Younger audiences are the early adopters of new technologies and new interactive devices, from the interactive CD-ROM of the late nineties to the success of children’s applications and games available for iPhone and tablet platforms. New generations seem to prefer interactive experiences over more passive activities like the old habit of sitting down and watching TV. This is what we have been told – but is this entirely true?
Yes and no. Although interactive apps, interactive eBooks and child-oriented games are in huge demand by the children of today (and their parents), the power of TV for this audience is not diminishing. The reason for this is that when children go online, they want to find the familiar characters and brands they watch on TV. Some of the most popular online and interactive brands are based on TV or film characters.
So when developing a transmedia concept for children you may need to consider TV at the centre of the roll-out strategy. TV is still a key media, because it creates exposure and establishes credibility for your brand, but combining TV with online and mobile experiences allows producers to extend the exposure of their brand. It’s true that StarDoll, Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters were able to create an entertainment brand for young audiences without the need of a TV show, but bear in mind that hundreds of others have failed.
The reason for this is that the majority of children don’t go on the internet to search and find content like adults do. They go to places they already know, most of the time their favourite broadcaster’s websites. This can make it very difficult to promote and to connect with them on the internet if you are not an established brand. Building the brand awareness of your transmedia property is much more difficult for this target audience than it is for building a fan-base of teenagers or young adults.
To make things even worse for transmedia producers, most children navigate the internet through cyber nanny protection software, which prevents them accessing new websites not approved by the censors at the companies that develop this type of software. So to be sure that your target audience can access your online content, you may need to contact, and get approval by the companies that produce cyber nanny software, or spend time connecting with parents to ensure they unlock the access to your online service.
This situation may well change, especially if more children-based social media services start to appear – places where transmedia producers will be able to promote their digital-only brand.
But for now, you may need to use the power of TV as your advantage. An 11-minute episode on TV can lead children to go online and play a game, be part of a community based online service or engage in an interactive experience for 20 or 30 minutes.
Having an online strategy associated with your TV programme also allows producers to be less dependent on broadcasters and the best broadcast slots. TV broadcasting can be seen and used as ways to attract children to your online offering, where you can then cross-market with other brand-based products (sell apps, games, eBooks or licensed products). TV exposure will allow you to build your community of fans.
I have an example from one of our shows, where the online community created around the TV show allowed us to create an entertainment brand that extended to different platforms. A loyal fan-base allowed us to be a publishing hit in the territories we published our books and to extend the brand to other products. We licensed our Sofia’s Diary brand to more than a dozen companies that produced different products using our brand. The existing online community allowed us to connect directly with our loyal fans and promote the new products to this audience. For example, when we published the first Sofia’s Diary book, we sold out 3 re-prints in the first week, promoting it just to our online community.
Another challenge of developing successful child-oriented transmedia properties is that you need to include and involve parents. They are the ones that will be “buying” your content, whether it is buying an app, paying a subscription to an online service or a product based on your transmedia brand. Not only do you need to capture the attention of your target audience, but at the same time you need to conquer and gain the trust of their parents.
So, to recap, when developing your transmedia distribution strategy you need to address these issues:
- Be approved by cyber nanny software companies
- Develop a companion TV show (or a few interstitials to be broadcast on a child-oriented broadcaster) to expose your brand
- Market your content via online services where kids already go (broadcasters’ websites or existing online communities as StarDoll or Moshi Monsters)
- Promote your content to parents and present your brand as a safe destination for your target audiences.
Additionally, by targeting parents in the first instance, they will buy or access your content and “sell” it to their children. This last strategy works really well with educational (or educational-based) content.
The good news for the transmedia producer is that more and more broadcasters, when buying children or tweenies’ shows, are looking for additional online content the producer or the distributor can offer in return for the TV license fee.
Local broadcasters know that they need to compete in the online digital world against the big global networks like Cartoon Network, Disney or Nickelodeon, that develop multi-million dollar websites with compelling games and interactive experiences. So producers that can offer a TV show with additional online content and a fully immersive transmedia experience are in better shape to get their product distributed globally and create an entertainment brand that can generate revenues on different platforms.
Nuno Bernardo is the co-founder and CEO of transmedia production company beActive. He is also the author of a book, The Producer’s Guide to Transmedia. He speaks on MIPJunior’s « Teen Market at the Heart of Transmedia’s Explosion » panel October 1 (14.30). Find him on Twitter here, and Facebook here!