerging markets. These entrepreneurial entrants bring with them consumer acumen and fresh ideas to healthcare, where in many nations costs are rising faster than the gross domestic product. Non-traditional players are offering new modes of care, from wearable devices to retail pharmacies to video games that encourage wellness, transforming the healthcare industry to a truly consumer-centric, competitive environment. Many companies have crossed these divides in their traditional businesses and found receptive global audiences. There is no going back.

Collaborate or compete?

Incumbents have a decision to make: compete or partner. Some healthcare CEOs acknowledge the threat that new entrants pose – according to the CEO Survey, more than half of healthcare CEOs anticipate that companies will increasingly compete in new sectors in the next three years. They expect the competition they face to come primarily from technology companies, pharma & life sciences companies and the public sector.

PwC Global CEO Survey - entering new sector

Consumers today want a healthcare experience that mirrors the convenience and transparency of their banking, retail, transportation and other purchasing experiences. This sort of approach, however, requires new business models that depend on collaboration; no organisation can meet the demands of every requirement. Therefore, some traditional healthcare companies are taking advantage of the industry’s evolution to partner with these new players. Filling gaps between consumer expectations and the current medical infrastructure provides many opportunities for new entrants and incumbents to collaborate and offer fresh experiences that benefit society at large.

We go into greater detail about the impact of new entrants in healthcare and the business implications in our upcoming report, Global health’s new entrants: Meeting the world’s consumer, which will be available in March. Register today to receive a copy when it launches.

Vaughn is a Principal in PwC US’ Health Industries Advisory Services and the Global Leader of the New Entrants group in the Global Healthcare practice. He has helped healthcare clients explore new opportunities to create market differentiated offerings, drive enhanced profitable growth and ensure future competitive viability.


Responding to the forces of disruption

Norbert Schwieters, PwCAuthor: Norbert Schwieters, Global Consumer and Industrial Products & Services Leader

How are the customers I sell to changing? How's my business model changing? Who are my new competitors? How do I plan in a world of change? What capabilities do I need to stay relevant?

Sound familiar?

It’s clear that no industry, no company and even no government, is immune from the effects of a rapidly changing world. Whether it’s demographic change, global power shifts, rapid urbanisation, climate change and resource scarcity, or technological breakthroughs – what it means for companies is disruption, disruption, and more disruption.

When we surveyed 1,322 CEOs across 77 countries for our 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, we got a pretty interesting insight into the challenges that companies are facing all over the world and in every sector.

Nearly 60% of them see more threats for their company than three years ago; that reflects an upward trend over the last four years. And they’re getting more worried about almost all the threats we asked about. 

Fully 78% are concerned about over-regulation. Other threats that are looming large for CEOs are the ones related with technologies: cyber threats - up 13 points to 61% - and the speed of technological change - up 11 points to 58%. In fact, of the threats we asked about, the only issue CEOs are slightly less concerned about is bribery and corruption. And when it comes to disruption, CEOs see regulation, competition and customer behaviours as the top industry disruptors.


18th CEO Survey - top threats (highres)
One of the CEOs we spoke to face-to-face said, “The challenge we and many others are facing is that it’s very hard to know when exactly the disruption will become so big that you actually don’t even survive without being part of that disruption.”

This week, we published the CEO Survey results for each sector. What they show is that some industries are experiencing more upheaval than others and that sectors are reacting in different ways to disruption (more on this in a second blog I’ll be publishing in a few weeks’ time) - but none is immune.

In the energy sector, for example, where I do a lot work, it’s clear that the disruption taking place is just the start of a major transformation. It’s not a question of whether the business models pursued in the sector will change, but rather what new forms they'll take and how rapidly companies will have to alter course.

One example of that is Germany’s biggest utility company. It was recently in the news when it announced that it was going to split its renewables, distribution grids and services operations from power generation, energy trading and oil and gas production to respond to disruption in the European energy sector. It cited, "dramatically altered global energy markets, technical innovation, and more diverse customer expectations". The latter two disruptive forces are not confined to the energy sector – they were mentioned by the CEOs we surveyed as affecting most, if not all, sectors.

So ask yourself:

  • What do your customers really value, and how do your organisation’s differentiating capabilities deliver that value?
  • How are you learning from other industries to solve customer problems in your own industry?
  • Are you considering how your organisation’s key strengths can be leveraged to solve customer problems in other industries?
  • What business are you really in?



