‘RollerCoaster Tycoon’ Is A Thrill Ride For Atari Transmedia Marketing

Keep your hands and arms inside the ride at all times, because Atari has announced a three-year license extension for Chris Sawyer’s hit franchise, RollerCoaster Tycoon (RCT). The extension comes on the heels of the recent success of two mobile games, RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic and RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch and during an exciting time for the legacy brand in gaming and beyond.

Atari COO Todd Shallbetter joined AListDaily to discuss what’s to come for the famous theme-park-building sim, the potential for virtual reality, marketing across platforms and even Blade Runner in this exclusive interview.

Todd Shallbetter, Atari COO

RollerCoaster Tycoon has been a hit for nearly two decades now. How has the relationship between franchise creator Chris Sawyer and Atari evolved over the years?

I think the longevity of the relationship is kind of a testament to the relationship itself. We have nothing but the utmost respect for Chris and his vision. He is certainly the visionary who created this expansive concept of a roller coaster and theme park simulation. It’s such a deep, deep genre of games that’s very difficult to conceive, ideate and deliver on. We respect Chris’ judgment and opinions on things, so we try to work with him whenever he’s willing to work with us.

What would you say is the biggest reason for RollerCoaster Tycoon‘s success?

I think it’s the appeal of a deep simulation about something fun. It really comes down to [the fact that] everyone loves amusement parks, thrill rides and roller coasters. You take that obvious enjoyment that millions of people enjoy annually with their friends or by themselves and couple it with a very deep simulation—the ability for gamers to really get into depth and think about not only what people see upfront in theme parks and the experience of riding these rides, but behind the scenes [and] all the business statistics. All the different things that you can do to affect the outcome of your game. It’s fun but it’s also a deep, intellectual exercise.

How did Atari adapt RollerCoaster Tycoon‘s marketing for the mobile demographic?

We have been building mobile games for a good number of years. It really is marketing to gamers still and again, while the techniques are a little different because user acquisition is a much more analytical proposition than say, selling games on store shelves and even digitally. Mobile is a very interesting beast in and of itself because user acquisition becomes the name of the game. I think how we’ve adapted is by learning and becoming subject matter experts in user acquisition. We’ve also leveraged partnerships with those people who have amazing competencies in user acquisition and mobile marketing. We do a lot of it in-house, but we also work with a couple of great agencies that really help us get directly to consumers—acquiring them and then marketing to them.

It’s a couple stage process. We have to acquire the users, get them playing the game, and then they’ll hopefully buy things in-game or watch ads to be rewarded for it. I think that we’ve educated ourselves and become quite proficient in marketing and we allocate proper budgets. We’re really a data-driven entity, even more so now with mobile. We really value user data and user analytics in general. It’s kind of a natural extension to use this data in the mobile space because it’s something we do well and it’s perfectly applicable to mobile.

What does this license extension mean for Atari and the fans?

It shows fans and the community that Atari continues to be committed to the franchise. We’re going to continue to invest in the franchise and in the existing games, for certain. I can’t speak for everything going through the license because we’re still working through quite a bit of that, [however] we’re incredibly dedicated—both from a company perspective and individuals who work here—in supporting [Atari’s] products in the marketplace today, continuing to add content and continuing to build out these experiences.

That’s what we really hope fans see—they know we’re committed to this franchise and to delivering the best possible experiences and fun experiences that we can. Now we have this extra time, which is going to allow us to continue that pattern of investing and working with the [RollerCoaster Tycoon] IPs to make them bigger and better.

Any plans for a VR experience?

I can say this: I think it would be worth watching to see if we can bring a really exciting roller coaster VR experience to fans. I think stranger things have happened [laughs]. It’s a difficult position right now as everyone is trying to find their sea legs with VR, but it’s a very interesting time to be in it. Do we move forward with it knowing what our install bases are, or do we just sit on the sidelines and watch other people perfect the development process rather than us diving in with both feet and just flailing away at it?

We’re watching the marketplace and we’re treading very lightly in virtual reality right now. We haven’t, to date, made any huge commitments to VR. That being said, we are working with it. We have VR dev kits in our offices and we are playing around with stuff. It would be a very interesting and fun proposition if we could bring a VR RollerCoaster Tycoon experience.

Atari’s logo was prominently featured in the new trailer for Blade Runner 2049. Is this an official partnership for the film, or just a prediction that Atari will still be huge in the future?

It’s a very astute prediction. We think we’ll be around—we’ve been around for about 45 years so far, we were pioneers in the world of gaming, and we’re still continuing to deliver exciting things. We have multiple business verticals outside of games—we’re still working as the big lifestyle brand, we have an IoT division that’s starting out with connected devices, we’re doing film, television, online gambling, we have our very robust licensing business . . . so, we definitely should be around for years and years to come.

We think this brand is so beloved—we love it, that’s why we’re here and a number of us have stayed for over a decade to continue to shepherd the brand along. [The Atari logo] is a mention based on the original [Blade Runner] movie—Atari was mentioned in the original, so they contacted us and we gave them permission to use the logo and any artwork in the film. I can’t say that it signifies a broader partnership than that at this time, but we’re just very pleased to be included and we were super delighted to see ourselves in the trailer. We’re all science fiction, geeky fans around here so we love seeing that.

