During the past two days, attendees of the 5th Annual Red Stick Animation Festival in Baton Rouge have been treated to several informative panels about the future of animated content on the web. Featuring insights from executives working in the animation and content providing business, the panels provided an interesting snapshot of where the fast-evolving world of multimedia entertainment will be heading in the next few years.
Wednesday afternoon’s panel on web content featured indie producer and former Cartoon Network development exec Heather Kenyon, Dana Cluverius of The CW/WB, Tina Santomauro from atom.com, Vuze’s Erik Koland and Nickelodeon Latin America’s Migdalis Silva.The absolute necessity of creating an organic, well-executed web component for animated content and its viral promotion was the point driven by almost all the panelists as well as moderator Dan Sarto, AWN’s co-founder and publisher.
Kenyon discussed the evolution of web content creation, illustrating the growth of Cartoon Network’s online presence in the past decade, which was initially seen as another way to increase visibility for the animated shows on the air. ‘Today, if a show doesn’t have a strong organic online presence, they’re not interested in it,’ she noted. ‘You have to use every platform out there, because the TV market is shrinking, ad revenues are dropping and license fees are also shrinking. So you have to find get those revenues from the new platforms.’
Atom.com’s Tina Santomauro focused on how the site is basically focusing on short comedy clips that will be able to grab the 18-35 male audiences with its first 30 seconds. ‘Very rarely does a TV series gets picked up based on original content, but we do have a compilation of our site clips package for a weekly show on Comedy Central, which acquired Atom.com about a year ago.’
Silva sited an example a web phenomenon that had been a huge success in the Latin America. ‘We had a telenovela format that had a very strong multimedia component and it involved text messaging. In three months, we were able to generate 80 % of our revenue from online components. It’s very important today to be able to generate revenues beyond advertising money.’
Sarto pointed out that there are many misperceptions about the money that can be made on the web. He noted that most of the income generated on short film and animation sites comes from banner advertisers or big brand advertisers. ‘The big money comes from sponsors who opt for brand integration,’ added Koland.
The panelists then went on to discuss examples of how online exposure had been able to generate more interest on linear properties. Kenyon pointed to the success of Naruto, which initially failed to capture audience interest when it was picked up by Cartoon Network. ‘It was a very smart campaign because they took the show off the air, and offered it on the website, where eight to 12-year-old boys found it and were able to download the episodes one at time. Then the traffic grew, and when they brought the show back on the air, the ratings really skyrocketed.’ She also pointed to Amy Winfrey’s Making Fiends and Jennifer Shaiman’s 30-second Bunnies movie spoofs as good examples of hugely popular web toons that made the leap to Nicktoons and Starz respectively.
‘If you have talent and ability, get your own online presence going,’ suggested Cluverius. ‘This will work as a great calling card ready for executives to look at your level of expertise. It will get in meetings around town: You won’t make money right way, but you have something that is produced.’
Oh, and in case you were wondering, nobody has really figured out a realistic way to monetize the web yet! Even if you have a hugely successful short online which has generated over a million views, you’re lucky if you end up pocketing a few hundred dollars. Which means you can pay for your cable bill for a couple of more months!
Naruto was one of the properties that was hugely aided by its successful introduction on the Cartoon Network website, according to panelist Heather Kenyon.