Advice For a Potential Client (creating new IP in the age of social mobile video)

Last week I had an extensive discussion with a large cable network who wants to launch a new franchise online. Ideally this new franchise would work in many markets across the world, playable in multiple languages. We had a long discussion about how one can launch new IP (intellectual property) geared toward young people, who mainly inhabit a world of social and mobile video. This is a brief summary of the main points I made in our discussion. This is not the first time I have had such a discussion with a legacy media company, nor do I think it will be the last.

Creating new IP in today’s media environment is very challenging. Doing it for people between the ages of 15 to 24 is even more challenging.

Most production companies are not well equipped to do this as those who have experience launching video IP projects have relied in the main on TV as their chief viewing platform–so that is the lens through which they look at all media they create.  Even though these companies have created social media divisions, they are the tail of the dog, not the dog itself.

If you create new IP for the age cohort you are describing, you must have a mobile first point of view that may not even include TV.  (This cohort doesn’t watch much TV–unless you mean Netflix.) This trend will only grow. In the US last year, kids spent more time watching YouTube than broadcast or cable TV.  (And much of that viewing was on mobile devices.)

Content moves (and is seen) on mobile much differently than it moves (and is seen) within a TV environment. A TV show is distributed inside a time slot from a central node.  Mobile video circulates from user to user in a “distributed” fashion, within a network of unlimited nodes. TV IP is locked down and put onto a shelf, (put another way–its does not move.) Mobile IP is shared and moves within social and interest networks with no central node.

In TV you find the content, on mobile, the content finds you (and then you share it so it finds others).

For people in this age cohort, content (video and otherwise) is something to be “used” just as much as it is something to be “viewed”.  Part of this involves sharing, but there is also the element of remixing and recreating as well. Now IP holders must be prepared for their fans to take their IP, absorb it and give their own spin, something IP holders typically resist.

I believe that anyone that creates new IP should be producing it with the idea that it will be remade, recast, remixed, recontextualized (through commenting and other forms) and generally appropriated by its most ardent fans. So the question is how can new IP be created that encourages these multiple activities–particularly because each one enhances the value of the IP.

So as you prepare the RFP, the question to any production company is how they will prepare for these multiple uses of your IP.  Also, how will you as the IP holder prepare, permit and encourage these activities. This will also be a consideration for the various platforms you decide to use (or not use) as you place your IP into the world so it can effectively circulate.

People do all this with content is because they are expressing their sense of identity and expressing their desire to belong (even if temporarily) to some larger community. They share and remix content because it says who they are and where they belong. The notion of personal expression of identity and belonging is crucial to everyone but especially to the age cohort you are targeting.

If you create content (IP) that allows (and encourages) them to do all the things I mentioned previously, you have a shot of having fans use your content in their ongoing quest for identity and community.  This is what will create a hit and a franchise–an ongoing community with which brands will want to associate and support–financially.

This all has technical, operational and creative implications that you should consider. These considerations are very different than those that operate within the standard TV environment.

What holds most IP holders back is their deeply held conviction that their IP should be only viewed. . Because of this legacy media mindset, they believe that IP is something to be locked down, protected and seen by consumers, but not really “used” by them. As a result they resist any distribution strategy that allows content to roam freely, to move quickly from one person to another, to be referenced, to be tagged, to be redone, remixed or appropriated by viewers—in other words –to be “circulated”.

That legacy world of content distribution is fast disappearing. And so should the legacy mindset that is its justification.

About Chris Dorr

I consult with companies on digital media strategy and business development. Clients include Samsung, MTV Networks, Tribeca Film Festival, Shaw Media and Canadian Film Center. I created the Future of Film blog for Tribeca. I have worked in the movie business for Disney Studios, Universal Pictures, Scott Free and in the digital media business for Intertainer, Sony and Nokia. Contact me at chris@digitaldorr.com or follow me at @chrisdorr
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