Want To Impress Wall Street? Just Add Some AI

As media executives look to pop the stock of flagging publicly traded companies, tech advances are becoming the new gimmick to wow (even temporarily) the investing class. From a report: When Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel opened his company’s earnings call with prepared remarks Feb. 28, a casual listener hearing him tout the UFC and WME might have missed the most interesting part: Emanuel wasn’t speaking at all. Well, he sort of was. The words were his, and the voice was his, but rather than Emanuel speaking into a microphone (opening remarks on earnings calls are often pretaped), the comments were the product of a generative artificial intelligence firm calledâSpeechify. Indeed, artificial intelligence has been hard to avoid for Wall Street watchers this year. And it’s easy to understand why: AI news has led to share price surges at companies like BuzzFeed (which uses it and saw its stock price more than double) and Microsoft (whose rise was in the high singleâdigits).

After the public release of OpenAI’s large language model (LLM) chatbot ChatGPT (and the stock bounce it gave to Microsoft, which is OpenAI’s tech partner), it seems that every company wants a piece of the AI action, or at least wants to send the message that it’s thinking about it. Companies with close ties to media and entertainment are no exception. In his first letter to creators as CEO of YouTube, Neal Mohan wrote March 1 that “the power of AI is just beginning to emerge in ways that will reinvent video and make the seemingly impossible possible,” and that it will be a priority for him. Spotify, led by CEO Daniel Ek, released on Feb. 22 what it is calling an “AI DJ,” powered by technology from OpenAI. The DJ takes the music a Spotify user listens to and combines it with recommendations from music experts and an AI-generated voice to create a totally personalized radio show. Snap, run by Evan Spiegel, released an assistant called “My AI,” based on ChatGPT, bringing the capabilities of that LLM to Snapchat+ users.

And at small digital publishers like the Jonah Peretti-led BuzzFeed and Arena Group Holdings (the owner of Sports Illustrated), AI is being touted as a fount of new types of storytelling that “can create enterprise value for our brands and partners,” per Arena Group CEO Ross Levinsohn. To be sure, AI’s potential for transforming business is real (in a March 2 research report, Morgan Stanley called it a “$6 trillion opportunity”), but it remains just that: an opportunity, rather than today’s reality. Wall Street is still very bullish on AI in the long term, with Bank of America’s Haim Israel and Martyn Briggs writing in a Feb. 28 thematic report that AI is “at a defining moment — like the internet in the ’90s,” but the consensus is that while big tech firms like YouTube owner Alphabet, Amazon and Apple will reap the rewards at some point, what it means for smaller companies in the present is less clear. For entertainment companies, the potential is obvious, even if the business models are not. The Morgan Stanley report noted the logic in AI recommendations on streaming services like Spotify and Netflix (Spotify’s DJ is a first step in that direction), and it isn’t a stretch to think that content itself can be made faster and at less cost with generative technology (applications could include special effects, which are labor intensive and costly). For companies like Endeavor and CAA, generative voice technology (like that from Speechify) and deepfake tech (like Deep Voodoo, a deepfake company from the creators of South Park that counts the CAA-affiliated Connect Ventures as an investor), could mean new opportunities for old actors (see Robert Zemeckis’ upcoming movie Here, which will use AI from Metaphysic to de-age Tom Hanks).

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