What advice would you give marketers working across multiple platforms?

My recommendation for transmedia marketing is to stand by your brand, focus on your brand’s messages and keep your core messaging consistent. If you’re building out a brand and translating it across multiple media channels, don’t be afraid to enlist specialists who are experts in their given vertical. I think that’s very important. You don’t want to hire a billboard company to do your online user acquisition and vice versa.

You can never underestimate the value of quality created assets. Never undercut that because you can never have enough quality art assets, animated assets, short trailers . . . video assets perform particularly well. Never underestimate the amount you need to spend to market. It’s not a simple task and it needs sustained, committed investment. Especially for transmedia or trans-platform marketing, [social media] touches all your users at different levels. There are certain social media tools you can use to be very, very specific in your targeting. Don’t be afraid to hire and work with experts, don’t be afraid to use social media to its fullest and commit yourself to the brand.

We have done some work with influencers and will continue to do so. I think we’ve done some great work with influencers and are very particular about how and who we partner with because it has to be just the right fit.

Dell Sees Big Potential For VR Esports

Dell has been active in both esports and virtual reality, as both of these sectors are helping drive sales of high-end gaming PCs under the Dell and Alienware brands. Additionally, a third PC pillar that Dell is investing in is drone racing, which also appeals to the esports fans and many VR early adopters.

Josh Bernstein, vice president of technology for Dell EMC, ensured that Alienware and Dell PCs featuring VR games across Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were on display at the recent Dell EMC World conference at The Sands in Las Vegas. Esports was also part of the equation with 2K’s NBA 2K17 playable on PC. He sees crossover with drones, VR and esports moving forward. He talks to AListDaily about the opportunities these sectors open up for millennials in this exclusive interview.

Joshua Bernstein, vice president of technology for Dell EMC

Dell and its Alienware brand have been involved with esports for several years now. Are there similarities when you look at the future of DR1 Racing with drones and what’s happened with professional video gaming?

Absolutely, and with drone racing there’s a real crossover. Historically with esports, it’s all based around point-and-click games. They can be very hard to follow, but this idea of mixing simulators in with real flight physics and being able to crossover from playing a video game to actually flying a drone is unique. You don’t really see that in esports. If you look at Rocket League, nobody is going to be able to drive a Rocket League car in real life all of a sudden, but certainly with drone racing that’s not necessarily true, and that makes the drone crossover really unique. Alienware, being the leading esports video game machine provider, is a great fit for that, so we’re happy to have Alienware here. We’re happy to have DR1 Racing here, and it’s been great all-around.

What impact is the new generation of kids having on racing leagues?

What’s interesting about this is that it is one of those sports that gets the younger generation outside. My two-year-old doesn’t understand watching live TV. When a commercial comes on he gets very upset. They don’t understand this. But we grew up watching cartoons with commercials and playing outside. With drone racing, they can play a video game inside and then go outside and race a drone with other human beings. It’s truly unique and different from what’s going on in other areas of the culture around us.

Alienware has put a lot of emphasis on virtual reality. What are your thoughts on where the industry is headed?

When I first saw the Alienware HTC Vive systems and did that room-scale immersive VR experience, it was mind-blowing. It really is unbelievably immersive. You feel like you’re there, and if you want to play basketball or shoot bows and arrows, you feel like you’re there. We’ve tried VR in the ‘90s and dabbled in it for a little while with these headsets that were way too big. The resolutions were small and we couldn’t wear glasses inside of them. But now the experience is so immersive, and Alienware can provide it at a price point so that anybody can consume it in their living room. It’s just unbelievable.

How do you see VR and drone racing intertwining?

Specifically, with drone racing, you could have consumers of the content sitting at home with VR goggles watching the race and watching the drones zip around them. Instead of standing and watching it on TV they can cast themselves in the experience and stand on the gate that the drones are racing through and really feel immersed in it. VR has made this experience consumable for the general masses, but also to make it consumable from a different perspective.

If you’ve seen what some of these other companies have done with watching basketball games in VR like you’re on the court, or you’re standing looking over the shoulder on the pitcher’s mound, it’s an unbelievable experience. It provides an emotion that I think just watching TV or playing a video game in front of the screen can’t offer.

How do you see things like DR1 Racing helping to get the Dell and Alienware brands out there to the younger demographic?

It’s all about brand awareness. If Alienware can participate with DR1, DR1 can participate with Alienware. The goal is to provide the best possible experience. If you want to do drone racing on your Alienware laptop, we can work with DR1 to co-develop a simulator to work on the physics engines and things like that. The Alienware experience should be the best experience of that simulation of that race. I look forward to working with DR1 on it and it’s going to be a ton of fun.

We’ve seen the Intel Extreme Masters esports tournament experiment with virtual reality. Do you see a lot of potential in bringing together VR with esports?

