Facebook Adding Studio Friends30 Jan, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey
Content owners are beginning to really like Facebook.
In January, TV series ”Spartacus: Vengeance” from Starz Entertainment, and Abduction, an action-thriller from Lionsgate featuring “Twilight” heartthrob Taylor Lautner, both are being featured on the social network.
Starz chose Jan. 20 to preview the first episode of its bloody, sexy gladiator epic on Facebook, a full week before it was set to broadcast. The result?
“It broke every digital record for the franchise,” said Kelly Bumann, SVP of consumer marketing for Starz Entertainment.
The first episode of “Spartacus: Vengeance” was seen on Facebook by more people than those who took in digital episodes of the entire 13-week run of the franchise’s first installment, “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.”
“We got some great brand recognition. It’s been a challenge to keep up with, but it’s been worth it,” Bumann said, adding that the “Spartacus” fan base of nearly 2.2 million fans on Facebook helped drive the success. “Giving them a taste has worked, and it’s something we want to continue to do.”
For Abduction — which bowed on Facebook Jan. 17, the first time a film has been released on the social network day-and-date with disc — it’s been “a good start,” according to Anne Parducci, EVP of marketing for Lionsgate.
Viewers can rent the film on Facebook for 48 hours for $3.99, see an exclusive interview with Lautner and can interact with poll questions while watching the film.
Parducci said the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and that it likely won’t be the last day-and-date release for a new title for Lionsgate.
“What makes Facebook unique is the ability to interact with the film and friends at the same time, and I think it’s just the beginning of the social interactive ideas we can come up with,” she said.
Russ Crupnick, entertainment industry analyst for The NPD Group, said shrinking marketing budgets, a crowded field for entertainment and a smaller retail shelf makes Facebook an enticing platform to create discovery for a title.
“You have massive audiences following talent, so the opportunity to leverage fans of [George] Clooney or Claire Danes and link that to releases has great potential,” he said. “My guess is that it has more potential for distribution among a young audience, and more when we are truly connected and can access Facebook on TVs.
“In theory there’s no reason Facebook could not be a premium channel in the future, competing with Netflix or Showtime,” Crupnick added.
Warner Home Video was the first to stream films on Facebook, starting with The Dark Knight in March 2011, and many studios have followed suit. And the smattering of films that have graced Facebook thus far is going to turn into a tidal wave in 2012, according to Dean Alms, VP of marketing at Milyoni, the software company that helped put Abduction and other studio films on Facebook.
“We didn’t anticipate as many people talking about the Facebook launch of [Abduction] as there have been,” he said. “More and more studios are looking to Facebook as a competitive outlet to combat shrinking DVD sales.”
Alms said Facebook members can expect several hundred — if not thousands — of films, both new-release and catalog, to make their way to the site this year. Milyoni has done Facebook film pages for more than a dozen major and independent studios and has included live commentaries and brand tie-ins for certain scenes, linking users to everything from bowling to Kahlua.
“I think we’re at the very early, early stages of what we can do,” Alms said.
And it’s not just films: Alms added that as early as February, Facebook users will begin seeing a TV episodes as well. He wouldn’t share which series.