Another Take on Synergy

What it is? Where do we see it? And how has it influenced our access to media?

The first image that appears in my mind upon hearing the word synergy, is the act of working together. I think about that harmonious scene from Elf  when the camera zooms onto the table in the middle of Santa’s work shop where the elves, all focused on their own task, work together side by side. Synergy means every moving part must do their job independently so that together the collective can strive for success. In Empires of Entertainment: Media Industries and the Political Deregulation, 1980-1996, Jennifer Holt uses the term to describe the way in which media industries in the 1980s and 1990s fused film, television, and cable together in order to increase productivity and economic growth. She also uses the term to describe the growing relationship between the media industries and the current political figures of the time (3). Synergy refers to the teamwork of separate entities to produce a bigger and more desirable outcome.

Synergy, using holt’s definition, is debuted in 1995 when Disney purchases ABC for $19 billion. As a product of this deal, the media industry of film and that of television merges, thus creating synergy among two separate entertainment sectors. The success in bridging these industries appears when the new conglomerate produces the hit show Disneyland (157). Having proof of success, synergy is something that can be found as the foundation of so many different industries. We see synergy all around us and all the time, even when it’s disguised as something else. A corporation like McDonalds, for example, relies on every single employee occupying every single position for their average of $2.7 million in profit per location every year (Reader’s Digest). So in some tiny sense, yes, the CEO Steve Easterbrook is connected to the on location minimum wage worker. 

While synergy within a corporation like McDonalds and that within the entertainment industry may seem unrelated, they both rely on the teamwork between different abilities and powers of people. This is something that can also be used to understand other media sources. Holt speaks of the monopoly Home Box Office, which disrupted media industries as a platform that created distance in between a product and an audience (29). HBO married cable TV subscription with the licensed ability to screen content. This would one day provide the potential to produce and deliver their own original content. While the drive for HBO’s conquest to forever change the way in which customers and audiences access TV and film was primarily for economic prosperity, it is possible to identify other business models that use synergy with a less capitalist approach. If you would consider yourself a digital and visual creator, it’s possible you are familiar with the platform Creative Commons. It’s a website that describes itself as a vibrant and collaborative global commons with the slogan, “When we share, everyone wins” (CC). 

The non-profit organization gives way for a network of creators to share their work with one another. It legally circulates creative endeavors (mostly images) that can be incorporated and evolved into other projects. It’s quite literally a common place and archive for creators to reference, thus helping one another through a unique platform. The synergy within this organization can be seen as more community driven than profit driven, but it is never-the-less an example of individuals working together towards a broader and more collective success, that being the creative commons “Search for images…” search bar in this case. 

So whether it’s synergy in terms of Santa’s work shop, Disneyland, McDonalds, or Creative Commons, it’s important to recognize the potential of a team when multiple powers join forces. Creative industries heavily rely on synergy to produce quality and worth-while content. From what movie we choose to go see or stream, to where we get our PowerPoint presentation images, synergy is present at all levels. It can be identified in the distribution systems, licenses, and creators. Our access to entertainment and creative content heavily relies on teamwork, which is something we could all integrate a little more in our lives. 

Citations:

Holt, Jennifer. Empires of Entertainment: Media Industries and the Politics of Deregulation, 1980-1996. Rutgers University Press, 2011

Laliberte, Marissa. “Here’s How Much Money the Average U.S. McDonald’s Restaurant Makes Every Year.” Reader’s Digest, 13 Feb. 2019, https://www.rd.com/culture/how-much-money-mcdonalds-makes-per-year/

“What We Do.” Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/about/.

Teamwork image, Network image, Disneyland Image, Creative Commons, Team Sunset

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