It just adds a whole new dynamic to it. It’s one thing to sit at a keyboard and point-and-click, and it’s another thing to have to physically interact with the environment. It adds a whole new dimensionality to esports. People balked at first when calling esports a sport because there wasn’t a physical challenge involved. It was all very mental and there was a lot of practice and a lot of knowledge of the rules. So, to add another dimension to it is really incredible.

Next year we’re going to see the NBA enter esports with the NBA 2K Eleague. We already saw the NFL enter this year with Madden. What does that say when you have actual established sports league entering the video game esports space?

It legitimizes the space, but it’s also proof that as these older brands like the NFL and the NBA want to reach out to a younger audience. They’re appealing to where these viewers are going: into video games. If I can create an allegiance to a team because I’ve played them to a national championship in a video game, it serves both parties. It really is a way to engage and make accessible content to younger audiences. It’s absolutely brilliant for both the NBA and the NFL to go out and do this and I hope that we see other large sports franchises do exactly the same thing.

Inside Sennheiser’s Partnership With GoPro And Pink Floyd

Sennhesier is looking to provide a piece to the missing puzzle for adventurous thrill seekers looking to complement the vivid and often rugged footage they capture with quality audio and sound recording by partnering with GoPro.

The GoPro-verified MKE 2 is Sennheiser’s microphone technology aiming to be an ideal solution for the camera company’s HERO4 model. The MKE 2 survives adverse conditions like wind, water and snow, making it a model fit for extreme action filmmakers.

As Sennhesier takes its sound recording into adventurous new territories, the integration also positions the 71-year-old German brand as the only officially audio company that is verified obtained by the GoPro Works program.

Uwe Greunke, head of global marketing and brand marketing for Sennheiser, and Achim Gleissner, head of commercial management of broadcast and media for Sennheiser, joined AListDaily for a joint interview to discuss their partnership with GoPro, as well as their most recent marketing activation with Pink Floyd.

Why was the extreme sound-recording process a step you wanted to complete in the action-pursuing consumer journey process?

Gleissner: ActionCams are widely used by both commercial and non-commercial users. As with every other camera category, the video quality has improved significantly over time—yet audio was lagging behind. There is a huge demand in this area, but no one really addressed this situation until now. For Sennheiser, the water factor made this project especially challenging.

How will Sennheiser be marketing the MKE 2 Elements Mic differently than its other products?

Greunke: We are focusing even more on the experience itself and the user benefit rather than simply the product. The language we use on our website is very experiential.

Gleissner: Also, from a channel perspective, the MKE 2 elements is an accessory for a very specific camera—therefore we have focused our marketing and sales campaign on those areas where camera owners typically buy their accessories and consumables. Another main challenge for us is to make sure that HERO4 owners know that this unique product exists. Lastly, we had to demonstrate the benefits of the MKE 2 elements in a brief and convincing way. For all of these considerations, online platforms and social media play a very important role.

How did you decide that GoPro were an ideal fit for Sennheiser as a partner?

Gleissner: GoPro is the market leader in the action camera market sector. They are perceived as a premium brand, and their products are also used by professional clients. When GoPro created the developer’s program in order to liaise with partners combining core competencies for the benefit of end users, it was the ideal way for us to partner and complete our mission to provide an audio solution for every major camera category in the market.

What kind of content marketing do you plan on producing to promote the partnership, and product?

Greunke: We are certain that a lot of content creators will generate extraordinary material with incredible audio. We are very much looking forward to reposting such kind of new content on appropriate channels, such as YouTube.

Gleissner: Also, we are closely collaborating not just with the marketing and engineering experts on the GoPro side but also with their associated enthusiasts and athletes. This helps ensure that the products are performing as requested by the most demanding users. It also creates exciting content as well, which could be used for marketing purposes. The collaboration with GoPro is intended to be a continuous one, and the MKE 2 elements for HERO4s is just the very first result.

What are the insights and data that influence your marketing strategy? Is there a new product or service out there that you think will influence decisions?

Greunke: We are primarily influenced by the content creators who want to bring their stories to light. Our mission is to provide them with the best audio quality possible, and unleash the full potential of their extraordinary creativity. These content creators deserve the finest audio quality to unleash their mission and story to the world.

Gleissner: In the eyes of a camera owner, a microphone is an accessory, and this needs to be reflected in the marketing and sales strategy. After the initial setup, and in parallel to the MKE 2 elements being the first manifestation of our partnership, we’re working on more solutions to align with GoPro’s product portfolio.

On a separate front, why is leveraging experiences like your recent one in “The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains” a critical strategy to connect with consumers?

Greunke: The story of Pink Floyd is deeply attached to new horizons in sound experience. Pink Floyd was one of the first bands to experiment with new sound experiences in the studio, and also on live performances on stage throughout their career. This is evident on albums like “Atom Heart Mother,” “The Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here,” and others. Remixing an original track and performing it through our Ambeo system with 25 loudspeakers is truly an experience of its own.

Gleissner: What really matters to consumers is the experience being created with these audio devices. Experiencing music in new dimensions, or listening to the sound of an athlete heading into a big wave illustrates the meaning and importance of sound in a very human and impressive way.

