Discuss the ways in which media products are produced and distributed to audiences within a media area you have studied:
In the media industry today, there is starting to become a new complex nature of media audiences, whereby audiences are becoming interested in the digital era. The ways in which convergence and social networking have transformed the audience are being considered as ‘audience fragmentation.’ In today’s climate however, media institutions are attempting to provide a ‘360 degree branding’ so that they can release their products and surround audiences with them across the converged media forms. Nowadays, the media world is slowly beginning to change from a ‘value chain’ whereby products are made and distributed to the audiences to ‘social networking’ where producers and audiences are becoming mixed up.
In today’s climate, digital distribution and consumption is starting to allow customers to become producers and become active users of the media. They are able to use software’s such as ‘web 2.0, youtube, myspace, second life’ to make media convergence possible. Clearly, technologies are coming together, which is allowing audiences to access the internet to watch, and download films and trailers. Media executives say that within the next few years’ digital distribution will transform the film industry, making it the norm to access and download films via internet sites. This will become the potential of a new form of ‘blanket release.’ Convergence of media through digital technology creates opportunities for distributing and exhibiting. An example of this is ‘The Dark Knight,’ a fantastic 2008 superhero thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan and distributed by Warner Brothers. Warner Brothers had originally created a marketing campaign for ‘The Dark Knight’ including trailers of the Joker as well as promotional websites. However, on 22nd January 2008 shortly after ‘The Dark Knight’ has been filmed, Heath Ledger, one of the main characters from the film playing the role of the Joker, died of a toxic mix of prescription drugs leading to intense attention from the press and audiences. On hearing about the death of Heath Ledger, Warner Brothers decided to change the promotional campaign.
However, on the 7th May 2008 42 Entertainment produced a viral marketing campaign showing the films ‘why so serious’ tagline with a website illustrating the fictional political campaign ‘I believe in Harvey Dent.’ The purpose of the website was to interest the fans and allow them to see exactly what they wanted to see. This was a part of a viral/ARG, as companies decided to post videos and trailers so that it would spread like wild fire across technologies to promote the film and to generate audience’s attention to see whether the film appeals to them. On the other hand, ‘This is England’ created an official website whereby audiences could download trailers as well as selecting links which guided customers to different sites to download/buy the DVD and soundtrack. The use of digital technology is reducing the cost of film making so that the DV can be seen as widening access to the ‘means of production’ for new media.
Televisions which consist of multiple channels offer viewers at home to download and record films to watch at their own pleasure, as well as them being cheap to subscribe too - making visits to the cinema unnecessary. However, cinemas are beginning to re-define themselves promoting a greater leisure experience with the emergence of blockbusters and the expensive marketing that follows. The pleasure of a person’s film experience is determined by the size and quality of the screen. A vast amount of Hollywood films are still being driven by the noise, characters and narrative which audiences desperately want to see. This explains the current rebirth of scenes shot on an IMAX camera for ‘The Dark Knight.’ For instance, Christopher Nolan used an IMAX camera to film certain scenes, including the Jokers first appearance in the film. Nolan shot 4 major sequences in IMAX for its release in IMAX theatres. Nolan decided to use this format for a couple of the quieter scenes as he believed that audiences would find them interesting. This is in contrast with ‘This is England,’ which was shot in a residential area of Nottingham and the opening scene of the film was shot at a secondary school in Derbyshire. On one end of the scale, ‘This is England’ opened in 62 nationwide cinemas to a strong box office. However, thanks to the word of mouth, the film expanded to 150 cinemas in its fourth week. On the other end of the scale, ‘The Dark Knight,’ was screened in numerous IMAX theatres and was given positive reviews and was said to be the second film to earn more than one billion worldwide. As of this year it has become the seventh highest grossing film of all time.
Most blockbuster releases are distributed via a ‘blanket release’ so if an independent film manages to get its film to the cinema it will definitely be competing for attention with one or more Hollywood films. For example, ‘This is England’ was released on the 27th April 2007 and did exceptionally well in the cinemas, considering the fact that the film had been competing against a Hollywood film such as ‘Spiderman 3.’ ‘This is England’ grossed precisely £5,154,493. Another way to advertise a film and get it out there to the audiences is via promotion. Promotion involves paid for ‘above the line’ which is where the film is funded as a part of a project and consists of trailers, posters, billboards and other things that will benefit the film. This relates to merchandising and ‘below the line’ publicity which is not paid for but generates interest in the film such as interviews, magazine articles and reviews. On the 15th May 2008 Six Flags Great America and Six Flags Great Adventure theme parks created and opened ‘The Dark Knight’ rollercoaster which cost $7.5 million to develop and involved being stalked by the Joker. Also produced and sold as a part of the merchandising were toys, games, action figures, board games and a special UNO card game for the film. Sadly, no such merchandising was promoted for ‘This is England.’ However, due to the success of the film, a TV spin off of ‘This is England’ was aired on Channel 4 on September 2010 called ‘This is England 86’ and received fantastic reviews. According to press reports ‘This is England 88’ is set to schedule in December 2011, whilst Christopher Nolan has claimed that there will be a sequel to his film called ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and will be released on the 20th July 2012 and will feature members of the cast from Inception, another successful film for Warner Bros.
Even though producers and distributors play a major role within the media industry for promoting media products, media executives are starting to come to the conclusion that in today’s climate audiences have the greatest power in the media industry because if the audience like a particular “superstar” or like a specific aspect of the narrative of a film then Hollywood and smaller independent companies feel as though they are forced to use and develop exactly what the audience want.