A Guide To SXSW 2018 Parties

For those of you headed to SXSW, you should know that it’s basically one big party. Here’s your 2018 guide to help you navigate this annual get together of creatives and (productive) party animals.

This list is presented in chronological order and will be updated regularly. Did we miss anything? Let us know!

Note that SXSW badges are required unless otherwise noted. While not all events specifically say they are restricted to ages 21-and-over, be prepared to show ID if alcohol is served—and please celebrate responsibly. Food and drink may not be free, regardless of entry price.


FOX Sports House

Sports fans descend on the Hangar Lounge to kick off the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Expert panels, live show programming and special guests. Features food, drinks and entertainment.

When: Friday, March 9 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sports Kick-off Party runs from 7 to 10 p.m.
Where: Hangar Lounge, 318 Colorado St. Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film Badge
Price: Free


Comcast Social Media Lounge Hosted By TechSet

Back for its 11th year, the SXSW Social Media Lounge is a place to chill out with friends or make new ones. Technology, food, beverages and networking.

When: Friday, March 9 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 10 from 9:30 a.m to 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 11 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Monday, March 12 from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, March 13 from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Where: Austin Convention Center, Room 19 A/B, 500 E. Caesar Chavez St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film Badge
Price: Free


SXSW Taco Meetup

Tacos aren’t just for Tuesdays anymore. The 7th annual Taco Meetup at SXSW is hosted by Magento Commerce. Ticket holders can take a culinary tour of five taco restaurants from the Austin area. Vegetarian options will be available.

When: Friday, March 9 from 12 to 2 p.m.
Where: Brush Square Park, 409 E. 5th St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film Badge
Price: Tickets can be purchased with SXSW badges


Nerdist House

Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy and Batman Stern pinball tournaments, live music, custom alter ego silhouettes made on site and a zombie marching band await you away from the crowds.

When: Friday, March 9 from 12:00 p.m. to Saturday,  March 10 at 12:00 a.m.
Saturday, March 10 from 12:00 p.m. to Sunday,  March 11 at 12:00 a.m.
Sunday, March 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden, 79 Rainey St, Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: No badge required
Price: Free


Mashable House And MashBash: Time Warp

Celebrating cultural moments and tech innovations of the past, present and future with drinks, music, dancing and “maybe a few surprises.”

When: Friday, March 9 from 12 to 5 p.m.
Saturday, March 10 from 12 to 5 p.m.
Sunday, March 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: The Main, 610 E. 6th Ave. Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film Badge
Price: Free


Lesbutante And The Boss LBQTIA+ SXSW Bash

Party and network with a diverse host of entrepreneurs and creatives. Includes panels and a meet and greet. Those who RSVP get a drawstring backpack swag bag, a commemorative hat, guaranteed entry and a VIP section with available booth seating.

When: Saturday, March 10 from 9 p.m. to Monday, March 11 at 3 a.m.
Where: Sellers Underground, 213 W. 4th St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: No SXSW badge required
Price: Free for general admission, VIP access available from $20-$100


Film Industry Happy Hour Hosted By Rotten Tomatoes

Networking with professionals from movies and TV.

When: Friday, March 9 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Where: Intercontinental, Stephen P Austin Ballroom A, 701 Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Film and Platinum badges only
Price: Free


Interactive Opening Party

SXSW official kick-off sponsored by Accenture Interactive. This annual shindig features live music, an open bar alongside Accenture’s ad tech and client demos.

When: Friday, March 9 from 8 to 11 p.m.
Where: Micheladas, 333 E. 2nd St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film Badge
Price: Free


Alita: Battle Angel Opening Party

A unique chance to visit the Iron City movie set for 20th Century Fox’s Alita: Battle Angel ahead of the film’s debut. A shuttle will take guests to Robert Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Studios, where they will be joined by members of the film’s cast and crew for a celebratory get-together.

