Is Social Media a Movie Platform?

Video killed the radio star. Will Facebook kill the Netflix star? Will video chatting with your friends soon become part of the online movie experience?

"Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles was the first thing that MTV showed 30 years ago. Back then, MTV used existing content that they didn't have to pay for (music videos) to pioneer an entirely new platform for engaging the youth market.

According to a July 28th, 2011 Paramount Pictures press release, as of today fans can rent a Jackass movie with Facebook Credits (Jackass The Movie, Jackass 2 and Jackass 2.5 cost 30 Facebook Credits ($2.99) - the more recent Jackass 3 and Jackass 3.5 will set you back 40 Facebook Credits ($3.99).

This news seems HUGE to me because it raises the question: Is MTV once again using existing content that they don't have to pay for (Jackass movies from the Paramount vault) to pioneer an entirely new platform for engaging the youth market?

Of particular interest to me (because I think user engagement and community are the keys to online film distribution, and I'm working on my own film project, where each user can customize the experience and share it with others) was this item buried in the press release: MTV and Paramount are also launching a Jackass ClipApp.

The Jackass ClipApp is "a customizable application that allows fans to search over 100 pre-selected scenes from all five movies, create custom clips and edit how they are linked together for a personalized Jackass experience." Editing the Jackass clips should be easy. Fans will be able to search clips and cut together their own personal stream of mayhem. For example, a fan could search puke, punch, or balls and then string the clips together any way they want. Once they're cut together, a fan's Jackass clips can be shared with friends on Facebook and other social sites. Best of all, the Jackass ClipApp is free.

Why do I think the clip app is especially HUGE news?

30 years ago MTV turned a few short music videos into "perhaps the most influential single cultural product" of the decade.

Now, in 2011, I see MTV once again leading the way. The parallels seem, to me, more than a coincidence. Once again, MTV execs are taking short clips and a bit of trendy repackaging and they're whipping them together into something new. The goal this time (just as in 1981) may only be short term revenue. But, I think (just like in 1981) it will prove to be much more than that.

Yes, people have been sharing free YouTube clips on Facebook for a few years. But with the Jackass brand and the clip app, MTV may be the first to actually demonstrate what some of us have been predicting: Social media can be an entirely new and profoundly powerful platform for making significant revenue from selling entertainment content.

Jackass alone probably won't pull in enough dollars via Facebook to move Viacom's bottom line. But if the platform works at all, how soon will it be until others follow?

Here's my MANIFESTO:

The experience of online films must be more than a poor version of the theatrical experience.

The future of film is not about traditional films on a smaller and more portable screen.

The future of film (which is, without doubt, online) will have at its core engagement and community (i.e., user interactivity and sharing with friends).

And social media has engagement and community in its DNA.

That's why putting Jackass on Facebook is HUGE.

Facebook and Jackass. Fans editing clips from a beloved franchise and sharing them. These things were made for each other. That's why I think Facebook might just kill the Netflix (DVDs and streaming traditional films aka home video) star.

UPDATE: July 30th, 2011 In another sign that online community and motion picture distribution are merging as film distribution evolves online: Here is some interesting news about the social network that Google has recently introduced to compete with Facebook. Apparently, Goggle+ has added a feature to their "Hangout" video chat function that allows Google+ users to watch a stream on YouTube while video-chatting with their friends in a Hangout. For example, you and your pals could soon watch Lawrence of Arabia (assuming it's on YouTube) with the ability to interact with each other face-to-face at the same time. Watch the video below that introduces the Hangout function to see how the video chat works on Google+ - but note this video doesn't show what sort of comments you and your friends might make while watching Lawrence of Arabia or a football game or anything else:

UPDATE Aug. 7th, 2011 The Wall Street Journal has also taken note of the business opportunities inherent in encouraging fans to remix clips from valuable franchises. In an Aug. 4th, 2011 blogpost, Andy Jordan writes about how a few large media companies (e.g., Disney, Warner Music Group, and Epic/Sony Records) are adjusting their business models to accomodate what’s actually happening on the ground. For example: "Australian video mixologist Nick Bertke, known as Pogo, has gained a huge following mixing up video snippets of Disney movies to create wholly original works of art." Instead of taking Pogo to court, Disney's social media unit, Digisynd, commissioned Pogo to do video remixes of Disney movies, including Up (see below).

Thanks to UCF undergrad Jon Perez for spotting the Wall Street Journal article about the evolving views on "intellectual property" at the big media companies.

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