Contact Norbert Schwieters

Norbert Schwieters leads PwC's Global Consumer and Industrial Products & Services group. He's also the Global Energy, Utilities & Mining Leader and heads up the Energy industry team in Germany.


Cybersecurity: keeping the ‘crown jewels’ safe online is everyone’s business

Mark Lobel, PwCAuthor: Mark Lobel, Partner, PwC US

At its core, every company I’ve ever encountered has its own digital ‘crown jewels’. By that, I mean the media content, customer data, email, product designs or other business-critical intellectual property that – if compromised or stolen – could severely undermine a company’s reputation and revenues, or even destroy its business. These are the assets that drive cash flows, competitive advantage and shareholder value. And I believe that protecting them shouldn’t be seen just as a technology challenge, but as a major strategic business priority.

Intensifying threats…
As cyberattackers – including organised criminals, terrorists and state-backed organisations – become increasingly sophisticated, numerous and well-funded, the stakes are high and rising. But despite this, my experience across many industries suggests that the security of digital information – cybersecurity – doesn’t always receive the attention it deserves at board level. All too often, at least until a major breach occurs, it’s still viewed as the responsibility of the IT team. But the reality is that effective cybersecurity is the linchpin for safeguarding any company’s most valuable assets.

…coupled with rising vulnerability
We look at the specific cybersecurity challenges facing companies in the entertainment and media sector in this new article. And those challenges are growing: in PwC’s 2015 Global State of Information Security Survey, entertainment and media executives reported a 50% jump in incidents detected over the past year. In my view, the drivers behind this disturbing finding – including the growing difficulty of staying a step ahead of the attackers – are mirrored in most other industries.

What’s more, these threats are increasing at a time when all businesses’ vulnerability to attack is also on the rise. This is due to greater digital connectivity between companies in ‘business ecosystems’, an increasing dependence on technology, and the fact that it’s simply no longer realistic to safeguard all data at the highest level of security.

Three steps to a more secure business
Faced with this situation, business leaders are sometimes unsure where to focus their efforts. The key is that all board members should work in a coordinated way to recognise the potential impact from evolving threats, taking into account the motivations and capabilities of their adversaries. With this foundation in place, my experience suggests that companies should then take the following three steps.

First, make cybersecurity everyone’s business. It’s crucial to elevate the role of information security in the organisation and emphasise that it’s a strategic business issue. Cybersecurity should be as much a concern to C-suite executives as it is to the IT team. It’s also the business of employees, contractors, third-party vendors, and other ecosystem partners.  And, in fact, we’re already seeing cybersecurity rise up the CEO agenda.  CEOs polled in our recently launched 18th Annual Global CEO Survey rated cybersecurity in their top three most strategically important digital technologies for their organisations. And 53% said it’s ‘very important’ strategically – a higher proportion than for any other type of digital technology we asked about.

Second, strengthen the ecosystem. The integrity and stability of any business is now more dependent than ever before on the other companies in its digital ecosystem. Increasing reliance on collaborators, vendors and third-parties means organisations must integrate these external partners into their cybersecurity strategy. But in doing so, it’s vital not to overlook the threats from within: the biggest problems are often caused unwittingly by a company’s own employees - for example, by failing to change default passwords.

Third, identify and protect the most critical assets. As I highlighted earlier, not all information assets are equal in value. So companies must determine which information assets are their ‘crown jewels’ and provide these with enhanced protection. This means knowing not only which assets they are, but where they’re located at any given time, and who has access to them.

Remember: people and culture trump technology and models
As companies take these steps, many face a further challenge in that their approach to managing cybersecurity risks hasn’t kept pace with the threats. This is because the traditional information security model – compliance-based, perimeter-oriented and reactive – doesn’t address today’s realities. As a result, I’ve seen some companies that have spent millions and millions on security products and services built on outdated models.

But, at the root, the barriers to effective cybersecurity are more around people and behaviour than technologies. A collaborative approach is needed where those in the digital value chain share information and pool resources while maintaining protection and vigilance through appropriate technology tools. This can be the most cost-effective solution which also delivers tangible security benefits for everyone involved. CEOs in our latest CEO Survey recognise that their own support in championing the use of digital technologies is key to ensuring successful outcomes from their digital investments. The CEO must set the tone and provide the support to make sure that keeping an organisation’s crown jewels safe is everyone’s business.