When: Friday, March 9 from 9:30 p.m. to Saturday, March 10 at 12:30 a.m.
Where: Shuttle picks up at the 5th Street side entrance of the Hilton Hotel in Downtown Austin, 500 E. 4th St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: Film and Platinum badges only
Price: Free


SingularDTV Post-Panel Cocktail: Tokenized Economics And Mixed Drinks

Discuss blockchain, content funding and production over a drink with SingularDTV’s Zach LeBeau, EDM producer Gramatik, XYZ Films’ Nate Bolotin and others.

When: Saturday, March 10 from 4:30 to 5:40 p.m.
Where: Austin Convention Center, Room 12AB, 500 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX, 78701
Requirements: Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film badge
Price: Free


Film Industry Happy Hour Hosted By Stream Space

One of many SXSW parties that are perfect for film and TV show enthusiasts.

When: Saturday, March 10 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Where: Intercontinental, Stephen P Austin Ballroom A, 701 Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Film and Platinum badges only
Price: Free


[a]list @ SXSW

Come hang out with us! Want to talk marketing? AListDaily has you covered. Stop by and connect with fellow marketing and media leaders over music, food and drinks.

When: Saturday, March 10 from 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: Lambert’s Downtown Barbeque, 401 W. 2nd St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: If you haven’t RSVP’d, please email us at sxsw@alistdaily.com!
Price: Free


Interactive Mix At Six Party

Presented by Cogeco Peer 1, this mixer provides snacks, networking and presumably drinks, since the venue is 21+.

When: Saturday, March 10 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Swan Dive, 615 Red River St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Interactive and Platinum badges only
Price: Free


SXSW Social Impact Opening Party Presented By Handshake

Enjoy a lake view cocktail party and rub elbows with philanthropists, storytellers and entertainers.

When: Saturday, March 10 from 7 to 10 p.m.
Where: Waller Creek Boathouse, 71 Trinity St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film badge
Price: Free


SXSW Film Festival 25th Edition Party Hosted By Ready Player One and Vive VR

An interactive experience based on the upcoming Warner Bros. film. Guests are invited to explore OASIS, the VR world from Ready Player One using Vive VR headsets and learn more about the film’s dystopian setting. The party features live DJ performances by Them Jeans.

When: Saturday, March 10 from 10 p.m. to Sunday, March 11 at 3 a.m.
Where: Brazos Hall, 204 E. 4th St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Film and Platinum badges only
Price: Free


Crunch By Crunchfest

TechCrunch throws SXSW parties each year and tickets go fast. Meet writers and watch live performances by Autograf, Mobley, MIEARS and Glassio.

When: Sunday, March 11 from 12 to 4 p.m.
Where: The Sidewinder, 15 Red River St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: Ticket required. Although RSVPs have closed, the site suggests contacting a TechCrunch writer for access.
Price: Free


Cities Summit Opening Party Presented By Bosch

The Cities Summit kicks off with networking and drinks.

When: Sunday, March 11 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Palm Door on Sixth, 508 E. 6th St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film badge
Price: Free


Viceland Party Lot

If your dream of SXSW parties involves farm animals, look no further. This three-day party bus includes drinks, music, swag, snacks and oh, yes—baby goats.

When: Sunday, March 11, Monday, March 12 and Tuesday, March 13 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: 98 Red River Lot., 98 Red River St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film badge
Price: Free


John Hardy Celebrates International Women’s Day

A celebration of female strength as embodied by the Naga dragon of Balinese legend.

When: Sunday, March 11 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Four Seasons Terrace, 98 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film badge
Price: Free


Red Bull Media Presents The Dawn Wall After Party

Celebrating the North American premiere of The Dawn Wall, a film by Red Bull Media and Sender Films. Join the cast and crew for an interactive installation, artwork, behind the scenes and of course, a few drinks.

When: Sunday, March 11 from 6 to 10 p.m
Where: Parlor & Yard, 601 W. 6th, Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Platinum and Interactive badges only
Price: Free


IFC Midnight Presents A SXSW Party

My dudes. If you ever wanted to see Frodo playing a DJ set, you don’t want to miss this. Elijah Wood will DJ along with Zach Cowie (Wooden Wisdom) and Death Waltz & Mondo Vinyl.

