You are in:
Well known in consumer entertainment, FremantleMedia is putting greater resources into its gambling arm in order to further develop its branded content offering to Operators in the land-based, online and mobile arenas. Simon Murphy, Head of Gambling, explains what’s happening…
Casino International: Why does a media company like FremantleMedia have a Head of Gambling?
Simon Murphy: Probably the first point to highlight is that FremantleMedia has had a presence in land-based gambling for quite some time. Predominantly the way we have operated in this space has been via licensing deals for some of the entertainment brands we work with. For example in the US we have deals, or have had deals, with companies like IGT and WMS; right now we license The Price Is Right, and Press Your Luck to WMS. Both of these brands have successfully made the transition into the gambling space and are now regarded as premium quality, high-performing games in Vegas.
In addition to these initiatives, we have recently developed an online business. As online gambling started to develop in various countries we started to move into the space. Over the past 2 years we’ve worked with game development partners in order to create a range of online games applying our brands or intellectual property as the star – brands like The X Factor, for example, and Family Fortunes, Play Your Cards right; we’ve taken those brands into the online market.
As a natural progression and following on from the successes we experienced in both land-based and online gambling, we’ve now decided to scale our investment into this area. Hiring a Head of Gambling is one of a number of planned initiatives that will see us place more emphasis and focus onto this area of business.
CI: Why develop these titles yourself – why not just license and collect the money?
SM: There are two routes to market for us. There is a licensing route and that’s the way we currently operate in the US and in the UK in some instances, where this model makes most sense to us and our partners. The other option for us is how we have worked with online Operators in the past couple of years, and what we’ve done with our first UK-facing land-based game. The X Factor Road To Stardom, which is in Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and Mecca Bingo through a deal with Barcrest. This model is geared around us taking more control of the distribution of our rights and content however it’s not about us developing the content. In all cases, we have partnered with premium content developers, working with them to create products that benefit from our brand and mainstream brand identity. This approach marries together our strengths and those of the developer in terms of product development. Getting good game play, good maths, good graphics… the combination of these things is where we believe we will have most success in the future.
CI: Why is the Gambling Division being moved in to FremantleMedia Enterprises [FME]? What is significant about this change?
SM: In the past couple of years, online gambling activities within FremantleMedia have been set-up and managed by FremantleMedia Ventures under the direction of Paul Kanareck, Head of Ventures; Ventures is an exciting part of FremantleMedia, focused on realising new revenue opportunities and new acquisitions. Paul and his team have done a great job in getting games to market and securing distribution routes for those games. Based on their success the company is now ready to apply dedicated resource to the gambling business and the integration into FremantleMedia Enterprises creates the perfect platform for growth, aligning the division with other commercial areas of the business including licensing, events and home entertainment. FremantleMedia Enterprises is the main commercial arm of FremantleMedia.
As well as increased focus, this integration will enable us to have better access to European markets via the work we do with production companies and rights holders in other territories that FremantleMedia Enterprises works in.
In terms of our main goal for 2011, the aim is to develop our presence and be the leading brand owner and distributor of branded content in the online, mobile and land-based gambling sector. It’s the transition into FME that will help us achieve this goal.
CI: Is there any proof that licensed/branded content increases slot play on any platform? Why is branded content important, does it increase value or change demographics?
SM: I’ve been involved in this space for around 10 years now, and in my experience I think branded content on its own is certainly not enough; having worked at IGT, which is clearly a company that has been involved in game development and manufacture for some time, I recognise that just having brands is not enough. In order to create a good game you need to have the playability, the maths models, the visual elements – and the brand wraps around all of that, helping consumers identify more strongly with a branded game over a non-branded game. There’s a lot more to it than just having a brand in order to make a successful game, however brands do provide significant advantages, in terms of creating awareness and familiarity with an audience or a player. That can work very well in different types of gambling environments. Some of our own brands are well suited to bingo audiences because of the mainstream nature of our intellectual property. In addition we have an agreement in place with MGM Studios enabling us to take some of their brands into this space. The likes of Stargate and Robocop work well in a casino environment whereas Legally Blonde is much more suited to a Bingo audience.
The other thing a brand does – and this is shown by many operators in the way they use branded content – is provide a great vehicle for customer acquisition. If you get a very strong brand, that kind of content can be used well to acquire customers.
We accept that brands will be used with that objective in mind and we provide marketing support not only to ensure our brands are protected in the space but also to maximise the power of the brands.
Our challenge within that is to be seen as a company that provides great brands and great quality assets but also to underpin that with quality product, maths and game-play which will come from our relationships with development partners. We know that if a brand is used for acquisition only, that is not where we want to be: we want a brand that is in the market that acquires players but also holds and retains players because of the quality of the game itself.
CI: The company’s key philosophy is ‘Inspiring Entertainment’ – what does that actually mean?
SM: That is a key value that runs throughout FremantleMedia; across all of our content business and across everything we do as a company, inspiring entertainment is what the business is about. My intention as I start my career at FremantleMedia is to ensure we continue to carry that value into everything we do in the gambling space because it is equally relevant in that space as it is in TV or any other part of the business. Our games must be engaging and entertaining because they have our name on them. I see this as a collaborative approach, we’re the brand owner; we understand our assets and we work with premium developers and Operators to make sure our output is engaging and adheres to our inspiring entertainment philosophy.