Mark leads the PwC US and Global security practices focusing on Technology, Information Communications, Entertainment and Media (TICE) industries. He specialises in cybersecurity and IT controls, with experience designing, implementing, benchmarking, and assessing organisational security strategies and technologies. Read more



Achieving inclusive growth in the digital age

Dennis Nally Jan15Author: Dennis Nally, Chairman, PwC International Ltd.

All around us, we can see how digital technologies are transforming the economies in which we live, the cities we inhabit, the way we learn, and the lives we lead. Experience shows that growth and change in the digital age are faster and more pervasive than ever before, affecting more people at greater speed than was possible with previous generations of technology.

However, as the global economic recovery continues, a concern has begun to emerge in countries across the world. It's that while growth -- supported by digital technologies -- has returned, many people feel the resulting benefits are passing them by, and failing to directly affect them and their families. The underlying risk is that exclusion from digital advances may extend into exclusion from social and economic opportunities, leaving millions of people effectively locked out of the next phase of global growth and development.

In my view, ensuring that growth in the digital age benefits populations across the world is one of the biggest issues facing mankind today. It's also a challenge that I believe global business and governments have a responsibility to address. Success will demand sustained effort from many parties worldwide, and while we at PwC don't pretend to have all the answers, we're determined to play our part. And our shared goal should be to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to benefit from the digital age on more equal terms.

Read more in the full article, Achieving Inclusive Growth in the Digital Age: A Global Imperative, published in the Huffington Post.

And see how CEOs are creating new value in new ways through digital transformation in PwC's 18th Annual Global CEO Survey.

Dennis Nally leads the global network of PwC firms. He has extensive experience serving large multinational clients in a variety of industries, principally focusing on technology and life sciences. Dennis is also a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on issues affecting the professional services profession and the global capital markets. Read Dennis Nally's full biography.


Do CEOs care about the climate?

We published our 18th Annual Global CEO Survey earlier this week to coincide with the opening of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The theme of this year's survey is how to create value in a rapidly changing world -  whether it’s about new customers, or markets, or the transformation of technology. Climate change barely registered on the list of risks that CEOs said they worried about, prompting questions around whether CEOs are really serious about the issue.

Find out more from PwC's climate team who explore the issue further in the article, Do CEOs care about the climate?, available in full on our Sustainability and climate change blog.


PwC Annual Global CEO Survey launches in Davos

Dennis Nally Jan15Author: Dennis Nally, Chairman, PwC International Ltd.

For the past 10 years, I’ve had the opportunity to come to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. Every year it’s different which is what makes it so special. For over four decades, the WEF has been – and still is – an excellent platform to engage business leaders, politicians, and academics from all over the world. And personally, it’s an opportunity to meet with old friends and build new relationships.

Fascinating as always, this intense week was the perfect opportunity to launch our 18th Annual Global CEO Survey

Eighty-five journalists from around the world came to our press briefing yesterday evening, where I revealed the key findings of our survey. Over the past 18 years, this survey has become one of the media highlights during the annual Forum meeting in Davos. Journalists were once again very engaged, which made for a lively and interesting Q&A session. 

CEO Survey press launch, Davos, 2015

So let’s move on to the key findings. The world is facing significant challenges: economic, political and social. CEOs overall remain cautious in their near-term outlook for the worldwide economy which continues to be fragile. In fact, CEOs are less optimistic about global growth prospects than a year ago. Only 37% think that global economic growth will improve in 2015 and this is down from 44% last year.

Interestingly, despite this more gloomy view of the global economy, many CEOs believe that there are significant opportunities for their own business to grow. In fact, 39% of CEOs still think their business will improve this year. Not surprisingly, CEOs confidence is down notably in oil-producing nations around the world as a result of plummeting crude oil prices.  

PwC CEO Survey - Confidence in company growth and economy
The world is changing and the economic equilibrium is rebalancing. The majority of CEOs identified the US as the most important overseas growth market for their company – overtaking China for the first time in five years.

CEOs are more optimistic now about mature markets than a year ago: the UK ranked higher than Brazil; Japan is seen as a better prospect than Russia; and Australia has moved into the top-ten.

When we asked CEOs what worries them most, 78% said over-regulation, which is the highest level ever seen in the survey. Other top concerns cited by CEOs are the availability of key skills, fiscal deficits and debt burdens, geopolitical uncertainty, increasing taxes and cyber threats and the lack of data security.

As digital change is impacting business at an increasing pace every year, CEOs are increasingly concerned about the threats that this presents. But they also see the opportunities this brings and are preparing to seize them. 