When: Sunday, March 11 from 8 to 11:30 p.m.
Where: Charles Johnson House – American Legion, 404 Atlanta St., Austin, TX 78703
Requirements: 21+, Film and Platinum badges only
Price: Free


Dance Party With Gramatik And Friends

Hosted by SingularDTV, electronic music producer Gramatik wants you to know about his GRMTK crypto tokens. He’s celebrating his anticipated wealth with a live performance.

When: Sunday, March 11 from 9 p.m to Monday, March 12 at 2 a.m.
Where: Clearport, 516 E. 6th St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 18+, Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film badge
Price: Free


Film Industry Happy Hour Hosted By Killer Tracks

Another chance to hang out with fellow film and TV enthusiasts.

When: Sunday, March 11 from 9 p.m to Monday, March 12 at 2 a.m.
Where: Intercontinental, Stephen P Austin Ballroom A, 701 Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Film and Platinum badges only
Price: Free


HappyHourLab With CityLab

A get together for those passionate about the future of their cities. Features a conversation with musical artist Tunde Olaniran about his hometown of Flint, Michigan.

When: Monday, March 12 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Four Seasons Terrace, 98 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film badge
Price: Free


Strangeworks SXSW Launch Party

This brand new stealth quantum computing software startup is throwing a party. Come say hello.

When: Tuesday, March 13 from 8 p.m. to Wednesday, March 14 at 12 a.m.
Where: Lustre Pearl, 94 Rainey St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film badge
Price: Free


Film Intermission Party Presented By Netflix

Right after the awards ceremony, shuttles will be available to take film buffs to an after party.

When: Tuesday, March 13 from 10 p.m. to Wednesday, March 14 at 1 a.m.
Where: Zach Theatre, 202 S. Lamar, Austin, TX 78704
Requirements: Film and Platinum badges only
Price: Free


Music Opening Party Presented By Greater Fort Lauderdale’s Underground

Kick off the SXSW Music Festival with drinks and live performances.

When: Tuesday, March 13 from 6 to 9 p.m., Riptide Music Festival runs from 9 p.m. to Wednesday, March 14 at 2 a.m.
Where: TBA
Requirements: Platinum or Music badge
Price: Free


Party At The Fort Worth Now House

This all-ages party features live music with free beer and whiskey, while supplies last. Performances by Quaker City Night Hawks, Grady Spencer & the Work, Abraham Alexander, Summer Dean and others.

When: Wednesday, March 14 from 1 to 6 p.m.
Where: Fair Market, 1100 E. 5th St., Austin, TX 78702
Requirements: Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film badge
Price: Free


SXSW Hackathon After Party

A 24-hour hackathon ends not with sleep, but with drinks and music following the awards ceremony.

When: Wednesday, March 14 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Where: TBA
Requirements: Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film badge
Price: Free


SXSW Gaming Opening Party

Join The Attack‘s Alex Corea and enjoy a host nerdcore musical artists as they kick off the SXSW gaming festival. Live performances by Mega Ran, SAMMUS, Rockit Gaming, NerdOut! and Super Soul Bros.

When: Thursday, March 15 from 8 to 11 p.m.
Where: Hilton Austin Downtown, Grand Ballroom, 500 E. 4th St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Platinum, Interactive, Music, or Film badge
Price: Free


Sounds From Spain Paella Day Party

Sip on Sangria, munch on paella and watch live performances from Spanish artists including Neuman, Christina Rosenvinge, The Zephyr Bones, Los Wilds and Joe Crepusculo.

When: Friday, March 16 from 1 to 5 p.m.
Where: Brush Square Park, 409 E. 5th St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Platinum, Interactive, Music, or Film badge, artist wristband
Price: Free


SXSW Gaming Closing Party

Alas, the Gaming Festival must come to an end, but not the revelry.