Will you be marketing the activation in any unique ways?

Greunke: The tagline “Sound experience by Sennheiser” explains Sennheiser’s contribution to the great history and milestones Pink Floyd took in their creative music career. We have also just recently announced a special edition of our HD 1 wireless headphones commemorating “The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains,” which features a design inspired by their iconic “The Dark Side of the Moon” album.

What other experiential marketing is on the agenda for this year? What music festivals do you plan on participating in?

Greunke: We will continue our work and collaboration with sound artists and contemporary musicians, such as Robin Schulz, and others.

Gleissner: As for specific activations around our MKE 2 elements launch, we’re planning activities in the action sports domain, as our new microphone is targeted at both commercial and non-commercial users.

What are some other verticals and platforms that Sennheiser would like to experiment with in the future for their marketing mix? 

Gleissner: In the world of broadcast, the two most interesting and challenging verticals—which are both still very young and experimental—are mobile journalists using smart phones for journalistic storytelling and the whole domain of audio for virtual reality. Sennheiser began its activities in both areas very early on, and will continue our efforts in both domains. Our Ambeo program plays a key role in this approach.

Greunke: We’re always open to collaborating within verticals and/or among platforms that help us to transform the listener into another sphere through audio. “The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains” is an excellent example, as was our Art Basel engagement with artists such as Nik Nowak—who challenged the status quo, while helping us explore new horizons of audio experience. These events challenge the status quo and help us to explore new horizons in audio. These new worlds of sound also extend to innovative products. With the upcoming Ambeo Smart Headset, we will introduce an easy-to-use device that will transform a simple iPhone audio recording into a binaural recording—which will let you experience real-world, 3D sound. We’re very curious to see how the creator community will pick up this new recording possibility.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan 

Challenges Remain For Networks Moving To OTT

While a great deal of TV programs are viewed live—especially premieres and season finales—40 percent of Gen Z and 38 percent of millennials who subscribe to cable or satellite say they have plans to cancel their service in favor of an online-only option. VOD fits more easily into the young cord cutter’s lifestyle, which is why more TV networks are making the move to OTT.

YouTube, already a major source of free entertainment, has taken its YouTube Red subscription idea even further with the launch of YouTubeTV. The OTT service offers access to the top four broadcast networks—ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS—and close to 35 of their affiliated cable channels, including ESPN, Disney Channel, MSNBC, National Geographic and Fox News. For $35 per month, viewers can watch live TV or record unlimited programs on a virtual DVR, but the service is not ad-free, and YouTube Red is not included (only YouTube Red Originals).

During the network’s Upfront presentation, CW discussed its shift from broadcast to being a multiplatform player.

“The CW lineup is better and broader than it’s ever been,” said CW president Mark Pedowitz. The network now offers on-demand viewing thanks to partnerships with Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and other digital platforms. Pedowitz said the company is taking a “360 degree” approach as it reaches a wider demographic. The average age of a CW TV viewer is 45, he said, while a digital user is 26.

Missed that episode of Game of Thrones all your friends are talking about, and don’t have an HBO subscription? Touting over two million domestic subscribers, HBO Now is available as a standalone service and does not require a television subscription to use—targeting cord cutters who use competing services such as Netflix and Hulu. Thanks to partnerships with Amazon, Microsoft Xbox, Samsung and PlayStation Vue, HBO Now is available to those without access to traditional cable or satellite subscriptions.

The digital video audience will grow 8.2 percent in 2017, according to eMarketer, and PwC predicts that OTT/streaming subscription VOD revenue will grow to $10.4 billion by 2020.

As networks make the move to OTT programming, the benefits are obvious but the challenges aren’t always easy to overcome. Measuring OTT viewership has been limited to secret, internal data and estimates from third-parties.

Just in time for Digital Content Newfronts, comScore has announced a new offering—ComScore OTT Intelligence—that sheds light on audience behavior across platforms. Measures include household reach, audience size and demographics, along with a variety of usage metrics, comScore said. In addition, data can be segmented for cord cutting and “cord never” homes, as well as those with a cable or satellite subscription.

“With very limited insight into viewing behavior across providers, the OTT market has largely been a black box,” Mike Rich, comScore’s vice president of emerging products, said in a statement. “As more TV viewers look beyond traditional content sources, it’s more important than ever for networks, content producers, device manufacturers and others in the ecosystem to understand this growing segment of cross-platform viewing.”

Mountain Dew Targets PC Gamers Through Twitch Show

Mountain Dew has teamed up with Origin PC and Twitch influencers to build a $50,000 custom gaming PC on Rig Up—a live eight-week show that kicks off on May 31. Each weekly livestream will be hosted by a different Twitch influencer, allowing viewers to vote on how the rig is built. At the end of the program’s run, one viewer will win the Mountain Dew-branded gaming PC, while many others will win PC gaming parts.

Stephanie Danzi, brand manager at Mountain Dew, told AListDaily that the soft drink brand is always looking to push the culture of gaming. “For many gamers, creating and customizing their own gaming rig is a rite of passage, so we wanted to give Dew Nation the opportunity to create the most epic rig yet, without price as a limitation,” Danzi explained. “We looked to Origin as the premiere partner to help bring Rig Up to life.”

