Jim Louderback

November 14, 2009

TV Anywhere: Up Poop Creek Without a Paddle

Filed under: Commentary — Jim @ 2:48 pm

While I laud the concept of TV Anywhere – or the ability to watch the cable channels you’ve paid for anywhere you happen to be – a recent experience with an early version proved disastrous, and leads me to believe the entire premise is flawed. Read on, because the reasons are entirely unobvious, but extremely insidious.

Last weekend I flew to France, to get a jump on jetlag prior to participating at the Monaco Media Forum. Rather than immediately go to the incredibly pricey Monaco, I opted to spend two nights in the Southern France city of Avignon. I arrived Sunday night, just in time to catch my favorite football team, the New England Patriots, take on the wildcat-wielding Miami Dolphins.

Waitaminute, I can see you European-savvy American football fans exclaim. You can’t watch the NFL in semi-rural southern France. That was the case a few years ago, but not anymore, at least theoretically for me. That’s because I subscribe to Sunday Ticket via DirecTV, which now includes a cool feature called SuperCast. Supercast lets me watch the games I’ve paid for each Sunday, streamed to my PC. That means I could be anywhere in the world, and watch any of the Sunday NFL games.

It’s a narrow slice of TV Anywhere. I’ve paid big bucks for years for the right to watch my beloved Patriots at home in San Francisco, and now that extends to anywhere with an internet connection. Or so I thought.

Before leaving home, I loaded up the SuperCast application. It’s built on Adobe’s AIR platform, sort of like Flash on steroids. I tested it out the weekend before, and everything worked just fine.

So there I was, jetlagged, up 30 hours with no sleep, ready to watch the Patriots, and hit the sack. My hotel has free WiFi, so I was all set. Or so I thought.

I fired up the SuperCast application, but it wouldn’t load. OK, maybe there was a problem. So instead I opted to try the browser-based SuperCast version. That, too, failed with a message asking me to load the latest version of Flash. Although I thought everything was up to date, I re-installed flash and tried again.

Again, no dice. A closer look, and it turns out that my hotel WiFi, via France telecom provider Orange, was blocking video streaming. And also anything that smells even vaguely like peer to peer, like Skype and Bit Torrent. And those were the two things I was trying to do – since the Air version of Supercast has peer to peer elements built in, while the browser version uses flash.

Even YouTube wouldn’t work, which meant that I probably was out of luck. At least in the hotel. But I was determined to watch the game, so I headed out into the night to find a café with WiFi. I quickly found one – but ran into the same problems. So for the next hour I ping-ponged from café to café, with similar results. I ended up parking at the best hotel in town, the Hotel Europa, and hopped on their restricted WiFi – but still nothing worked.

I finally got at least something working, via an application called Hotspot Shield – which lets you overcome the limitations of public internet access. Unfortunately, it was so slow that watching anything was impossible. A little more digging, and I found out that many, many other DirecTV customers have had similar problems – and I wasn’t going to solve them in time to watch the game. So I gave up and headed off to bed, football fix unfulfilled.

The good news is that the Patriots killed the Dolphins. The bad news is that my experience should give pause to promoters of TV Everywhere. Let’s say the cable and satellite companies get the authentication and authorization details together, and figure out how to stream the channels you’ve already paid for directly to your notebook or phone.

Sure, it’ll work around the house, and maybe at work – although I’d expect some major blocking to go on there too. But out and about viewing – whether travelling for work or on vacation – is where TV Everywhere should also work. But if my experience is any guide, it’s going to be a disaster. And that will end up souring many on the whole concept. Everywhere means wherever I happen to be. Unfortunately, my TV will not follow.

November 2, 2009

How Twitter and Social Marketing Will Save the Movies

Filed under: Commentary — Jim @ 7:30 am

Earlier this year, Twitter was accused of killing Sascha Baron Cohen’s latest movie “Bruno”, “Land of the Lost” and “Year One”, as rapid fire, negative tweets doomed Saturday and Sunday attendance.

But it’s not all bad news. Social media marketing was behind the biggest movie you’ve never heard of, the amazing Paranormal Activity, which took in $22 million last weekend, making it the highest grossing flick of the week, nearly double its closest competitor. Oh, and all that despite being in about 35% less theaters than its competition.

How did it do so well? We had a front row seat here at Revision3, as we helped the company leverage the power of social media to drive demand around the country – at a tiny fraction of a traditional movie campaign.

