Design and Build Cross-Platform Content

by Jonas Diamond (French)

Broadcasters are no longer seeking shows that work exclusively for broadcast but are looking for content that can be extended to multiple platforms. Whether you are producing your own original new media content or working on a fee-for-service basis, it is important for the TV and interactive producers involved to communicate their objectives and set benchmarks so everyone works as a team in achieving their goals.

Define a Sustainable Business Model for Cross-Platform Content

The first step in designing and building your cross-platform content for exploitation is attempting to define a sustainable business model by generating ongoing revenues in such forms as licensing, sponsorship, advertising, subscription and maintenance support. In order to develop a business model for your content, it is critical to define what you as producers are willing to accommodate in terms of potential advertising and other revenue-generating opportunities. The target demographic of your content may dictate aspects of your business model since, for instance, advertising and collecting personal information about kids presents different challenges than those for older ages.

It is also important to formulate your business model before negotiating the license with your participating broadcasters so you delineate what revenue streams are integral to the ongoing success of your cross-platform content and ensure you do not give them away unless you receive fair value in return. This will also help you map out the working relationship with your broadcasters such as who will be hosting, who will be selling advertising for the new media component, as well as who will be responsible for marketing, promotion and publicity. There are benefits to working with your broadcaster(s) in these areas with their established infrastructure and sales teams, but there are also drawbacks such as layers of management and approvals. It might be useful to manage the hosting of your content if you have several broadcasters from various territories involved and need to control delivery based on geography. Since having users register their information is valuable in connecting with your audience and providing opportunities for sponsors, it is essential to determine who controls this data.

While joining an ad-network is one way of generating revenue, explore producing unique sponsorship opportunities for advertisers to deliver a customized experience to audiences such as contests and cross-promotions. For example, for the series Odd Job Jack, Molson Coors sponsored the TV show and animated TV bumpers (shown before the commercial breaks to drive viewers online), and “tagged” promo spots playing on The Comedy Network as well as sponsored the home page, games and contest section of the website. In the process of creating these campaigns, you should be researching potential sponsors including those that might be relevant and thematically-linked with your cross-platform content. You should also consider producing supplementary materials that are familiar to your sales targets such as “powerpoint decks”, interactive demos and sales sheets. Here is an example of a demo created for Odd Job Jack:

Develop a Business Model

After you have outlined your business model, the content developers need to take into consideration from the outset the potential platforms and versions of your content. This means dealing with any text, sound and video that may need versioning for potential advertisers and international audiences. While it is important not to constrain the creative with unintended restrictions, it is also crucial to ensure you account for these elements in the planning stages (such as creating textless masters for international sales in TV).

Here is a checklist to consider in developing your new media content:

  • ask the people that will be receiving your content what format they prefer to receive content in and match that
  • document production standards in house in as detailed a manner as possible in order to ensure delivery of appropriate format
  • test the system as early as possible with the goal of providing perfect content in the format of your downstream destination
  • alter the output method solving any nonconformity issues
  • iterate through tests until the output method provides perfectly formatted content to the downstream
  • appreciate that you are the downstream consumer of content from an upstream source and pass as many of your downstream requirements upstream as they will accept

It is important to do all of this early because any nonconformity may shape production. By promoting evaluation and sign off of detailed planning by all partners at the beginning of a project you create a situation where all partner’s interest is to achieve the highest success.

In addition, if you are producing various forms of content such as online games, animations and videos it would be advantageous to be able to “carve up” the content as modules and work with various distribution partners to reach a larger audience. There is also the possibility of charging production fees to the broadcaster, advertisers or their respective agencies for providing creative services related to any type of marketing campaign (such as creating ads, implementing changes and providing maintenance).

Deliver Cross-Platform Content

Unless you have an existing technical back-end in place to deliver your cross platform content, it is worthwhile to explore working with third party hosts that routinely deliver these services in a professional and cost-effective manner. However, there are still scenarios where there is inherent value in developing the technology behind delivering your cross-platform content provided you have the capabilities to execute.

For example, instead of manually updating content, you could provide a content management tool for customers for ongoing maintenance. Fees could be charged for the setup, content management tool and support. There is also the necessity to ensure you have built-in the means to provide ongoing metrics and revenue reports to participating partners in an efficient manner.

Top Ten Points for Designing and Building Cross-Platform Content:

  1. Define your business plan and potential revenue streams such as licensing, sponsorship, advertising, subscription, maintenance support and international distribution.
  2. Determine what type of advertising and sponsorship you are willing to accommodate and what might be necessary to secure future partners.
  3. Map out your working arrangement with participating broadcasters with respect to advertising sales, hosting, maintenance, user information, ancillary rights and marketing / promotion.
  4. In addition to leveraging ad networks, create unique sponsorship opportunities such as contests and cross-promotions and focus on potential targets that are thematically-linked to your content.
  5. Produce supplementary materials that are familiar to your sales targets such as “power point decks” (sorry!), interactive demos and sales sheets.
  6. Develop your content with the potential for international distribution and licensing in mind with the possibility of modifying the language of text, sound and video, as well as ability to “carve up” your content for various partners and platforms.
  7. Dedicate significant time to preparing a detailed production plan and engage all partners in the review and approval of planning.
  8. Evaluate the best means of delivering your content and whether or not working with a third party service-provider is the optimal solution given you and your partner’s capabilities.
  9. Ensure you have built in the processes to provide ongoing metrics as well as financial reporting to participating partners in an efficient manner.
  10. Explore whether there is any value in building administration tools for potential buyers to manage their localized version of the content.

Most importantly, be patient!

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