When: Saturday, March 17 from 11 p.m. to Sunday, March 18 at 1 a.m.
Where: The Belmont, 305 W. 6th St., Austin, TX 78701
Requirements: 21+, Platinum, Interactive, Music or Film badge
Price: Free

While VR For Kids Is Low Priority, Family-Friendly Games Still On The Way

Oculus and other content publishers, particularly in the gaming space, are putting increased emphasis on the social aspects of virtual reality in an effort to win mainstream acceptance. While location-based experiences and competitive multiplayer games help to overcome the perception that VR is an isolating experience, some companies are also looking for opportunities in family-oriented entertainment.

But those doing so are making early bets. Kids and families aren’t a priority market, Stephanie Llamas, SuperData’s VP of research and strategy, told AListDaily. This is mainly because there isn’t much demand right now, as adults are still deciding whether to adopt VR for themselves, much less their kids.

Although some might see that as a good reason to put this audience aside, others view it as an opportunity to build a nascent market as awareness and adoption of VR technology continues to grow.

Playful, which also makes the Minecraft-like game Creativerse, developed Lucky’s Tale as a launch title for the Oculus Rift. It still comes free with purchase of the headset.

Mark Stanley, president and chief business officer at Playful, told AListDaily that offering the game for free was the most effective way to make the IP widely known, even among the relatively small number of headset owners when the Oculus Rift first launched, establishing Playful as a family-friendly brand. Awareness for the original Lucky’s Tale continues to grow as the price of VR hardware drops and more people purchase headsets for themselves.

“That’s a category that we’re going to be very clear on,” Stanley said. “That the experience with our content, whether it be VR or flat screen, is going to be a joyful experience and can bridge the gap between kids and parents.”

Establishing brand recognition is an important part of helping parents overcome their sense of apprehension when it comes to letting their kids try out experiences. Since you can’t always get a sense of whether VR content will be appropriate for kids, thinking of Playful along the same lines as Disney or Nintendo could go a long way. To this end, Playful expanded its franchise in November by partnering with Microsoft to launch Super Lucky’s Tale, a traditional action title it hopes will be regarded as the Mario game for the Xbox One platform.

Startup VR developer Rocket Worldwide also sees an opportunity when it comes to family entertainment and debuted Train Runner VR for the HTC Vive in December. The game, which involves constructing gadgets to rescue a puppy from a speeding train, will be updated with additional content in the future.

Rocket Worldwide CEO Doug Kryzan explained that there are essentially two target audiences—the first being the kids who will be playing the games and the other being their parents. The first step in engaging parents is to create entertainment that parents are comfortable with, meaning the games need to be non-violent while promoting aspects of personal empowerment and critical thinking.

Similar to Playful, Rocket is conveying the message that it is a brand that makes family-friendly games in order to appeal to both audiences. The company is doing this by taking a focused approach with its promotion, mainly relying on social channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get the word out about Train Runner.

Both companies agree that VR content is currently geared heavily toward hardcore gamers. “There isn’t the same level of experiences for the wider audience,” Kryzan said. “So, as a game developer, we’re carefully watching this and working to understand what messages resonate with these two audiences and what the most effective ways to reach them are, given the maturity of the market.”

But Stanley believes engagement with a more hardcore audience is the key to growing awareness for family-friendly titles. For example, the communications Playful has done with the Xbox One community in partnership with Microsoft for the launch of Super Lucky’s Tale is helping to bring more attention to the original VR game.

“Xbox’s traditional target audience has not been kids and family,” Stanley said. “We just launched [Super Lucky’s Tale] in November, but we’re still finding new ways to reach kids and parents.”

However, according to Llamas, the ongoing view that VR is an isolating experience presents a major obstacle, especially as parents already battle the endless pull smartphones and computers have on kids.

To combat this perception, Stanley pointed out the “copilot mode” for the Xbox One game, where parents can help their children control the main character through trickier parts.

Rocket also plans to include cooperative play features in Train Runner in the future. But even though multiplayer will help VR be seen as a more social activity, Kryzan added that another opportunity comes in giving the nearby viewing audience—those who aren’t wearing headsets—a means of interacting with the game.

But the greatest challenge these companies face is that parents may not know whether or not VR headsets are safe for their children.