One thing is certain: to make the most of these opportunities, CEOs need to put technology at the core of their business. In fact, the majority of CEOs we surveyed cited cyber security, mobile engagement and data analytics as the most important technological strategies they’ll be focusing on in the months and years ahead.

No-one is immune from the impact of digital transformation. That’s why CEOs need to transform, rethink and adapt their business strategy to succeed in this dynamic world. So, are you ready to be part of this change?   

Find out more in our 18th Annual Global CEO Survey.


Dennis Nally leads the global network of PwC firms. He has extensive experience serving large multinational clients in a variety of industries, principally focusing on technology and life sciences. Dennis is also a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on issues affecting the professional services profession and the global capital markets. Read Dennis Nally's full biography.


Music: an industry moving through and beyond digital disruption

Huw ThomasAuthor: Huw Thomas, Partner, PwC UK

When I sit down to actively listen to music, I much prefer the warmth, depth and resonance of new vinyl to the thinner, tinnier sound I get from MP3s on the go. A lot of music fans feel the same way.

So, does this make us analogue dinosaurs in an increasingly digital world? Not at all. In fact – as this video blog explains – the music industry is now heading in our direction, as it moves through and beyond digital disruption to restore, not just its profitability, but also the pre-MP3 sound quality that we all remember so fondly.

Blazing a trail for other industries

In achieving this transformation to its post-digital form, the music sector is blazing a trail to reconfigured revenues and audience engagement that other sectors may look to follow - and not just within entertainment and media. Put simply, just as music was the first segment to encounter the full force of digital disruption, so it looks set to be the first to re-emerge with a value chain fully reinvented for digital.

Not many people were forecasting this outcome a decade ago, when music suddenly found itself in the front line of digital disruption and disintermediation. From Napster to iTunes to Pandora to Spotify, music was the sector tasked with pioneering the pathway to digital revenues, as other sectors looked on with a blend of trepidation and shock.

Darkest hour before the dawn…

The factors that put music at the forefront of digital migration included its relatively small filesizes and readily-available content formats. Whatever the drivers, for several years the effect on revenues turned music labels into masters in managing marginal decline – as shown by the revenue data in our Global entertainment and media outlook

But now, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Over time, the music majors responded by adapting to digital sales while retaining the physical distribution that still accounts for the majority of sales. Now their focus has moved to a deeper digital media transformation that allows cost effective, responsive and deeply creative audience engagement, along with ‘anytime, anywhere’ distribution direct to consumers through mobile apps.

…with apps lighting the way forward

Why are mobile apps the answer? First, they’re universal. Second, they tap easily into high-bandwidth broadband access. These two factors are already shifting consumers’ preferred means of accessing music from buying downloads to paying for streaming services instead. And third, with music driven increasingly by video, apps can create a great immersive experience for video and audio together. As common app interfaces become available on more devices, people will find that a familiar app interface is always within reach, or at least earshot.

So, what better way to distribute music? And the impact of this new digitally-engineered model will be felt right across the industry. Content creation, distribution and consumption will be democratised. Artist apps will roll out, bringing the label, artist, manager, or other content owner closer to the value of the consumer relationship. We may see a growth in independent specialist labels, like those in the 1950s and 1960s, run by people with a passion for particular genres and the ability to discover talent. And crowdsourcing may become an increasingly viable way to fund global campaigns by independent artists.

Back to a future of creativity and profit

Coming back to where I started, this digital transformation is also great news for me and vinyl-loving music fans. The roll-out of super-fast broadband will enable streaming and other digital music services to regain the warmth and depth of vinyl, while combining it with the crystal clarity of CD. So, tinny MP3 will be upgraded to an experience that’s both much higher-quality and also more readily available.

The result: audiences will find their imaginations recaptured and love of music reinvigorated through deeper, more meaningful experiences. And the rights owners that remaster and distribute music direct to consumers through apps will make significant gains. Put simply: a win-win for music consumers and also for creative companies and artists.

For other sectors facing digital disruption, the music industry used to look like a warning-sign of impending doom. Suddenly it’s a beacon, illuminating the path to profitable, high-quality experiences beyond the initial traumatic digital disruption.



Huw leads PwC’s Digital Media Transformation group and major client initiatives across the global entertainment industry, specialising in technology and operations transformation initiatives with music, broadcast TV and digital distribution companies. Huw has over 25 years experience of leading global transformation programmes, and also in M&A integration.