Simon Staffans: Four criteria for evaluating IP and transmedia potential

written by: Simon Staffans

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A quick post on one thing I’ve been looking into lately; with all the rage around multiplatform storytelling, transmedia storytelling etc, many of the examples and projects up right now are ”fresh” transmedia projects, fairly recently developed and released. At the same time, there are countless great narratives already in existence that could work wonderfully if looked at from a transmedia angle.

A lot of these will be on display in Cannes the coming days during MIP, but often not even the IP owners will have realized the transmedia potential inherited in their property. Here are four points that matter when it comes to evaluating a TV IP and its transmedia potential:

Story

There’s no contest here, at least not for me. Story is everything when it comes to transmedia. Is it a compelling and immersive story that has the weight and the bones to stretch to different platforms? Does it have a story world already in place, or is it easily conceivable how such a world could be designed and developed? Are the protagonists and antagonists (and side characters) suitable for a deeper mythology? Is it possible to sense the existence of a narrative superstructure somewhere along the road? If a project’s Story supports transmedia, you’re halfway there. If it doesn’t, don’t bother.

Context


I’ve heard several people arguing that in today’s world, context beats content hands down. While I don’t agree, I can see that they have a point – context matters. When assessing an IP for transmedia potential, very much so; if transmedia extension does not make sense in the context of your IP, there’s absolutely no need to go there. ”Not making sense” can mean that you realize the ROI on developing a full on transmedia experience would not justify the expense. Or it can mean that you come to the conclusion that your property is better exploited by extending the narrative on the original platform, without going into apps, online ARGs, graphic novels or whatever. Don’t get swept away by the hype, basically.

Audience

It’s quite simple really; even if you’d be hard pressed to find members of the potential audience harrassing you for not implementing a transmedia strategy for your IP, the fact is that they – especially if they belong to a younger demographic – already ARE transmedia, multiplatform, 2nd screen and all that. To NOT create and extend with that fact in mind is simply not realizing the full potential of ones IP. Even the older demographics are increasingly up for some mulitplatform niceness. But always analyze your target audience; perhaps the young niche demographic you’re targeting is the one, that single one, that is actually averse to online existence?

Financial / business models

Seldom do we get the luxury of having a budget split into fair parts for the different parts of the transmedia narrative. Mostly it’s about cannibalizing other parts of the project, or finding ingenious ways of funding online and mobile and live events. But transmedia can work the other way around as well. Say that you have no way of getting sponsors to fit into your television series. A spin-off  or parallell narrative on YouTube, however, might be the perfect fit for a sponsor to enter. One good thing about having to be very creative with financing when producing transmedia, is that it has a spill-over effect on the original IP as well.  We just have to go find money in strange places!

If you would like to add to this – and I know the list could grow a lot longer and a lot more specific and detailed (I haven’t covered issues with demands from collaborators, or marketing needs, or the need to tap into existing audience behaviour, or….) – I’d be quite happy to hear what you think!

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