“Many manufacturers warn that kids under 13 should not use VR headsets, even though there is not enough scientific evidence proving one way or the other, so already that is a deterrent,” Llamas said.

Stanley believes VR has a long road ahead when addressing this matter. He said people need to have access to headsets outside of events such as E3 to gain a better understanding of the technology. That way, parents may become more comfortable with their kids trying out VR experiences. Both Playful and Rocket are currently in discussions with arcades and other location-based businesses to support their games, but Playful is also looking to develop non-VR theme park attractions based on the Lucky’s Tale franchise.

Llamas admits that even though the kids and family demographic isn’t essential to the growth of VR, since the money lies with tech-savvy adults, it will eventually become an important market.

Stanley agrees, and said it will be first adopters, comprised of older gamers with greater purchasing power, mixed with the massive content consumption teens and tweens have that will drive the VR market forward. He also added that the accessibility of VR content must be matched by the hardware for the market to grow.

“Setting up demo stations at every retailer across the country is a major investment, but I think it’s one that’s necessary to accelerate the install base and spread the understanding of what VR is,” Stanley said.

ABC Taps Viewer Nostalgia With ‘Roseanne’ Subway Car

ABC hopes to stir up viewer memories of watching Roseanne in the 80’s and 90’s, continuing a trend of nostalgia-driven marketing within the TV industry.

To promote the sitcom’s upcoming revival, a New York City commuter train has been made to look like the Connor family’s famous living room. Running between Grand Central Station and Times Square, the subway car features seats that resemble the Connor family’s couch, complete with an afghan over the back. Family portraits hang on the walls and each end of the car is made to resemble a fireplace. Promotional images wrap the exterior of the train.

While subway advertising is an effective way to reach millions of commuters in New York each day, not all campaigns are so well-received.

Amazon fell under scrutiny for decorating a subway car with Nazi imagery to promote The Man In The High Castle in 2015. Subway commuters in New York were surprised to find one car decked out with a Nazi version of the American flag, as well as a stylized flag inspired by imperial Japan. Residents were so disturbed by the imagery that Mayor Bill de Blasio requested they be removed and Amazon complied within hours.

In October, Fox Sports decorated a subway car that called the New York Knicks players Tim Hardaway Jr. and Joakim Noah “hopeless.” Complaints from the team’s owner resulted in the ads’ prompt removal.

Responses to this activation have been positive on Twitter, where ABC spread images of the train and invited commuters to share their own experiences with the activation. Fans were nostalgic and excited for the show’s March 27 return.

Nostalgia also seems to be inspiring much of TV network strategy lately, from Will and Grace to Gilmore Girls and The X-Files. As cord-cutters spend less time on traditional TV programming, networks are falling back on what worked in the past by bringing back fan favorites. The rise of OTT services costs networks billion in lost ad revenue, according to estimates, so networks are competing to host the next—or return of—” must see TV.”

Facebook Watch Turns To Creators As It Attracts New Shows

Facebook Watch may soon include creator content similar to YouTube, a move that would help ensure the platform’s competitiveness in digital video. In the meantime, Facebook’s social video platform continues to draw TV networks and motion picture studios hoping to reach young, digital consumers.

Despite only being a few months old, Facebook’s original programming channel is gaining traction with US consumers—especially teenagers who are otherwise leaving the site. According to Morgan Stanley, 40 percent of people using Watch on a daily basis are between the ages of 16-34. Unfortunately for Facebook, this happens to be the same age group leaving the social network in droves—two million of them, according to eMarketer predictions.

Facebook Watch is designed to compete with social networks like YouTube and Twitch that both offer live interaction during livestreams. Even Twitter is investing in live video content to keep users tuned in. During the fourth quarter, Twitter announced approximately 22 deals and streamed approximately 1,140 live events with 60 percent of those reaching a global audience.

Facebook is in a strong position to lure creators away from YouTube, which has changed or removed monetization options altogether for many users. The company hopes to offer ad revenue-sharing to online creators, a source told CNBC. Facebook’s ultimate goal, the source said, is to create a sustainable ad-supported video platform, where it won’t have to pay for the majority of content. The company invested $200 million in hundreds of shows for its new video platform, which can be accessed through a separate tab from the News Feed.

