Sunday, September 19, 2010

"The Resistance" - Starz Tries A New Release Strategy For The Digital Age

Starz Media is blazing a bit of a new trail with its pending release of the sci-fi thriller, The Resistance.  I think their strategy on this release is an excellent vision for combining digital and traditional media platforms.  (Another really good article on the program and strategy is here.)  However, I'm not sure their particular approach is the best for maximizing revenues.

The program is essentially a one-hour piece (actually a little shorter) from Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures.  The Starz strategy is to initially release the entire program in a single showing on SyFy (including 9 minutes of extra footage that is not a part of the digital release).  Then, they will carve it into 5-minutes pieces available on Hulu (through an ad-based model) and for purchase on iTunes, Amazon and other platforms.

I applaud the cross-over use of media.  I think it is absolutely critical to have digital media be an integral part of every media strategy.  Most distributors of content now include social media promotion and online advertising as a part of their release strategy.  However, the real cutting edge is to utilize digital platforms as a part of the actual distribution scheme, as Starz is doing in this case.  The question is, "What is the best way to do this, from a business standpoint?"

I spend a lot of time advising my clients on these types of strategic issues.  My personal view is that it is important to capitalize on the primary strength of digital media as a  low-stress, efficient content delivery system.  This is a crucial part of the mechanism for building a buzz about your programming. (Of course, the "buzz" part still comes mostly from promotional efforts - access by itself does not create a buzz.)

I also believe that digital media will become a substantial source of revenue (especially as mobile media devices become more ubiquitous), but that's not the case today.  So, the production and distribution of The Resistance with an eye towards digital media platforms is right on target, but the value of the broadcast platform shouldn't be sacrificed in the process.

If it were my choice, I don't think I would show the entire program on SyFy prior to the digital release.  Instead, my strategy would be to release some of the content online, build a buzz and then schedule the broadcast release (with extra material) once an audience has already been assembled and primed.  The broadcast release would be an "event" at that point, and probably generate much greater viewership and revenue.

That's what I think today, but I'm sure that will change.  I seem to adjust my view almost daily as the landscape continues to shift.  The folks at Starz are very smart and this strategy could work out really well for them.  I'll be watching carefully, and more than ready to update my opinion based on the outcome.

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