The low budget Paranormal Activity, which was made for less than $15,000, was discovered by Steven Speilberg, who originally wanted to remake it. But then he decided, along with Paramount, to try releasing it through non-traditional means, which these days essentially involves Twitter, Facebook and online video.

Paramount called us up to help energize our 3 million strong audience of young tech and internet savvy men. Our first test: to fill up San Francisco’s cavernous Castro Theater for a midnight movie that no one had ever heard of. And we had just 5 days to do it all.

Piece of cake. Our web-savvy show hosts have, on average, 68,000 twitter followers each. We quickly harnessed the Revision3 twitter army to let our fans know about the upcoming show. In addition, we passed the word along to our Facebook fan pages as well, and urged everyone not to miss the most amazing movie experience of the fall, for free.

Word started spreading. Our indy movie-making show, Film Riot got involved as well. This funny show, hosted by an incredibly creative horror movie producer based in Miami, not only told all his fans, but we flew him out to San Francisco to be the host of the midnight showing. His fans locally were overjoyed, and many of them immediately made plans to show up.

Our other hosts also joined in. Fans of Tekzilla and Co-Op were encouraged to come down to the screening as well, to hang out with the hosts of those shows too.

We even quickly launched a Paranormal Activity microsite about the upcoming movie, to give our fans a place to RSVP, and to get more information about the screening. You can see that here, along with a link to the trailer, the official site, and more.

The screening was a huge success! Although Paramount originally didn’t think we would fill the balcony, we ended up putting butts in every seat, and by 3am we’d helped convert more than a thousand Revision3 fans into Paranormal Activity ambassadors.

And yes, they told all their friends – which averaged more than a hundred followers each on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social networks. In addition, we encouraged everyone we touched to “Demand It” – to demand a showing of Paranormal Activity in their home town. This also touched off a huge response around the social nets, and helped build buzz for the movie far beyond San Francisco.

So Phase 1 was a huge success. But it didn’t stop there. Our Film Riot host, Ryan Connolly, dedicated his next episode to Paranormal Activity, and brought his viewers to the event, and showed off parts of the trailer. That episode has proven to be the biggest yet for the new show, with more than 300,000 viewers to date, and 10,000 new viewers each day.

And we’ve kept up the tweeting, poking and prodding. One of our producers posted pictures from the event on the social photo-sharing site Flickr. Our latest tweet helped Paramount get the word out about this weekend’s expansion, and encouraged our viewers to be part of an exclusive Paranormal Activity party.

My congratulations to the Paramount marketing team who really understood how social media could be used to drive incredible buzz, awareness and viewership of an amazing movie. Instead of an incredibly expensive multi-million dollar TV, print and outdoor campaign, Paramount has created a huge success – more than $65 million dollars so far — through deft usage of social networks, online video and other non-traditional means.

Sure, the movie was good. If it was shlock, the twittershere would have easily destroyed it, just as it wrote the epitath for “Bruno”, “Land of the Lost” and “Year One”. But with a good movie, and a minimal budget, Paramount and its partners have proven that you can make movie magic – and money – with a minimal investment.

The lessons of Paranormal Activity extend beyond simply creating buzz around a horror flick. Leveraging the power of socially connected, engaged audiences, by focusing on the new influencers, can pay tremendous dividends for everything from Apple iPhones to Zappos shoes. It’s not just about telling a few friends anymore. When something is good, and with the right fulcrum, social media can move mountains.

What does the modern movie ad look like? In the end what you see below drove more profit to Paramount’s bottom line than a hundred million impressions on broadcast TV.

1. So who’s going to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY? @ryan_connolly@patricknorton @jollyroger + a few of the @Area5_Coop guys! are you? http://ow.ly/qMtB4:09 PM Sep 23rd from HootSuite

2. Don’t Forget! Thursday @ Midnight join Revision3 in checking out PARANORMAL ACTIVITY for FREE – Don’t miss out, RSVP now:http://ow.ly/qM0q

Grab a drink w/us before going to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY! We’ll be at Lucky 13 at 9PM tonite before going to the movie –http://ow.ly/qV2b

jollyroger Pics from Revision3 Paranormal Activity Movie at the castro here… http://tinyurl.com/ycpae9p#castro #revision3 #rev3 #paranormal 8:49 pm Sep 25th, 2009


Revision3 "Paranormal Activity" Movie Night – a set on Flickr


ParamountPics: RT @revision3 Hey SF! represent! This Thurs ParanormalActivity expands & 10 theaters only host an exclusive party http://tl.gd/mqc8

And many, many more!

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