Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Taking a Leaf out of Gaming’s Book

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast May 08, 2019

Gamification of IP offers a lucrative new revenue stream for broadcasters, says Kate Bulkley

The term ‘gamification’ crops up a lot these days, but what does it mean? Essentially, it’s about applying the traits typical of game play – like point scoring and challenges – to TV content and making money out of it. But can television IP be gamified to reach new audiences and create new revenue streams?

A whole generation of millennials (and now Gen Zers) has been raised on games like World Of Warcraft, Super Mario Brothers, Halo and Fortnite, and many therefore expect content they can interact with and comment on in real time. They like to play among communities of like-minded people and they’re not averse to making an in-game purchase or two.

Endemol Shine Group (ESG) chief strategy officer and commercial director Wim Ponnet told me last week that there’s “a big appetite from fans to do more with the content they love”, and outlined the challenge for his firm: “We have to think about what we can give them that is special.”

ESG already has experience in gamifying storytelling: Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch has branching narratives and was developed using game-coding technology.

Meanwhile, gamers’ streaming service Twitch licensed Power Rangers and Doctor Who episodes and allows its communities to comment on them live with on-screen chat functions, overlays and bespoke emojis. Today, only about 10% of Twitch’s content is non-gaming, but the platform is keen to ‘Twitchify’ more of it with TV partners.

“TV firms want to use gamification to create new monetisation models. Sharing in ad revenue is one, but more lucrative are in-app purchases”

At Mip TV, producers were asked to create an interactive gameshow or talk show format that Twitch could allow its gamers to adapt for their own fan bases. Head of content Michael Aragon claimed the lean-back TV experience would “not be as core” to today’s younger audiences as they get older and so offering them gamified options will become more important.

TV companies do want to use gamification to create new monetisation models. Sharing in advertising revenue is one, but potentially much more lucrative are in-app purchases, like the sale of virtual stickers. For example, ESG-owned Simon’s Cat has 4.9 million YouTube subscribers and 1.6 million Instagram followers.

In the past six months, some 50,000 paid-for sticker packs have been purchased from the Apple store at $1.99 (£1.50) each. These allow texters to overlay messages with Simon’s Cat content.

Currently, the holy grail is Fortnite, which has excelled in monetising virtual goods, from avatar outfits (skins) to ‘battle passes’ and customised guns. These make up a good portion of the $50bn (£38bn) global virtual goods industry.

Fortnite is free to play, but it has one of the highest monetisation levels of any game ever: one estimate claims its players spend almost $100 (£75) each per year.

The game has around 250 million players, with up to 5 million people playing or watching others play on platforms like Twitch and YouTube.

Television IP owners should study these video-streaming platforms and the communities of fans they have built to understand how to engage more viewers and monetise them.

ESG is also working on augmented-reality additions to hit shows such as Peaky Blinders and MasterChef to develop functional and experiential content that goes beyond regular TV viewing. For example, a MasterChef fan may be offered additional on-screen recipe information.

The gamer-type add-ons won’t end there. BBC2 makeover show Your Home Made Perfect is an ideal vehicle for gamer technology, with AR used to help homeowners and viewers see intended changes to contributors’ houses.

It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine an app that enables anyone to ‘see’ possible improvements to their own home – a revenue stream begging to be set up.

Some of these monetisation strategies will be like the ringtone phenomenon of 10 years ago in that not all will work. But my guess is that gamifying TV shows has plenty of potential and can last a lot longer.

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