February 3 - 9, 2006
MIT C3 INDUSTRY UPDATE
In this issue:
* Thomas de Frantz on 50cent and media convergence
* Sam Ford on the impact of the WB-UPN deal on fans
* "Bubble" hits theaters, cable, DVDs
* Google plans cross-media ad network
* Lego leverages fan power
Download the PDF here: 2006-02-03
------------- OPENING NOTE ---------------
50s SHINING MOMENT
When the 50cent "Get Rich or Die Trying" media junket began last fall, I started getting calls from reporters about the rapper's significance. "Is he a trend?" "Has gangsta rap ascended to the highest of heights in terms of its commercial possibilities?" "Will all superstar rappers expect to have autobiographical films and video games?" "Have I worn any of 50s clothing line yet?" Most interesting to me, none of these reporters asked about the artistic impact of 50's music.
Media convergence probably works best because it allows for large-scale market saturation. Taken separately, I wonder if 50s various projects would have garnered so much focused attention. Excepting the original CD, none of the pieces of the 50-plex gained critical, or even the hoped-for market, return. But taken together, 50 was unavoidable during the weeks before the simultaneous release of the film, video game, and launch of the clothing line.
My answers to reporters - which were quoted far more than they probably deserved to be - focused on the need for common, global cultural flashpoints that connect us across geography. Mega-celebrity global releases provide pop-culture signposts that help us celebrate and discuss, for a shining brief moment. I also mused on the brevity of that moment, especially in terms of 50s releases. The film was not a blockbuster. The video game is okay at best. And we won't see 50 at the next fashion awards.
Still, 50s moment of mega-celebrity might have cast him into the history books as a recognizable icon - or brand - of 2005. (In an ironic inversion of significance, 50 received a boost of international attention when a coalition of concerned Los Angeles parents demanded that a billboard featuring "Get Rich" be removed from their neighborhood.) This convergence of attention can also sustain 50s viability as a brand long after any of the "Get Rich" pieces are commercially available. Better, though, for 50 or any of his team's projects would have been greater artistic achievement. 50 is surely talented as a rapper, but as an actor, fashion designer, and video game avatar, he needs coaching, training, and refinement. Ultimately, no matter the hype, consumers pay attention to quality.
Thomas F. DeFrantz
Associate Professor, Music and Theater Arts
Comparative Media Studies
Some Articles that quoted Dr. DeFrantz on 50cent:
Promo Magazine's article on the "50 Cent: Bulletproof" game:
The game's website:
--------------- SAVE THE DATE ---------------
Reminder, to mark your calendars for the annual C3 conference to be held at MIT April 27-28. More details to follow in subsequent updates.
--------------- TRANSMEDIA ---------------
Steven Soderbergh's "Bubble" grossed $72,000 from 32 theaters in its opening weekend and sold 100,000 DVDs (available on Amazon for $20.99). The sales of TV rights brought in $250,000 paid by high-def cabler HDNet. Studio's revenue estimate for the first week is $5M. The 73-minute R-rated movie, set in a toy factory, was made on a budget of $1.6M.
- Chicago Tribune's analysis:
- Box Office stats:
WORLDS COLLIDE: SECOND LIFE GETS BBC
BBC started a news segment about online multiplayer games by broadcasting from within the game itself.
The virtual news set and avatar newscasters were then shown on TV.
O'REILLY TO "BETA TEST" BOOK MANUSCRIPTS
O'Reilly Media will being offering unfinished book manuscripts to its customers for a "beta test" through its new Rough Cuts service. "When you buy a book on the Rough Cuts service, you get access to an evolving manuscript. You can read it online, download as a PDF, or print. Once you've purchased a Rough Cuts title, you have a chance to shape the final product - you can send suggestions, bug fixes, and comments directly to the author and editors."
Film maker Michela Ledwidge will make some nine hours of product footage, 90 minutes of sound effects and dialog, as well as stills, storyboards and drawings - all raw material for her film Sanctuary - for fans to re-edit with downloadable software. Ledwidge says she was inspired by game modding.
