Prepping for new screens

Brad Brooks, President, DIC Entertainment
October 1, 2004

Brad Brooks, President, DIC Entertainment

Wireless is everything that the Internet promised to be in terms of economics, but it’s really delivering, meaning people will actually pay for content. Kids throughout Europe have been using mobile devices as a primary entertainment source for a while now, and their U.S. counterparts are starting to catch on. DIC has partnered on a series of mobile application deals for our new tween property Trollz, as well as on an overall wireless streaming deal for our library.

Ricky Corradi, International VP, Mondo TV

As mobile phone service providers set out to differentiate their services from the competition, there will be a lot more opportunity for animated content. But they’re after very short formats – 30 seconds to a minute – and if they can’t find this type of programming in the market, they’ll soon start to produce it themselves. What’s going to work best in this medium is gag-driven comedy animation for the 10 to 25 demo that can be updated daily.

Neil Court, Executive producer and partner, Decode Entertainment

Video-on-demand will be the ‘killer app’ of the next five years, I think. And as an early user of VOD entertainment systems on overseas flights, I’ve long been a fan of this incredibly convenient delivery system. The consumer is in total control. Just as it has on the airlines, VOD will graduate from new feature films to include TV series and games. Popular TV shows are increasingly viewed first as box-set DVDs, so there is a proven demand for viewing at times convenient to the consumer, not the broadcaster.

For the producer, the issue is preserving these potentially valuable rights. At the moment, VOD rights tend to get absorbed within pay-TV rights, which usually have short exclusive windows.

Ken Faier, VP of programming and distribution, AAC Kids

As a content developer, the question I ask myself is which platform has the biggest installed base (and is willing to pay for content), the best functionality and the most appropriate features for my property. Based on this, the most promising short-term opportunities seem to be offered by handheld video players (GBA, VideoNow, etc.), as well as mobile phones for video and gaming.

The key is to craft a property that can play on multiple platforms and deliver a unique experience. Then we must find a way to justify the investment. Dragon Booster, AAC’s new action-adventure series for six- to 12-year olds, was designed specifically as a TV show, but it also has a very strong gaming mechanic built into the story. This allows us to extend the property into video games, handhelds, on-line, toys, trading cards, etc. We have just launched our website, which has a great turn-based game that allows kids to compete against their friends. We are now looking at how we can increase its functionality for cell phone play. Presently, the game is a marketing tool without a revenue stream. But in the future, we can see very clearly that there are ways to enhance it with new features to support a fee-based strategy.

Rick Mischel, President and COO, Mainframe Entertainment

(owned by IDT Entertainment)

While we perceive DVDs to be everywhere, DVD player penetration in homes is actually still a fraction of VHS player ownership. As higher-quality DVD hardware becomes less expensive, the demand for new and interesting entertainment on DVD will continue to skyrocket. We can expect more and more demand for original, high-quality direct-to-DVD programming in the next five years. IDT is gearing up for this by associating with intellectual properties like Spawn and Inspector Gadget, and creating new feature-length animated programming based on these brands specifically for the direct-to-DVD marketplace.

John Morris, Head of merchandising, Super RTL

Wireless is very exciting, and the first developments with mobile phones (ringtones, screensavers, etc.) show that there is already a demand for content amongst our target demo, even though the technology is pretty crude compared to what will appear in the next five years. We already license content to mobile companies and cross-promote these efforts on our TV and on-line platforms. This will certainly develop as hardware with more functionality and better displays hits the market.

Simon Philips, Managing director, 4Kids Entertainment International

There is no doubt that cell phones have the greatest potential. If 3G lives up to expectations, cell phones are going to play a much more integral role in our lives – especially in the way we work and socialize. With the rapid convergence of technologies, your phone can now be a PDA, an e-mail checker, a personal video player, a camera… In Japan, they even have cell phones that can receive television signals. Take a little bit of each technology and marry them together, and the result is going to be even more opportunities for license holders to get their visual content out there in a more targeted and focused manner. 4Kids is looking very hard at the best ways to utilize this resource, but rapidly changing technology means we don’t want rush in without careful consideration.

Matthias Schulze, Managing director, Junior.TV, EM.TV

There are 60 million mobile phone users in Germany, and that represents a massive potential market for entertainment content. As soon as the technical barriers are broken down, mobile phones will be heavily used to watch filmed entertainment – be it series, movies or even entire channels. We anticipate a high demand for mobile content from kids, especially pre-teens, who are already heavy mobile users. For this age group, a mobile is more than just a telephone; they use SMS, games, logos, ringtones, etc.

Regarding Internet technology, I expect that video-on-demand use for entertainment content downloads will pick up speed over the next two to three years. At the moment, EM.TV is in the process of licensing out individual titles from its library to German-speaking VOD platforms.

Iginio Straffi, CEO, Rainbow

Although many new distribution channels will generate more revenue for cartoon and video game producers, I believe cellular phones will be one of the most successful. The technology of mobile phones and similar hybrids (i.e. Blackberries) is growing fast, and they are extremely popular with older kids and teenagers. Rainbow is already developing new content related to our properties that will be suitable for these channels. In particular, we are looking into video games that can be played directly through mobile phones.

Fernando Szew , VP of marketing and sales, MarVista Entertainment

MarVista has specialized in licensing direct-to-video (DTV) programming to video distributors around the world since its inception in September 2003. This business focus was a natural evolution since our predecessor Whamo Entertainment’s core business was the production and distribution of direct-to-video animated specials. With the explosion of the DVD as a viable packaged goods product at major retail environments, new DTV properties have to stand out from a content perspective or in the way they’re distributed in order to be successful. We are actively exploring different creative associations on the production side, as well as new marketing and packaging techniques that will let us bring our DTV content to consumers outside of the video aisle, which tends to be dominated by major franchises and theatrical releases.

Joy Tashjian, President, Joy Tashjian Marketing Group

The mobile phone is no longer there for emergencies or quick calls only. It is now an extension of one’s lifestyle, and the tween market especially takes cell phone usage and style seriously. The phone is a fashion statement and must be personalized in ringtone, graphics and color. This personalization will only continue to grow and give advertisers and content providers more screen time to reach their consumers at a fraction of the cost of a television ad spot and with far more frequency. We are just in the beginning stages of exploring how mobile phones can be billboards for products, films, television and fashion.

Tom Van Waveren, President, Telescreen Distribution & Licensing

The most interesting emerging content distribution channels are ones that rely on mobile technology, and the next generation of mobile phones seem to be the most likely contender to win the day. We are making sure that all our new projects contain tailor-made content for this channel, and we will imminently start making use of the cross-promotional potential of cell phones and websites in all our new on-line activities, by offering ringtones and screensavers alongside free sample games.

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