Danzi added that Mountain Dew has a legacy in gaming and the brand is focusing on how it can enhance its passionate fans’ gaming experience. “We’ve seen amazing responses from our fans through our first entry into PC gaming—our amateur CS:GO league—the Mountain Dew League,” Danzi said. “We wanted to continue connecting to PC gamers, and since gaming rigs are an extremely important part of their gaming experience, this seemed like a natural next step. We’re excited to take the PC gaming experience to the next level by letting them choose the very best components and parts to amplify how they game.”

The program will run on Mountain Dew’s Twitch channel, which Danzi said has given the brand direct access to the gaming and eSports community. We have attracted an extensive and truly engaged audience through our Twitch channel,” Danzi said. “Those who are on our streams and in the chat have been really active and vocal, but also supportive of others in the stream. Because of Twitch’s reach, the chat typically has viewers from all over the world who tune in each week to be part of the stream.”

Prior to Twitch, Mountain Dew would reach out to gamers through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as traditional media. “While we still use these [traditional] platforms, we’ve seen that Twitch has been able to unlock an even more authentic engagement with this core gaming audience,” Danzi said. “For many gamers, Twitch is their primary form of entertainment. If they are not playing games, they are watching others play them.”

One of the guest hosts for this program is professional gamer Optic Diesel. Mountain Dew has worked with Optic Gaming in the past through Call of Duty promotions. “Our plans in the coming months is to expand on this idea of engagement and put the power in our gamers’ hands, with more appearances and content being produced by known influencers and esports players such as Optic Diesel,” Danzi said. “We will continue to have our lifestyle shows, but we will add in new shows that have a focus on esports and the athletes themselves.”

Mountain Dew is working with Origin in guiding the program to make sure the final rig being built is one that can stand out as one killer gaming rig. Danzi said Dew Nation will get to decide what the rig will ultimately look like, adding that the design options are all true to Dew, “one-of-a-kind and bold.”

“Our goal is really to do something that is both unique for Dew and true to these gamers that pushes the culture of gaming,” Danzi said. “They love building custom rigs, and this program amplifies that concept in a democratized way. The gaming community and Dew Nation ultimately determine the final rig. And, they have the chance to win a ton of cool gaming parts and components in the process.”

Mountain Dew has created multiple gaming activations over the years, focusing earlier on Xbox promotions around Halo and Activision Call of Duty campaigns. The Mountain Dew League for CS:GO marked the brand’s expansion into PC gaming.

“We also drew upon the ‘Dewmocracy’ program, where consumers were able to pick and name a new flavor of Dew,” Danzi said. “Ultimately, we want to empower and encourage the consumer to be bold and creative in their life, and this extends into their gaming lifestyle.”

Mountain Dew recently partnered with Arby’s to bring its Mountain Dew Game Fuel Citrus Cherry fountain drink to more than 3,000 restaurants nationwide.

PBS Kids Aims To Extend Family Time With Media Streaming Stick

“The PBS Kids Plug & Play is the first kid-safe television and playtime educational streaming stick,” said Dawn Ciccone, vice president of brand licensing at PBS, describing the educational channel’s media streaming stick that launches on May 24. Unlike similar media streaming devices such as a Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick, PBS’ device is playfully designed to look like a toy racecar and it comes with a child-friendly remote control.

The PBS Kids Plug & Play, which is available at Walmart and will come to other retail stores later this year, is one more way PBS Kids is bringing its edutainment content to families, adding to its broadcast channel, website, various mobile (and media streaming device) apps and a kid-friendly tablet called the PBS Kids Playtime Pad. To kick off the family fun and learning, users simply insert the Plug & Play device into their televisions through the HDMI port. It comes preloaded with content, including games and sing-alongs, so it doesn’t necessarily need a Wi-Fi connection to work. However, linking to the internet gives users access to the PBS Kids 24/7 Channel livestream and over 100 hours of PBS Kids video content.

Speaking with AListDaily, Ciccone detailed what led to the development of a media streaming stick. “The PBS Kids Plug & Play was formed from an interest in creating new ways for parents and kids to play together,” she said. “Reviewing the PBS Kids digital products available on various OTT devices, we felt that there was a place for a unique family room experience created especially for viewing on the television by parents and young kids. We wanted to create a device that could be fun, easy for young children to use, worked offline, and is capable of accessing all of the other great PBS Kids content available online and via other streaming platforms.”

Given the variety of products PBS Kids currently has, we asked Ciccone what audience they were trying to reach with the toy-like device. The Plug & Play is designed for children as young as two-years-old to operate, but it’s made for family enjoyment. “We expect families to be enjoying the Plug & Play together,” said Ciccone. “According to a recent study of parents who have children ages two-to-six, 89 percent of parents reported they watch TV together as a family and 74 percent were in favor of anytime access to educational programming. The Plug & Play is perfect for families looking for educational programming to play and learn together.”