STUDY FINDS PEOPLE NOT HAPPY WITH MUSIC
A recent Ipsos study finds that three-quarters of music fans consider CDs too expensive, and 58 percent think the music is getting worse. As an AP writer puts it, "music executives love to blame illegal downloading for their industry's woes. But, based on the results of a new nationwide poll, they might want to look in the mirror."
AOL TO HOST OWN WEB REALITY SERIES
"America Online has teamed up with Mark Burnett to create an online treasure hunt called Gold Rush! The web-based reality series will run across several sites on the AOL network, including AOL.com, AIM.com, Moviefone.com, and MapQuest.com. Challengers will be able to hunt for clues across the sites and look for hidden treasure buried across the United States."
LOCAL AFFILIATES EYE PODCAST REVENUES
Local stations look to earn additional revenue from podcasts and are testing technology that can limit viewing of programming outside their markets. WRAL has begun using "Air to Web Broadcast Replication" technology from Decisionmark to stream its local news broadcasts. An Internet viewer enters an address and uses a credit card for identification. The technology matches the information with the TV station's coverage map to enable viewing.
--------------- ADVERTISING ---------------
GOOGLE PLANS CROSS-MEDIA AD PLATFORM
"Google laid out ambitious plans to create a unified advertising platform that could sell and deliver ads to print, radio, television and streaming media, including podcasts and Google Video. Advertisers would like to get the same kind of accountability and tracking that search advertising provides in other media, said Google cofounder Sergey Brin, The technology that came with the recent acquisition of dMarc Broadcasting could do it. "
Kevin Lee at Clickz adds: "Yet there's another fascinating potential facet of the dMarc deal fewer analysts are talking about: the applicability of digital audio/video ad marketplaces to podcasts and streaming Internet radio."
FORD OFFERS MUSTANG RINGTONES
One of the freely downloadable ringtones at the Ford site plays "The Star Spangled Banner" with Mustang exhaust tones.
Warner Music will make its music available as ringtones to the more than 74 million users of Skype's Internet telephone service.
COMPANIES DESIGN ADS TO APPEAL TO IPOD AUDIENCE
For the first time, Anheuser-Busch will make its Super Bowl ads available for postgame downloading at Budweiser.com. Marlene Coulis, Anheuser-Busch's vice president of brand management, says, ''A lot of people like to show them to their friends, and the iPod is a new way to pass along information."
Media Post adds: "Anheuser-Busch will use its buy in ABC's coverage of the game on Sunday to launch its own direct-to-consumer network. The new channel, code-named "The Bud Screen," will debut sometime during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XL, offering viewers the opportunity to download advertising, programming and branded entertainment content directly to their computers, iPods and other devices."
Bloggers rant about ESPN charging $1.99 for their 30-second "This Is Sports Center" ads on iTunes.
FILM MAKERS CONSIDER PODCASTS AS MARKETING VEHICLE
CNet reports from a Sundance panel on podcasting and vlogging. Susan Buice, who has completed her "Four Eyed Monsters film, has also complemented it with five video podcast episodes with original content.
Buice who plans to do video podcasts before the release of her next film to get people ready for it and build an audience. "Trailers don't cut it any more."
"Four Eyed Monster" website
--------------- FANS ---------------
-- Wired runs a great article on how Lego has leveraged its massive fan power to come up with new product ideas.
-- On the heels of Disaffected!, an anti-advergame about being a miserable Kinko's employee, comes McDonald's, a game that promises that "you'll discover all the dirty secrets that made us [that is, McDonald's] one of the biggest companies in the world."
