First, executives at digital studio within the studio system often have advertising or marketing experience, but sometimes little experience with creative content, TV production and leading a content strategy across platforms. Second, there's a problem with the emphasis on original stand-alone content for online audiences only.
The benefit of a "real content" strategy when approaching digital platforms.
While another studio closing its digital and Web video division is never good for the industry, in some ways it's a "shot across the bow" for digital distribution platforms, and other independent and studio-backed digital, and traditional, studios to co-develop sustainable business models for the financing, and recouping investment on original multiscreen content.
The new strategy by Comcast, at first glance, seems to be a market-based one: develop web and digital entertainment that complement current broadcast TV shows, and existing franchises and content. This move further reflects the realities of the industry: lack of development and a consistent and reliable financing structure, along with poor understanding of platforms that are buying.
Multiscreen content development - Content, and revenue, everywhere?:
The key that has been missing by many studios for the development of multiscreen content for digital, and or TV platforms has been that not enough of it is "complementary," and in many cases, ancillary. There have been many lost opportunities for broadcast networks, studios, and their strategic partners, to exploit existing content and entertainment brands on emerging platforms, but surprisingly it took this long for Comcast, and many others, to take a measured, business approach to content strategy that recognized content should be supportive and complementary of on-air programming.
Warner Bros., for example, produced an original web series to complement the launch of a new "Mortal Kombat" game, through Machinma's s YouTube channel, resulting in millions of views and strong brand engagement. Another digital stand-out is Sony's digital hub, Crackle, which, to cater to international markets, and U.S. online audience growth, is developing half-hour original digital series, embracing sustainable, and tested, business models around longer-form digital content.
In all strategy and execution, the key is engagement. It should provide audiences with additional content that is engaging, unique, and innovative, so that the experience is simultaneously available across platforms.
Does your content and story translate to other platforms? For example, games, with good content or story, can deliver more engagement. Social games can be a cost-effective way to enhance your content on new platforms. Augmented reality games (ARGs) of TV content have been shown to increase ROI and viewership exponentially.
The numbers show that over 86% of U.S. TV audiences are using smartphones, tablets, etc. -- while watching TV content. Studios and content creators need to be aware of and focus on developing content that, when the content allows it, embraces a "second-screen" focus, and can be viewed and enjoyed simultaneously on multiple screens and devices. Rather, as a stand-alone Web series, that can and does cannibalize from where the primary revenue is generated: the TV.
One good examples of a successful "second-screen" strategy and engagement is "Glee"'s game app, "Biggest Gleek." The game does not cannibalize from the TV show, but pushes content through a social game, one that reward fans and drives ancillary revenue by selling concert tickets, all within the app. Another strong example is "Dexter"'s ARG, which complements the TV series, through a "story-build."
It all comes down to creating a "Next Media" content strategy and understanding that the "New Generation" use, watch and engage with content on all platforms simultaneously.
Going forward, Web video, and "second-screen" content, need to be considered and treated as part of a network or studios overall content strategy, and modeled as complementary to the TV's main-screen content.
When one door closes, another opens, so content creators, distributors, and financiers need to be on the same page to see that a huge opportunity, if executed properly, is right around the corner.