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September 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 9




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Hollywood ToyBoy: “Net”works Target Kid Spenders

“Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave ...”


“One day, there will be no borders, no laws, only the Net ... and kids buying stuff on it.”
“What do you mean the server is down? How can I Google anyone’s credits?” I scream at my ever-patient assistant as she brings in my sixth mocha-java-special and the bad news. “I’ve got scripts being torrented and music to email. Wait ... reverse that. What am I supposed to do?”

Face it, Hollywood is going to the blogs. And social networks. And electronic magazines! (Heaven forefend.) We’ve gone from the digital age to the dark hack of the soul. We ... dare I say it, rely on the online.

FORGET THE WORLD, GO TO THE WEB

If you’re reading this, you’re already trapped in this World Wide Web of bits, bytes and blech. Don’t feel bad — everyone in Hollywood is, too. They’re starting to distribute — big time — on the Web, and soon, TV and movies may go the way of the typewriter.

A corporate lawyer bud of mine was sipping her perfectly chilled Pinot Grigio (she’d sent it back twice) and explaining in very simple words that “everything is in the ‘cloud,’ sweetie. Half my practice is video-conferencing and emails. If I’ve met one percent of my clients in the flesh, I’ll spit.”

I nudged her about toys and Hollywood. “The producers and studios want to have as little to do with the audience as I do with my clients. If the whole process of merchandising can become digital, there’d only be bank accounts.”

ONLINE DISTRIBUTION SELLS

A development exec friend parsed it out better: “Studios are buying or investing in websites to turn into media distribution portals and captive audience spenders. Disney’s leading the way, but Nick and Cartoon Network aren’t far behind. On TV, kids can’t buy anything without nagging their parents and getting driven to a store. If they’re watching the same show on their computer, product is just a click away.”

“[Gannett Co. is] cross-breeding video games and movies — like “Bolt” — turning TV shows into toys online,” said a director acquaintance who warmed up to the topic after a third scotch. “Publishers, fearing the death of their books, are partnering to do multi-platform digital stories — like 4th Story Media and HarperCollins Publishers.”

“Neopets has its own management company,” flurried a friend who’d just gotten back from Europe on a digital buying spree. “Online content has become the next celebrity. They’re teamed with Nickelodeon’s Nicktropolis, and are spreading like a virus. One day, there will be no borders, no laws, only the Net ... and kids buying stuff on it.”

Sony’s bought into India, and Universal’s all over the world. You can think of an idea in Los Angeles and have it produced in India, the merch made in Vietnam, and the money sent to your Swiss bank account ... all without leaving your chair.”

And my server was down!

GET YOUR FIRST-LOOKS ONLINE

Okay, what does this mean to toy buyers? Same thing it means to the audience. It’s going to be that much easier to get first-looks and digital peeks at what’s “out there.” Why fly all the way to a toy convention lugging around piles of info pages when with a click of a button ... voila! You can be looking on a webcam at the Taiwanese facility where the toys themselves are made, before they’re even made.

Hollywood is going to make it easier and easier to buy without lifting a finger. By this time in 10 years, it will be all about a press of a button.



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Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author

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