MTV Networks is accelerating its role in the burgeoning “social entertainment” marketplace, adding a new feature to its NextMovie.com unit that is intended to generate some buzz – as well as data – around the most buzz-worthy movies on the social graph. The new feature, dubbed MovieTracker, will rank the top 25 films based on the buzz being generated via major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere at large.
The project is the brainchild of Scott Robson, who joined MTV Networks over a year ago from AOL to launch NextMovie.com to give MTV a foothold in the fast-moving social entertainment category. The site already has more than 1 million monthly uniques in MTV’s sweet spot of the 13- to 34-year-old crowd, or what Robson calls “the MTV demo.” MovieTracker, he says, will accelerate that momentum, and will give marketers a new platform for reaching young moviegoers.
Robson likens MovieTracker to Billboard magazine’s well-known music charts, and says the appeal is that people love watching their favorite films, or film projects, moving up and down the charts. Importantly, he says, MovieTracker doesn’t simply rank films currently at the box office, but also important new projects in development that the social media crowd is eagerly anticipating for later release. For example, he says, the film “Hunger Games,” which is based on the wildly popular teen novel by the same name, spiked in the beta edition of MovieTracker when the posters featuring stars playing the lead characters were released.
The feature is being powered by Trendrr, a social media “intelligence platform” that scrapes user comments from various social networks to create the MovieTracker rankings.
Robson says it’s possible that the data generated by MovieTracker could become a market in itself, much the way other social-based ranking services have become predictive models for entertainment success. For years, the Hollywood Stock Exchange, or HSX, has operated a “fantasy league” type game in which users compete to predict the most successful movies and movie projects. HSX was ultimately acquired by Cantor Fitzgerald, which even spun off an actual Securities and Exchange Commission-regulated derivatives market around movie futures.
Even media research giant Nielsen tried to get in that game, rolling out its own social network platform in 2007 to measure buzz about movies, TV shows and other entertainment properties based on online word-of-mouth. After nurturing the platform for more than a year, Nielsen mysteriously pulled the plug on its “Hey! Nielsen” platform, just as social entertainment was beginning to explode as a category. Nielsen subsequently formed a humongous consumer panel with Facebook, which is part of its plans for measuring online advertising campaigns.
For now, NextMovie.com’s Robson says the research is a secondary consideration for MovieTracker, and that the main goal is to generate buzz with movie fans that will translate into more online advertising impressions for the site’s advertisers. He doesn’t believe movie marketers are the most likely to sponsor the new feature, because of the risk of having their films associated with volatile consumer rankings, but he does think it is ideal for regular consumer goods marketers seeking to reach young moviegoers.
Once the Web version of MovieTracker is fully deployed, Hobson says NextMovie.com will focus on developing mobile versions of it. He says the site is exploring other multimedia components, including some new, original TV programming that will likely appear on one or more of MTV Networks’ conventional TV channels.