The Entrepreneurial Approach to Transmedia Storytelling
There is nothing novel to the concept of transmedia production as both a creative template and business model. Cinema pioneers started experiencing with a cross-media approach to storytelling 100 years ago. But today’s audiences are in a position to choose the content they want when they want and on the device of their choice. In other words, contemporary audiences expect to have access to any content from anywhere.
Written by Nuno Bernardo (MIP Blog)
In the context of a shrinking market populated by increasingly fragmented audiences, transmedia provides a viable alternative to the conventional TV and film production business.
To play their part in this digital revolution, entertainment producers will need to learn new development, marketing and distribution skills. But the multitude of platforms and formats available to transmedia producers can prove to be both exhilarating and overwhelming. Throughout the initial phase of a project’s development, it’s typically prohibitively expensive to create and launch every transmedial element simultaneously.
The first challenge you’ll face is therefore seeding capital to develop and launch your property’s initial elements. Such projects typically extend across several platforms, and most financiers will only consider funding a project on a platform-by-platform basis. Even though the transmedial approach is increasingly platform agnostic, the commissioning process remains device-oriented. Cross-media producers must therefore learn how best to utilize a business model specific to their approach.
This is not to say that you need to single-handedly develop a transmedial business model, but you need to be disposed to working within an industry that is—by and large—set up for platform-by-platform funding. Break down your overall transmedia funding model into specific platforms and, when you approach a film funder, only pitch your project’s film element. When approaching a game developer or broadcaster, make sure that the central part of your pitch is your game or series.
At beActive, we’ve developed a funding strategy which divides our production model into platform-specific stages so that potential funders will know how to respond to our pitch. We design three to four different pitches for every property we produce, i.e., one per platform. Each pitch highlights that aspect of the overall project, which aligns with the goals and expectations of a particular funder. Think of your transmedial plan as a staircase. To ensure that you don’t lose focus during any one of your pitches, break down each element of the ‘big picture’ into platform-specific steps. This will enable you to approach radio and television broadcasters, publishers and gaming companies with a clear and focused pitch.
If you pitch all of the elements in your plan simultaneously, you’re implying that each platform is equally important. As exciting as your overall plan may be, pitching the ‘big picture’ to a broadcaster will probably result only in making your potential backers uncomfortable. They’ve never produced anything of the scale you’re proposing and are unsure of how to make it work. Rather than trying to seduce them with the full spread of your plan, organize your pitch so that it synchronizes with your funders’ expectations. Then, gain their trust by incorporating your production credits in their format. Your goal is to demonstrate this one element of your ‘big picture’ property in the best possible light.
Even though there is no rigid framework for the standard product-for-finance exchange in transmedia, there are industry precedents in terms of transmedial funding. Simply put, this business model is geared to generate direct streams of revenue from your advertisers and your audience. By no means is this a novel business strategy; it has been traditional broadcasters’ go-to method for years.
Keep in mind that this strategy requires a long-term investment and will probably not yield immediate cash returns. However, it will ensure that you benefit from your projects in the long term by generating sustained and independent profits. Bear in mind that cinema pioneers were trying to create a new format that few believed in. When the form was in its infancy, critics did not take it seriously. Cinema was considered a faddish offshoot of vaudeville. One hundred years later, producers are exploring new online digital platforms. Like the Hollywood studio moguls of the 20th century, new media pioneers have the opportunity to bring digital art to the mainstream.