Dawn Ciccone, vice president of brand licensing, PBS.

Ciccone then went into detail about how the device fits in with all the different ways families can access PBS Kids content, particularly the mobile apps. “The PBS Kids Plug & Play is an extension of our approach of developing content for various platforms, where all of the content that is pre-loaded on the PBS Kids Plug & Play was created especially for a television experience,” she said. “All of the content is exclusive to the device, except when connected via Wi-Fi to the PBS Kids 24/7 Channel or the PBS Kids video on demand content available on all platforms.”

As for how the kid-friendly media stick compares to other streaming devices such as Roku, Ciccone made it clear that “the PBS Kids Plug & Play is not a replacement, but complements other media streaming devices and—more importantly—does not require any type of subscription. It is an entirely new experience for young viewers created for viewing on the television with PBS Kids content that is not available on other platforms.”

When asked about how the Plug & Play fit into the PBS Kids’ family of products, which includes the PBS Kids Playtime Pad, Ciccone reiterated how the devices “is meant to be another great option for children and families to access PBS Kids educational content. One of the great things about the Plug & Play is that it creates an interactive family room experience with content such as games and sing-alongs that make it easy for families to play and learn together.”

How is PBS Kids making parents aware of its racecar-shaped media streamer? “Through press coverage of the device’s awesomeness—people like you!” Ciccone said. “And through enthusiastic retailers and happy customers on social media.”

Spotify Hires Specialist With Sights On Buying Other Companies

Spotify hired Sheila Spence to help the music streaming platform buy other companies. Spence will report to Spotify chief financial officer Barry McCarthy.

Freeform, the young adult brand being positioned for the Walt Disney company, named Tricia Melton as the new senior vice president of marketing.

Former Hyundai executive Jochen Sengpiehl has been hired as the Volkswagen Group’s new global marketing director.

JCPenney hired former Lowe’s veteran Marci Grebstein to serve as executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

Ad tech veteran Bruce Falck is headed to Twitter as their new general manager of revenue product. Falck will report directly to company CEO Jack Dorsey.

Former Bloomberg media executive Todd Swidler is joining Twitter to run its live video business.

Heather Dietrick, the former president of Gawker, is headed to The Daily Beast to become their new president and publisher.

Hasbro announced that Edward ‘Ted’ Philip has joined their board of directors.

CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves signed a two-year extension with the media company and is is now expected to stay through June 30, 2021.

James P. Hackett has replaced Mark Fields as the new CEO of Ford.

Sega announced the departure of their COO and president, Jurgen Post, who had been with the company for over 10 years. 

Google announced they are launching “Google for Jobs,” a search engine service focusing on jobs ranging from entry-level and service-industry positions to high-end professional jobs. The service will be available in the United States.

(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated daily until Friday, May 26. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at editorial@alistdaily.com.)

Job Vacancies 

Director, Digital Marketing Banana Republic San Francisco, CA
Director, Digital Marketing Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA
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Director, Strategic Marketing Aetna Sunrise, FL
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Make sure to check back for updates on our Jobs Page.

Fan Sharing: The Growing Trend Of Esports Partnerships

Esports is expected to bring in up to $1.1 billion of revenue in 2019 according to Newzoo, so it’s no surprise that brands are getting on board. A common trend has emerged that goes beyond sponsorships to become strategic, long-term partnerships—sharing audiences for a match made in marketing heaven.

On May 21, WWE Backlash will be presented by Rocket League, the breakout hit from Psyonix—a competitive video game with over 31 million players. Rocket League will be a presenting partner of two upcoming WWE pay-per-view events—Backlash and Great Balls of Fire—then continue with SummerSlam and the newly-announced WWE Women’s Tournament. Rocket League creative will air across WWE Network, WWE’s digital and social channels and on WWE’s flagship TV programs Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live on USA Network. Fans in attendance will have the opportunity to experience and play Rocket League at arenas across the US.

“The integrated partnership with Psyonix will provide Rocket League with an opportunity to utilize WWE’s global platforms and reach our passionate fan base, many of whom are avid gamers,” John Brody, WWE executive vice president of global sales & partnerships said in a statement.

Sharing audiences is a wise move, especially when there is a significant overlap in fans. Of the 80 million American basketball fans, 9.6 million are also into esports, according to Newzoo. In February, the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software announced plans to launch a new, professional competitive gaming league that would “bring together the best basketball gamers in the world.” Since then, 17 NBA teams have agreed to participate in NBA 2K League’s inaugural season, set to debut in 2018.

“In only a few months we’ve created strong relationships with game developers, come to a better understanding of the training and development needs of the esports athletes today, and generated corporate partnerships that give brands a direct portal into this burgeoning market,” said Chad Biggs, Philadelphia 76ers’ senior vice president of corporate partnership and activation.

Participating organizations include:

  • Boston Celtics
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Miami Heat
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • New York Knicks
  • Orlando Magic
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Sacramento Kings
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Utah Jazz
  • Washington Wizards


In addition to streaming live tournaments into the indefinite future, Esports League (ESL) will produce Twitter-exclusive highlights for a weekly, half-hour show that will cover esports events and behind-the-scenes footage. For ESL—the largest esports organization in the world—not just any social media partnership would do.

