With major cost-saving initiatives in effect at Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, Amazon, Paramount and more mega media companies and economic uncertainty on Wall Street, the content spend free-for-all is definitely over. Today, the focus is turning to scalable franchises that work for in a multiplatform media world where Hollywood will get the biggest bang for more limited bucks.
According to Perkins Miller, CEO of media company Fandom, the financial focus for the next 18 months should be on mining IP and franchises for all their worth.
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“My view is that, you don’t want to stifle innovation, I think creativity is incredibly important and you want to see that breakout show that is interesting or that movie that was greenlit because the story was so remarkable that it breaks the mold,” Miller said on the latest episode of Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast. “And I wouldn’t suggest that anybody should stop those kinds of activities. I think that are important, obviously, from a creative standpoint. But from an economic one, which is the question you’re asking, what is the most economically smart thing to do, I think the most economically smart thing to do is to focus on franchises and figure out your scaled production against them.”
Miller added: “If you can do three movies on a single set of cast and a budget framework and a production strategy that’s tied to a major franchise, I suspect that’s going to get a lot more traction, a lot more efficiently than funding three independent creative projects with some uncertain resonance.”
As the head of Fandom, which launched as Wikia in 2004 before rebranding in 2016, Miller is basing his insights on fans (with whom he interacts both virtually on the Fandom website and in person at events like Fandom’s annual Comic-Con party) off Fandom’s first-party “Fan DNA” data. Perkins says those analytics, which are gathered from users’ behavior on Fandom, are sold on a “bespoke basis” to studios, streamers and gaming companies looking for specific insights about where consumers are most engaged as fans.
And where they’re most engaged right now is franchises, from playing “Hogwarts Legacy” and discussing the new “Harry Potter” TV series to researching both the Dungeons & Dragons table-top game and the Paramount film adaptation “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.”
“I don’t think we’ve exhausted the superhero/comic book character lane. I think we’ll see what DC comes up with,” Miller said. “I think that’s a lot of strength in WBD’s franchise health, but I also think there’s a lot more to be done on the fantasy side. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ [movies], where that goes is huge. I think there’s more to be done in gaming crossovers. This idea of magic and fantasy is still really resonant with people and is something that I don’t think is going to go away anytime soon.”
Fandom claims to reach 350 million monthly visitors and boasts more than 45 million pages of content and 250,000 wiki communities spanning TV, movies and games, as well as original video. Fandom is the No. 1 entertainment website in terms of reach among teens (13-17), young adults (18-24) and millennials (18-34), according to the comScore Top 100.
Along with the titular Fandom, the company Fandom’s brands include Metacritic, GameSpot, Giant Bomb, Fanatical and TV Guide.
According to Perkins, Fandom’s revenue stream is 80% media revenue and 20% direct-to-consumer commerce.
“I think Fandom is probably one of those large platforms that most people have been on but maybe don’t realize it’s part of Fandom,” Miller said. “Our mission is to serve these fan communities around the world who love imagined worlds, so we get into it for gamers or anime fans or movie fans or TV fans. And if you are a fan of these imagined worlds, whether it’s Star Wars or World of Warcraft, you’ve probably found yourself on one of our Fandom blogs to learn and research, to figure out what’s happening in a game or show. But then you also may have found yourself looking up a review at Metacritic or checking out the breaking news at GameSpot or looking at TV listings at TV Guide or buying a game at Fanatical. We have this network that essentially orients itself around a fan and we try to really super serve that fan.”
Prior to joining Fandom, Miller served in several top roles across the media and tech industries, including GM of StubHub’s Americas operations, chief digital officer and head of media operations for the NFL, vice president of digital media for the WWE, chief operating office at Vocativ and COO at Universal Sports.
Fandom’s corporate name is Wikia Inc., the for-profit company founded by Wikimedia Foundation’s Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley Starling. In 2018, Fandom raised funding from private-equity firm TPG Capital and media and tech veteran Jon Miller, who serves as co-executive chairman with Wales. Other Wikia investors include Bessemer, Amazon, IVP and Digital Garage. Wikia received a $106 million round of funding in 2018, according to Crunchbase.
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
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