Archive | May, 2013

The rise of movie companion applications

29 May

I’m not quite sure when movie companion apps started to appear, but recently, with the rise in popularity of TV companion and third-party applications, they have become more of a “necessity” when releasing a blockbuster movie it seems. The recent releases of Star Trek Into Darkness, the Smurfs, and Dark Knight Rises have all had movie apps accompany them, in an effort to drive more people to the theaters.

My question is: how much traction are these apps gaining with the general public? Early adopters, like myself, and die hard movie fans would jump on these like spots on a dog.  However, I don’t see the “average” smartphone user gravitating towards these apps – they might not even know they exist.

epicIn the past six months, eleven movies have been released with companion applications.  About half of those movies have been released in the past month and a half (or will be released this weekend), including Epic, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Iron Man 3.  As an avid second-screen and social tv junkie, I didn’t know about half of these applications (and I only saw two of the eleven movies).  If that’s true of myself, what does that say of the general public or late adopters of newer technology?

photo (1)

My sticker from checking into Star Trek Into Darkness opening weekend

In the iTunes store, it’s not that easy to find movie companion applications. Unless you know what you are looking for, or if the app is the featured application on the home screen, I doubt you would even know the app exists.  As a marketing strategy, it doesn’t make much sense to make people work to find your application.  If you know that there is a large audience on a second screen application like GetGlue, why not advertise there? You know people are going to check in when they go see the movie so they get the sticker.

Over half of cell phone owners in the US own a smartphone, according to a 2012 Nielsen study. Seeing as now it’s midway through 2013, I’m sure it’s more than 60% by now.  That being said, the App Store recently passed 50 billion app downloads – including apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod.  In my brief research, I noticed that a few of the movie companion apps that came out in the past few months were iPad only. I don’t know the percentage of people that have iPads, but I can guess that it is much less than the percentage of people that have smartphones, or even iPhones – but more than any other tablet.  (I did look at apps available on droid – not all are available for both platforms).

Some new movie app releases are intended to drive hype for box office hits, while other movie companion apps are released in conjunction with DVD releases to drive in home purchases.  If the purpose is to get the public excited about a movie or DVD release, and willing to pay the $10-$12 to see the movie in theaters (or the $20-$25 for a DVD or Blu-ray release), maybe having a more thought out marketing strategy would help.

I’m looking forward to seeing what upcoming movies will be coming out with companion apps.  I can already tell you that both Man of Steel and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire both have companion apps.  Hopefully, with the proliferation of movie apps, they will grow in popularity, like social TV apps did eventually.  Only time will tell.

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What is the new Star Trek Into Darkness movie app like?

17 May

Over the past couple months, I’ve become familiar with third party TV and movie apps, like GetGlue and Viggle, but with the upcoming release of Star Trek, I wanted to learn more about movie companion applications.  I took some time to get to know the new app.

home screen

The Star Trek Into Darkness movie app, as a way to promote the upcoming release of the movie, gets users to interact with the Star Trek Facebook page, as well as the original Star Trek TV episodes.   It is essentially a virtual scavenger hunt, dragging you around the web to uncover exclusives and behind-the-scenes content.  Every time you interact with the application – scan a photo, listen for audio and more – you earn points, which brings you higher up in rank.  The rank system is exactly like it is in Star Trek: New Recruit, Cadet, Crewman, and so on.  Additionally, you can take quizzes and answer poll questions to test your knowledge of Star Trek history and Starfleet rules and regulations, which also gets you points.  You do have the ability to “skip” a mission, if you are unable to complete it, or like me, you’ve spent too much time searching for a video that you just can’t find.

star trek news

The app also forces you to interact with the 2009 movie, so if you hadn’t planned on re-watching it before going to see Into Darkness, this is a good excuse.

The app also streams news and exclusives to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening behind the scenes.  Or it says it does.  In reality, the “news” button just shows short links to sponsors and partners of the app and the movie, like Hulu Plus and Mazda (although you can get a free month of Hulu Plus through the app if you don’t already subscribe).

