Entertainment Apps - TinTin the iPad Experience

If you're interested in how entertainment will be evolving in the next few years - you could not find a better example than The Adventures of TinTin.

In addition to Steven Spielberg's 3D movie of TinTin and the video game (both of which I've already written about on this site), you can also pay $39.99 (list price) for a traditional coffee table book. Or, for only $5.99, you can buy “The Art of The Adventures of TinTin” for your iPad and get all the content of the Old World print edition - and much more. What more? On the iPad you get all the interactivity of an app.

What's an app?

To people in the computer industry, an "app" is just a shorthand expression for the end-user programs known as "applications."

Why is a computer program worthy of a blogpost on a site about filmmaking?

Because many people who've made their livings in the film business (myself included) anticipate that mobile entertainment apps are poised to become a brand-new multi-billion dollar industry.

If you're not familiar with apps - or how they are about to become a huge new source of entertainment revenue - a good place to start is with the short promo video (above) from Harper Collins, WETA and Holopad that demonstrates the unique functionality of the TinTin iPad app. As described in the video, in addition to the traditional book's artwork (created by WETA and based on the original comic artwork by Hergé), the iPad app includes 3D models of the characters and vehicles from the movie (that you can spin around to view from different angles), HD video clips, immersive 360-degree set renderings, etc.

Why does this interactive form of content - the TinTin app - suggest an entire new and substantial revenue stream?

To understand why apps hold so much promise for filmmakers and entertainment companies - in addition to the expressive possibilities - you need to understand how apps are sold and where they fit into the worldwide market for entertainment properties.

In general, application software or apps are computer instructions that allow the user of a device to perform certain tasks with that device. You may already be familiar with apps like Angry Birds or Facebook for your phone.

Apps can come bundled with a device - or they can be purchased and installed (usually downloaded and installed with a couple of clicks) by the consumer.

Apps have become very popular since July 2008 - when Apple first launched their online App Store targeted at providing apps for Apple's new generation of iPhones (the 3G) and in anticipation of their January 2010 launch of the iPad.

In an online app store, consumers browse through apps (in 2008 the Apple App Store offered 500 apps, as of Oct. 2011 there are more than 500,000 apps available there) and download the ones they want (some apps are free, but many cost a small amount).

Since Apple started their app store, other competitors have jumped in - and mobile app creation and usage - primarily apps for social networking and gaming - has exploded.

But many observers (again, myself included) think the potential for entertainment apps - custom-built for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets - is still largely untapped.

If we're right, consumption of entertainment through mobile apps will sharply increase in 2012. Here's why:

1) Consumers have embraced mobile apps. But app development is still in its early stages - the interactivity and complexity of apps that provide immersive entertainment is just beginning to be explored.

2) Entertainment apps can fill a demand for mobile entertainment that the big media companies have been slow to fill with other content.

The biggest entertainment companies have been slow to license their traditional video content for international distribution via the Internet (they're locked into existing distribution deals and freaked out about piracy). For example, Apple currently (Dec. 2011) only offers traditional TV programing for streaming via iTunes in 6 countries. But Apple has app stores in 72 countries and app makers have started to roll out versions of apps targeted at diverse demographic profiles.

Meanwhile, in many parts of the world, consumers are just beginning to buy smart mobile devices. For example, experts are predicting that in 2012 over 18 million new smartphones will be sold in India - a rapidly growing percentage of the 200+ million mobile devices that are sold there each year. Also, in November 2011, the Indian government began offering a 7-inch Android-based subsidized tablet - the $35 Aakash:

At the heart of the Aakash tablet is an HD video co-processor. When the Aakash tablet becomes widely available, children (and their parents) all over India will have access to apps and motion pictures online. How long will it be until apps based on the new Hollywood children's film are available in Bengali - with about 1/2 as many native speakers as English - and Hindi-Urdu - with about as many native speakers as English?

Because apps are fun, affordable, not as susceptible to piracy, and apps don't cannibalize from (but build on the marketing for) other existing revenue streams - the big content companies are beginning to see apps that play on ubiquitous mobile devices as the source of new untapped worldwide revenue.

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Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.