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ScreenPlay Hitches Trailers to Web Sites

6 May, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

Pop-culture Web sites like Myspace.com and Imdb.com, newspaper Web sites like NYTimes.com, and retailer Web sites like Blockbuster.com and BestBuy.com are peppered with movie trailers to grab the Internet browser's attention.

More often than not, those trailers are coming from ScreenPlay Inc.

Founded by longtime video retailer Mark Vrieling as a service to offer looped trailers for in-store TV screens at retail, the company has become a kind of one-stop-shop distributor of movie trailers for the major studios, servicing Web sites with streaming content much like Ingram or VPD services retailers with DVDs.

The days of the 30-second TV spot being the prime driver of an ad campaign are pretty much over, Vrieling said. So, studios have to reach out to the consumer in alternative ways.

With streaming technology more affordable, and content-protection strategies more effective, studios can easily look to the Web to spread the good word.

Much of the Internet trailer barrage is centered around a theatrical release, for which the studios will often subsidize the streaming costs. Otherwise the end user, like NYTimes.com or Seattletimes.com, pays by the terabyte viewed.

ScreenPlay's three biggest client categories are newspaper Web sites, retailers and the studios themselves, several of whom outsource their Web trailer needs for dedicated sites to ScreenPlay.

Vrieling is working to get more Web sites on board with streaming trailers for DVD releases, especially the newspaper sites.

Retailer sites are already increasing the use of trailers to promote a DVD release, he said. ScreenPlay has blanket rights to provide streaming trailers to any site that sells or rents DVDs.

ScreenPlay offers a data-mining turnaround that studios and Web sites can use to get a very clear idea of how effective trailers are, said Kayko Fukuda, director of interactive media for ScreenPlay.

For example, ScreenPlay recently launched a new trailer for Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean 2 specifically for Myspace.com.

ScreenPlay can report back to the studio how many trailer views were generated via Myspace, when those hits came and how long people watched the trailer.

“It helps them make ad-buying decisions and also do buzz indexing,” Fukuda said. “It helps them to know when the buzz is largest on their titles. Is interest peaking on the title a week before it comes out or a week after?”

It also helps creative decisions, she said. If viewers are clicking away from the trailer after a few seconds, the studio knows it isn't effective.

For the publisher side, ScreenPlay can report trailer viewing trends and patterns and tell a site like NewYorkTimes.com its top five accessed trailers.“Sometimes it's surprising, a tiny cult movie they didn't expect,” she said. “If they can report back to advertisers and say ‘people are staying on this page for two minutes to watch this trailer,' it helps them sell the ads on their site.”

ScreenPlay also works with user-generated sites like Feedroom.com to provide streaming trailers. It's a user-generated-content site similar to Youtube.com, (which is currently not a ScreenPlay client).

Studios definitely have their eye on Youtube.com, Vrieling said. Some are comfortable handing over trailer streams directly to this increasingly popular site and letting its creative community have at it, using clips to make up very compelling viral marketing for virtually no cost, he said.

Other studios will likely never be OK with opening up their copyrighted material and will only put up trailers for Youtube via a protected service like ScreenPlay, Vrieling said.

Outside the Internet, ScreenPlay and production-design firm Digital Kitchen have formed a partnership to create branded entertainment content and distribute it in locations other than TV or the Web.

Digital Kitchen is responsible for producing those snappy credits sequences at the beginning of the TV shows “House,” “Nip/Tuck” and “Six Feet Under.”

The two companies are pooling resources and sharing contacts to create original, branded promotional programming for a swath of advertisers.

“For example, say [Digital Kitchen] was hypothetically doing something for X-Men 3, shooting extra footage — behind-the-scenes stuff. We could go in, get a little bit of the B-roll and put it into TVs playing in f.y.e, Blockbuster and Hollywood stores,” Vrieling said.

Or, for an advertiser like Budweiser, Digital Kitchen could create special promotional content and ScreenPlay could service it into TVs in bars and restaurants, just as the company pushes movie content to video stores.

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