After moving up a few ranks, you start to earn rewards.  So far, I’ve made it to Captain, I’ve earned rewards such as exclusive behind the scenes photos from Star Trek IV, videos from the actors of Into Darkness, and character bios.  Although the games are fun, and the interactivity is great, the level effort I am putting in is not being rewarded adequately.  You don’t get rewards after graduating to a higher rank, they come sporadically and randomly.  They come only when you do certain interactions, scan specific photos or take a specific quiz.  If the point is to get consumers excited about the movie release and interact with content on multiple platforms, I don’t believe the app is getting that done.   I applaud the levels of interactivity, though the reward system needs some work – more engaging exclusive content or the occasional physical reward, even a poster would do (it shows that my efforts matter to the creators of the app.)

The further you get in rank, the more of a scavenger hunt the game becomes.  You have to dig harder and look in more places for content if you want to earn points.  Content is no longer just on the Star Trek Facebook page, or on their partner sites.  For some, this would pose as a turn off.  After getting to Captain, the only missions I have left to accomplish is to physically go to locations (Seatle Space Needle, Hollywood walk of stars) to complete the game.  Right now, it doesn’t seem as if there is an end in sight.   The dedicated Trekkie would keep on to earn the rewards to finish the game and see what’s in store for them at the end.

For the Trekkie, this is a great companion application.  It matches the level of interest most Trekkies have in the series, as it integrates the original series with the upcoming movie release.  However, for the casual observer, I don’t believe this will maintain interest over an extended period of time.

Researching #SocialTV and the #SecondScreen

1 May

This semester, I conducted research for my Social Media Theory and Practice class on Social TV and the Second Screen market.  Due to my past experience in entertainment and social tv, I was interested in what it could offer, and recently, there were a lot of changes.

The hardest part was trying to figure out where to start my research.  With the amount of information out there, I was a bit overwhelmed to begin with.  I had to take an angle in order to filter out the information, and obviously I couldn’t present everything in a 20 minute presentation.   I began gathering data from industry sources like Lost Remote, Second Screen Society, Trendrr, and more.
I decided, after looking at all the data I gathered, to examine the state of the industry.  As so much has changed so quickly in the past few months,  I wanted to represent what Social TV is like right now, as it could change in a week.
After determining what I was going to focus on, I needed to find industry leaders and experts to talk to and get their insights about the state of social tv.  At first, it was difficult to find experts to speak with. However, after I began tweeting about social TV, I started getting responses to my inquiries.  I had the opportunity to interview Mick Darling and Amy Greenlaw at Tomorrowish, as well as Michael Cupo at ESPN, and Kimber Myers at GetGlue.  Being able to connect with individuals from different aspects of the industry was a great experience, and gave me a different perspective on how each sees social playing a role in what they do.
As part of the collaboration process, I had a G+ hangout with my professor, Dr. Ward, to discuss the progress I had made in my research, who I had talked to in the industry, and other such things.  After going through my presentation, and making some notes, we went through the features that a Google Hangout can offer.  I had never really seen the add-ons before, but being able to watch a video together online, for example, is a pretty cool feature.
google hangout
In organizing and getting prepared for my presentation, we were encouraged to use pearltrees to organize the content we found.  Although many of the websites and articles never made it into my final report, it was useful to have all the content I curated in one location, so I didn’t have to dig through a folder to find everything I wanted to reference.  Below is my pearltree for Social TV.
pearltrees

socialmention metrics

After presenting on April 25, my #2ndscrntv presentation hashtag had almost 70 thousand impressions, with 56 thousand accounts reached.  But what does that mean?  Reach is the total number of unique Twitter users that my search terms were delivered to (#2ndscrntv).  Exposure is the total number of times tweets about these terms were delivered to Twitter streams.  There is no guarantee that everyone who was delivered tweets saw them, but the potential for audience is there.  Below is a Tweetreach and SocialMention report for #2ndscrntv less than 4 hours after my presentation.
tweetreach metrics
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