Play the game here: http://www.molleindustria.it/home-eng.php
--------------- FANS: CW NETWORK ---------------
CW NETWORK TAKING OVER--INSTANT FAN RESPONSE
On Tuesday, it was announced that the WB and UPN would be merging into one network, the CW Network, in the coming months, with the two lineups pared down into one lineup of the WB's and UPN's top shows. With that in mind, fan communities surrounding the various WB and UPN shows have begun writing, wondering what these changes could mean for their shows, whether they will make the cut, and the potential benefits for the amalgamated network if their shows do make the cut.
VERONICA MARS FAN COMMUNITY
According to posts from various "Veronica Mars" fan community message boards, the majority of "Veronica Mars" fans are fairly confident that the show will be renewed. The early press release names "Veronica Mars" as a hit on UPN by name, and the show has received critical praise in addition to its popularity among cult fans. The series is doing well in DVD sales for season one as well. Fans are already discussion what this could mean for ratings on the new network, as the CW Network would presumably be available in more markets and reach more homes than either WB or UPN. "I think its gonna be MAJOR...both networks major in the teen and young adult 'scene' and putting their hit shows together in one place is gonna be HUGE!" one VM fan wrote. Another said, "All I can say is this: One network that has Veronica AND Gilmore Girls on it is automatically going to be AWESOME." For the VM fan community, they see the merge as a way to lock in even more mainstream popularity for their show and to solidify CW as a viable fifth network for their show to be featured on.
LIVING WITH FRAN
On the other end, there is not much celebrating in what exists of a fan community surround Fran Drescher's "Living with Fran," which currently airs on the WB. The show has already been swinging back and forth on the "cancelled" line after being on hiatus for a couple of months. The majority of the messages on the fan forums have been a few ardent supporters being heckled by various people questioning the quality of the show, but there is already major fear amongst the small "Living with Fran" fan community that the show is doomed by the news.
UPN--LACK OF FAN COMMUNITIES
As with WB's "Living with Fran," one indicator aside from ratings is how active of a fan community a show has. While "Veronica Mars," "Friday Night Smackdown," "America's Next Top Model," "Everybody Hates Chris," and "Girlfriends" all have fairly active posting boards, you'll be hard-pressed to find hardly anyone out there writing about and commenting on "Half and Half," "Eve," or "Love, Inc." How much will network executives take the depth of interest, the "expressions," of fans under consideration when trying to decide what to do with the television schedule? If one follows the UPN ratings, most of the shows are toward the bottom of network ratings lists--and there are times when shows like "Eve" are not that far away in ratings from "Veronica Mars," for instance. Yet, if the fan communities are any indications, the viewers who watch VM are much more deeply involved than "Eve" viewers. Will this play a role in deciding who does and does not get the axe?
CHARMED--OUT OF THE LINEUP?
Another interesting example is "Charmed," a show which seems to have been struggling to stay on WB and which is rumored to be a victim of the merger, since there was some discussion of its cancellation beforehand. Yet, it's doing well in DVD sales, has a fan magazine that is sold on stands, and a vibrant online community of people who watch it. While there could be external and internal forces leading to the cancellation of the show that has nothing to do with its online popularity and/or its ratings, the fan community is hotly debating what the CW Network means for the fate of their show. In this case, how much should a strong online fan community matter, and how much should looking toward how well a show will do in DVD season sales matter as far as keeping it on the air?
These are a few of many examples of debates that are being sparked up from WB and UPN shows. There are many WB hits such as "Gilmore Girls," "Smallville," and many others with vibrant online fan communities, but also decent ratings that seem to indicate a continued life for these shows. For active online fan communities, this corporate merger is a big deal for the continued existence of their community. For shows that don't have an active community of viewers, though, even if there are almost as many people watching, having the show fade into obscurity might happen with silence, as shows like "Eve" and "Half and Half" do not seem to inspire a very deep viewing experience. How much should the executives at the new CW take "expressions" into account as compared to viewer impressions when making programming decisions for the fall? Several fan communities are wondering and waiting with nervous anticipation.
Compiled by Ilya, Sam, Alec, Geoff, Ivan and Parmesh
Edited and signed off by Ilya (email@example.com)
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