Our online gambling business was set up by FremantleMedia Ventures (FM Ventures) here in the UK. FM Ventures builds new revenues through investment and internal development and has been heavily focused on the global gaming market (ranging from gambling to social and casual gaming).
Paul Kanareck (Head of FM Ventures) launched the online gambling business as an internal start-up and immediately gained traction. Given the success of the business to date, we have now decided to scale our investment by hiring a senior figure from the industry to be the full time Head of Gambling.
Now that the business is of sufficient scale we also believe it is ready to be integrated within FremantleMedia Enterprises (FME), the main commercial brand extension arm of FremantleMedia, FME’s global footprint will position us to source and publish the best brands in exciting new markets.
What are the merits of branded content and the role of the brand owner, especially in gambling?
Branded content provides a diverse range of advantages in terms of creating awareness and familiarity with players. Given the mass-market appeal of brands like The X Factor and Baywatch, branded content helps to forge a strong link with a player. This is clearly beneficial for customer acquisition and when an Operator works closely with our marketing team, this can convert into a very powerful tool.
Our challenge, along with the game developers we work with, is to ensure that the game itself, aside from the brand, is engaging enough to retain the player over a sustained period of time. As such, we firmly recognise that the brand alone is not enough and the underlying game-play, maths models and graphical representation need to pull together with the brand in order to maximise the potential.
FME’s role within this mix will vary according to the business model being applied. Where we are in pure licensing mode, it can be more difficult to be as involved as we would like to be in the development and promotion of the games. Where we are publishing or co-producing the games, our influence can be more tangible.
We are certainly looking to apply the principle of collaboration across our gambling business and partnerships with game developers; platform providers and Operators are all essential in order for us to harness the full potential of our position as a brand owner. Ultimately we understand that the quality of our product will result from the successful marriage of our key strengths in terms of brand development, ownership and distribution along with the strengths of our partners including maths, game development, creative development, technical capability and understanding of what players want.
We are currently working on a product development strategy for 2011 onwards and the emphasis will be on quality rather than quantity as well as an extension of brands across online, mobile and land-based channels.
FME is a global operation and our European hub is based in London. Our show formats and brands are extensively developed and distributed around Europe, either as pan-European formats or as localised content offerings. As such, our ability to align our gambling business with other areas of FME will naturally provide access to wider European opportunities.
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?
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 and 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.
FremantleMedia works very hard to ensure that consumers trust our brands, which is a key factor in terms of loyalty. This fundamental principle goes across everything we do and will be as important for us in the Gambling space as it is in TV and other areas of the business. Living up to the brand experiences we create via TV is a priority for us and something that we are confident of maintaining as we create more products and extend further into the gambling sector.
Are you working with European operators and which leading gambling companies have you partnered with already?
We are working with pan European operators including the likes of 888 and St Minver so therefore our brands are already available in certain regulated territories. We are already an industry leader in brand licensing and have proven success in publishing and distributing games to operators such as, Rank Interactive, William Hill, Betfair and Paddy Power.
As a company with a global footprint, FremantleMedia is interested in all regulated markets however our main focus for 2011 is UK and Europe.
What are your main projects for this year?
We have a number of projects in the pipeline for 2011 and these include, marrying our brands with great game-play, mathematics and creative execution in order to create best of breed games. We are also looking to extend our range of game titles to include other IP and third party titles accessed via collaborations with media companies and brand owners. Extending distribution in to emerging European markets as they become regulated and our development of content for multiple channels that includes online, mobile and land-based opportunities are a continuing growth area.