“A lot of [information about esports] is in the social digital space, and the conversation around esports is particularly heavy on Twitter,” Johannes Schiefer, vice president of social media and editorial at ESL told AListDaily. “All the big players are on Twitter. Every team is on Twitter. The amount of interaction, engagement and story development that takes place on Twitter is disproportionately large in esports when compared to [traditional] sports. Bringing the actual content to Twitter so that you can watch it where that conversation is taking place only makes sense.”

Social media has indeed become a strong ally in the world of esports, as proven by the recent partnership between Facebook and Activision Blizzard. Ahead of its successful World of Warcraft: Legion expansion, Blizzard made it possible for fans to log into the game launcher with a Facebook account and stream directly onto the social feed.

On a global scale, 191 million consumers will watch esports frequently in 2017, Newzoo reported, with another 194 million tuning in occasionally. If brand partnerships like these continue to grow in popularity, that number could increase dramatically.

EA Commissioner Explains Rise of FIFA Esports

This weekend, the best FIFA 17 players from around the globe are in Berlin competing for a piece of the $400,000 cash prize, including $160,000 first place purse. Over six million players competed in the FIFA FUT Champions Weekend League since the launch of FIFA 17, to secure one of the 192 live qualifications for the Season 1 and Season 2 Regional Finals. After six regional events, the top 32 players flew to Germany to crown a champion in the inaugural FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series. Overall, $1.3 million will have been awarded through this series by this weekend.

The competition has been broadcast on YouTubeTwitch and Facebook, but the Finals will be broadcast across top sports networks around the world including ESPN, BT Sport, Movistar, MTG, and SPORT1, bringing competitive FIFA to more than 70 countries and millions of living rooms around the world. In the U.S., ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes will air the competition live on May 20 at 11 am EST. ESPN2 will air an exclusive pregame show at 10:30 am EST.

Brent Koning, FIFA Competitive Gaming Commissioner, told AListDaily that this new competition is the evolution of EA Sports’ FIFA franchise as an esport.

“Competitive FIFA has existed years before the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series was created, but it was very fragmented with concurrent tournaments, multiple winners, rule differences between tournaments,” Koning explained. “With the EA Competitive Gaming Division, along with the valuable support of FIFA, we’ve been able to consolidate tournaments, optimize the organizational structure and cultivate rapid growth. Competitive FIFA today is now mainstream entertainment – we’re talking millions of competitors, millions of spectators, mainstream sports broadcasts and more. It is amazing.”

Koning added that the ultimate goal for this competition was to move competitive FIFA into the mainstream across the globe. The FIFA Ultimate Team Championship will be watchable on mainstream sports broadcasts in roughly 70 percent of the FIFA player base’s home markets.

“We’re attracting not only millions of players, but millions of spectators as well,” Koning said. “To make competitive FIFA mainstream, you must capture a large, casual fan base who are already familiar with the sport of soccer’s rule sets. The best way to do this is to bring competitive FIFA to top-tier sports television – ESPN, BT Sport and more. We’re accomplishing this with the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship.”

More than six million players have competed in FUT Champions and thousands have played in the live events to get down to the top 32 video gamers. Konig said this inaugural series has taught him that community is king.

“They have been very supportive of competitive FIFA, and we are always looking for better ways to integrate content, showcase players, and make competitive FIFA more fun to watch and play,” Koning said.

Koning said the upcoming season of competitive FIFA will add brands and sponsors to the competition.

“With the goal of making stars of all of our players, we know we need to give them opportunities to compete, and that happens when you bring endemic and non-endemic brands into the fold,” Koning said. “Our goal is to make sure that we maintain a high level of competition, production quality, and create enough opportunity to support aspiring pros, our current pros, and drive the eco-system forward into the future.”

While the majority of esports games appeal to a global audience, FIFA crosses over with mainstream soccer (or football) fans worldwide. It’s easy to follow, and translates well to television broadcasts.

The extensive history of FIFA esports, coupled with the learnings of the EA Competitive Gaming Division with other titles, has helped in building out this new competitive series.

“Sharing best practices is important for any new team, be it at a large company like EA or a startup,” Koning explained. “I work with the central teams and other Commissioners at EA (for Madden and Battlefield) to make sure we are learning from each other, sharing successes and locating areas for improvement. We are lucky at EA to have a dedicated central team focused on implementing best practices across teams who speak to each other regularly. I don’t think you have the opportunity for collaboration as easily accessible in most companies.”

EA also has a longstanding relationship with FIFA. Koning said that organization sees the importance of esports and competitive gaming in soccer culture and it allows EA to work together with FIFA towards the common goal of spreading the love of soccer and competition worldwide.

Established soccer clubs like Manchester City, West Ham United and VFL Wolfsburg have invested in FIFA esports players, while Valencia launched a Rocket League team and Schalke bought a League of Legends roster.

