Viewing figures are no longer enough, as TV companies reach for digital media

OPINION: Is digital media TVâ??s greatest challenge?

Earlier this week, the Endemol’s UK branch, the production company responsible for Big Brother and Deal or No Deal, announced that they are forming an online games division.

As more viewers migrate to digital platforms and away from TV, production companies face a difficult transition.

Facebook, YouTube and other online services have become impossible for the major TV and film production companies to ignore. You can now watch catch-up TV via YouTube, vote online for talent shows and chat with other viewers on message boards. Specifically, it’s the pull of interactive games, and their ability to extend the consumer relationship with brands, that companies are interested in.

Endemol aren’t the first to diversify in this manner, independent production companies have dabbled in games for years, but as one of the UK’s largest players in the TV production business their move does signal a change of attitudes towards games.

No strangers to the interactive entertainment business, Endemol have licensed a number of their titles for release, including 1 vs. 100 on Xbox Live. Of course, as evidenced by Cartoon Network and others, licensing properties can result in games of varying quality.

Recently, the BBC has recognised that the time has come to approach games in a more co-operative fashion. It’s not enough to licence a title, get the actors to record some audio and roll another trivia game off the production line. Audiences want an interactive experience that’s built specifically for that brand. The working relationship between Sumo Digital and the BBC’s TV production and interactive departments made Doctor Who: The Adventure Games what it is. And marketing aside, the popularity of those free-to-play web games has spread thanks to satisfied players.

Endemol’s decision to focus primarily on the online market is wise, as it should give them the best possible chance to attract a broad audience. The fact that they own several widely recognised brands doesn’t hurt either. They’ll need content to back them up, though, with experiences built around particular brands.

We could see many more names throwing their hat into the interactive entertainment ring in the near future. As TV companies assimilate themselves into the game space, in many cases for the first time, they will have to adapt to new production methods and, more importantly, a different set of audience expectations.

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