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Industry Report: Distribution and exhibition

New Distribution Models 2


- Claudia Da Silva joined Marathon Media as Project Manager in charge of business development in the company’s new media department. Marathon is producer of Totally Spies, Martin Mystère (Martin Mystery), and Marsupilami among others series.

What is the occupation of the Marathon Media department in the Marathon studio?
The goal of the Marathon unit concerned with new media is to develop our various series for a range of platforms, notably VOD, the Web, mobile, and all the interactive applications.
Our studio practice until recently was to produce a series and then afterwards develop a multiple media strategy. Developments were very restricted, in particular on supports such as the mobile.
The Marathon Media team is now integrated into the production process, which is to say the cross-platform strategy and the production are on an equal footing. This approach permits us to conceive many developments (VOD, catch up…)

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

What is the cost of this strategy?
All these new developments cost on average an extra 10% to 20% on production.

How do you finance this cost?
We have three important levers. The first is the syndication of the contents for the distributor. Our goal is to install various series on a long-term basis, in a «win/win» relationship. To this end, we supply the distributors with web elements every three months to renew the Net surfers’ interest in the different series. There are two possible cases. We can sell content we have produced, or we can aim to create a form of co-production with the distributor at content level.
With regard to the content we propose, an example is provided by «Boy academy», which is a module permitting internauts to have a virtual boyfriend online. The aim of this game is to make your avatar the most loving and most popular. For instance, the avatar can be made popular by having him do sports or play the guitar, make him loving by giving him kisses and offering gifts. There is a frequency of repeat visits in the order of two per day.
We envisage moving to a second stage, when girls will be able to buy products in virtual boutiques. We have created a module in the store, which enables product placement. We sell the module to TF1, which puts it in advertising control. In terms of co-production, an example is a game inspired by the characters of «totally spies». This game is implemented in Canada, completely online. The goal is to complete five missions to become the fifth spy. The internauts will be within a participative and community site. Players must communicate with each other to succeed in different levels. Co-production enables our partners to remain up to date on project development. For instance, TF1 wanted advertising banners in the «totally spies» game, something we would not have done had they not be co-producers.

What is the second lever?
The mobile operators. These operators seek qualitative content and installed brands. We establish a «win/win» relationship. Marathon provides content, a mobile network and a thematic decor. The operators permit us to clear the ground and test what is, or is not, viable. We have worked with SFr on a project inspired by Totally spies. The operation took place during November 2006 to February 2007. We created a true network, with a look that was colourful and dynamic. SFR loop-broadcast groups of three episodes (74 minutes). These loops were segmented by advertising breaks of three minutes. This adventure enabled us to assess what is possible and what is not possible in relation to the child target.

Do you manage to collect publicity for the web?
Yes, this is the third lever. Marathon maintains a privileged relation with its licensees. Sources of revenue on the Web are weak. Prior to generating business, an audience must be generated. The advertisers search for single visitors, and therefore seek powerful sites, to permit them to hit their core target. Starting from this premise, we have upgraded our official sites, Totally spies, King Galaxy, Martin Mystery so that they become the most consulted of series sites in a given region. As one example, Totally spies generates 300.000 unique visitors per month. It must be realized that it is difficult to attract children to dedicated websites. Marathon is in contact with the distributors, providing them with a great deal of content.
Children finally prefer to go to a gateway where they will find different heroes; rather than visit a completely dedicated site. To take this advance to the limit; we will return to the advertising control of TF1 in September 2007. This provides a stable income source because the official site of TF1 cannot absorb all the end of year publicity.

Are relations with the distributors likely to change in this strategy for the new medias?
The distributors tend to want all the rights: web, mobile and interactive applications, to exploit the products from within their structure. The producers have relationships with other operators, for instance with SFR and Orange. So we are in a difficult negotiation, where concessions must be made on both sides.

Cartoon Master Freising, Germany, June 2007


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