“The level of integration varies by club, but is undoubtedly a way for them to engage with a younger, digitally-native demographic in a clean and low barrier of entry way,” Koning said. “At the end of the day, you put a ball in a net. That is universal.”

‘Resident Evil’ Director Paul Anderson Talks ‘Monster Hunter’ Movie

Director Paul Anderson is one of the few in Hollywood who has figured out a formula for success in adapting a video game for the big screen. After tackling Mortal Kombat for New Line Cinema, the director worked with Sony Pictures to bring six Resident Evil movies to cineplexes starring Milla Jovovich.

The last film, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, is out now on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD, after earning over $300 million at the box office. The Resident Evil franchise has topped $1.2 billion globally over the six films, making it the most successful video game adaptation of all time. He’s now preparing another Capcom game, Monster Hunter, for a big screen adaptation.

“The great thing about filmmaking is it’s a constant learning process, and that’s the fun thing about looking back at the Resident Evil franchise,” Anderson told AListDaily. “The look and the feel of the last movie is so different to the first movie, so even within that franchise I feel like as a filmmaker I’ve learned a lot and developed a lot and I brought the lessons of Mortal Kombat to Resident Evil, and I’ll bring the lessons of Resident Evil to Monster Hunter.”

Capcom has sold nearly 40 million copies of Monster Hunter games to date, which makes it a bigger franchise than when Anderson adapted Resident Evil. There are an additional 15 million Chinese gamers paying to play Monster Hunter Online.

Anderson hopes to turn Monster Hunter into another film franchise. He’s written the script for the first film, which will focus on an American working in a dead-end job who gets dragged into this parallel world where monsters exist and for every creature there’s a hero who can defeat it.

“It’s definitely intended to be a franchise because the movie starts in our world and then it goes to the Monster Hunter world and then the final act comes back to our world and it’s basically this epic battle in and around LAX,” Anderson said. “Then at the end, we’re suddenly confronted with the fact that the mythological creatures of our world have come back to wreak vengeance. So we definitely have the second film where that would be planned out.”

Anderson said the thing that really impressed him about Resident Evil, which is very similar to Monster Hunter, is how incredibly cinematic it is.

“That’s what I’m always drawn to, and it was the same with Mortal Kombat as well,” Anderson explained. “With these properties, it’s like cinema is built into their DNA. And talking with the creators you can see the movies that they were influenced by in the games. That’s what I’m always looking for because I think that really makes a great video game adaptation—when the fabric of cinema is woven into the DNA of the video game itself. It makes the transfer back into film a little easier. And Monster Hunter has incredible landscapes, these fantastic creatures . . . it’s got big cinema written all over it.”

While the Resident Evil films have succeeded with an R rating, Monster Hunter opens up a more kid-friendly PG-13 universe.

“It’s on the level of a Star Wars movie in terms of world creation,” Anderson added. “There are no real central characters, so it’s a bit like when we first approached Resident Evil and imposed our own characters and story on that world. This is a perfect IP for us to do exactly that same thing again.”

Anderson hopes to film this adaptation in either China or South Africa. He’ll reteam with Toronto-based visual effects house Mr. X, the company behind the Resident Evil special effects, to keep the budget around $50 million.

“I’ve been pursuing the rights to Monster Hunter for almost five years, so it’s been a long journey already on that franchise,” Anderson said. “But it’s been worth pursuing because it really is incredible. Anyone who has played the game will tell you that, and also a valuable IP. I think it’s perfect for a movie adaptation. What it presents is a wonderful, rich cinematic world onto which I will impose characters in a narrative which are not suggested by the game itself. So in many ways, it’s a perfect adaptation because the story is something that isn’t in the video game. It’s something fresh that I can bring. And that helps with bringing something fresh for the gamers. But also I can build something that is also accessible to people who don’t know Monster Hunter from a hole in their head.”

This film also gives Anderson the ability to control the cinematic future of the property. He and Impact Pictures partner Jeremy Bolt, along with Mr. X’s Dennis Berardi, acquired the rights for the game directly. The Resident Evil IP was acquired by Constantin Film.

“Everything is about world creation, nowadays, and how can you build a world where you can have multiple stories going on,” Anderson said. “I thought this was our opportunity to have a cinematic universe that we could build a whole world around.”

While video game movies haven’t always connected with American audiences, in Asia it’s a different story. And the popularity of Monster Hunter in Japan and China almost guarantees a box office blockbuster.

“Capcom has the most successful video game adaptation of all time, and especially being a Japanese company and how big the Japanese grosses were on these Resident Evil films,” Anderson said. “With the last movie, we out-performed Star Wars, certainly in the game’s home territory. You couldn’t get bigger.”

Anderson’s script brings monsters to life, including giant spiders and flying dragons that are as big as a city block. There are also different locales, including LAX in our world and giant deserts in the Monster Hunter world, which creatures burst out of.

With Capcom continuing to expand the video game franchise, there will also be unique cross-marketing opportunities with the big screen (and later home video release) of the Monster Hunter films and the interactive franchise. That’s something Capcom and Sony Pictures worked together with over the years, culminating in Resident Evil 7 and the last Resident Evil movie launching the same week this past January.