Entertainment Brands of the Future will be Built on Mobile First.
As we reveal details of our new property Best Fiends today, I wanted to take the opportunity to share why I believe the biggest entertainment brands of the future will be built on mobile first, with many starting as mobile games. This premise is based on some of my experiences both at Fox and Rovio and the accelerated shift to mobile we’ve seen in the past few years.
Between 2008 and 2011, I was responsible for 20th Century Fox’s mobile business, representing television shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy, and movies like Avatar and Ice Age, focusing on video distribution deals and app partnerships to grow the business. Back in 2008, mobile phones were considered less media platforms and more communication devices, and any revenues we generated as a team were pretty much considered ‘found money’ for the studio.
At Fox, one of the app partnerships I was fortunate to work on was a project with the talented team at Rovio to build Angry Birds Rio — a mash-up of Fox’s movie Rio and the Angry Birds game, which, as we were negotiating the deal, was breaking out.
The Angry Birds Rio game was launched three weeks ahead of the movie and, with 20 million downloads ahead of what turned out to be a succesful movie release, we saw data that showed the game had been the most powerful piece of marketing in the campaign for key demos.
Back then in 2011, it was clear to me and peers in the industry that mobile phones had made the transition from being communication devices into prolific content consumption devices. And today, I believe mobile is the most fertile media platform for building an entertainment brand, for the following reasons:
1. The power of touch. Before mobile, the biggest entertainment brands were built on sight and sound, in both movie theaters and on television screens. However with mobile — for the first time ever — content can now reach audiences through ‘touch’. It’s in your pocket, it’s always on and connected, and it’s always at your fingertips. When building an emotional relationship with audiences, the power of touch, and the reaction content can make when directly connecting with it, offers mobile content creators a ‘sensory advantage’ over other media platforms.
2. Time spent consuming games and other content on mobile. According to metrics from Flurry, the average American consumer spends 2 hours 42 minutes a day on their mobile devices, of which 32% (51 minutes) is spent playing games. That’s a significant amount of time that used to be spent consuming other media on other platforms. Seeing how YouTube stars have eclipsed traditional celebrities shows that the content consumption device in your pocket is driving engagement with new brands and personalities in a way other media platforms will struggle to keep up with in the future.
3. Content and distribution are merging. Traditionally, content creation and distribution formed two sides of a media business. But with the introduction of smartphones, app stores have disintermediated content distribution, giving even the smallest mobile content creator in the most remote geographical location, the potential to reach a global audience. Conversely, many of the biggest television shows and movies are distributed on third party networks or platforms, leaving the content’s original creators without direct access to their fan base.
Mobile apps provide a great opportunity for content creators to see how their audience engages with the product they create. This allows content creators to hone and innovate against the experience they offer; a powerful tool. Every media company has traditionally desired to be ‘vertically integrated’ in this way, where they control the content source and the distribution channel. Mobile now offers a solution for everyone.
4. App as a platform. Most game studios focused on mobile treat their content as a service. This means that the content initially offered to the audience is regularly refreshed and updated. In the case of games, this means new levels, new features, new characters and new worlds. Now content creators have the opportunity to deepen the relationship with their audience and extend the dialog in a way they never could before. I think the introduction of Rovio’s in-app video service is a good example of the possibilities.
5. Economics. The investment involved in creating a mobile app that has the makings of a major entertainment franchise, which is our strategy at Seriously, is a fraction of the cost of building and marketing an animated movie. An animated movie can cost $60M — $120M to produce and a further $80M — $120M to market before the studio knows if it has a hit or a miss on its hands. On mobile, however, you don’t spend heavily on marketing until you have ‘soft launched’, refined your product, analyzed player retention and other engagement data, and have ROI in a game that justifies the marketing spend.
6. Reach and virality. On mobile, content can reach hundreds of millions of people in a more compressed timeframe than has ever before been possible. It’s not a surprise that the #1 reason most apps are downloaded is because ‘a friend told me about it’. The built-in social nature of phones and tablets help the most successful apps propagate.
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What’s exciting about Seriously is that we are uncompromising when it comes to working to attract the world’s best creative talent. And our sole focus is to develop amazing mobile entertainment experiences. Where and how people consume content is changing rapidly; it’s going to have a profound effect on the entertainment industry. And despite our small size today, it’s possible to have a big impact, and we will work hard to be at the forefront of the shift that we see in front of us.