Entertainment awards offer the highest TV ad revenue of the year for many networks. So as traditional viewership declines, online streams help to keep consumers engaged. Case in point, The Golden Globes red carpet show was also streamed on Facebook Watch.

ABC aired “The Oscars: All Access” on Facebook Watch Sunday evening. The program included red carpet and backstage interviews. Fans were also able to request “digital autographs” from celebrities, as well. The companion stream also aired on social networks Twitter and YouTube Live, in addition to official websites.

Lionsgate is the latest to announce original programming for Facebook Watch. You Kiddin’ Me will be an unscripted series hosted by Kim Kardashian West that features children pranking their celebrity parents. Indie studio Big Beach TV has also announced a dark comedy, “Sorry For Your Loss” starring Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi). These programs join a growing roster of around 50 shows currently airing or announced for Facebook Watch.

Cutting Ad Slots, NBCUniversal Seeks To Modernize TV Advertising

Working on giving everyone what they want, OTT platforms have been offering fewer—or zero—ads to consumers and modern targeting options for brands. So far, everyone’s been winning—except for the TV networks losing out on viewers.

But NBCUniversal has a plan to plug the leaks. By the end of this fiscal year, the network, which owns and operates NBC, Telemundo, E! and numerous other channels, will cut the number of primetime hour ad slots by 20 percent and primetime ad time by 10 percent.

“There are more and more consumers, whether it’s from Hulu or the Netflixes or Amazons of the world, who are liberated via technology,” said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, to Variety. “TV networks would be crazy to believe that anything other than commercial overhaul was anything other than inevitable.”

Reducing ad clutter is just the tip of the iceberg for NBCUniversal’s modernization efforts. The network has also introduced a product it calls a “prime pod,” a 60-second ad break available to a maximum of two sponsors, offering advertisers the chance to air different ads that better align with the show’s mood and themes. Prioritizing scalability, Yaccarino promises that “prime pod” themes will be powered by artificial intelligence.

Other ad products NBCUniversal hopes to offer soon include displaying real-time commentary from advertisers, blurring the line between TV ad and Twitter account, and using its AI theme-detecting platform to play a brand’s ads during relevant sections of the programming itself.

These new ad products will focus on driving consumer recall, engagement and purchase conversion. “These are performance metrics that matter,” Yaccarino said, claiming many viewability metrics currently used by the industry don’t accurately reflect an ad’s effectiveness. “This is a whole sales effort to adopt a new vocabulary and conversation.”

Despite NBCUniversal’s efforts to push television toward a quality-over-quantity mindset for ads, the industry has generally been pushing in the opposite direction. According to Variety, TV networks have added more than 400,000 new ad slots over the past five years, and the average length of ad breaks rose by 3.9 percent in January alone.

Consoles Fueled Nearly $9B Worldwide Digital Game Sales In January

Gamers spent $8.9 billion on digital games and add-ons in January, an increase of 11 percent year over year. According to SuperData Research’s monthly digital game sales report, digital console sales grew a staggering 57 percent year over year thanks to some high-profile game launches.

A large release of triple-A titles including Destiny 2 and Star Wars: Battlefront II propelled digital console sales over last year. Call of Duty: WWII is still going strong compared to its predecessor, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Activision’s yearly Call of Duty installment maintained the number one spot on digital console revenue charts for January.

Mobile and Free-to-Play MMO segments continued to grow at 11 percent and one percent, respectively, SuperData reported. Social and Pay-to-Play MMO segments, however, continued to drop. Social game revenue dropped five percent and Pay-to-Play MMO income dropped nine percent in January.

Monster Releases

Dragon Ball FighterZ is the most successful fighting game digital console launch of all time. The hit title from Bandai Namco was the number six best-selling console game for the month of January, despite launching late in the month.

SuperData says that many factors attributed to the game’s success, but Dragon Ball‘s worldwide popularity was the primary reason. When Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite failed to deliver the team-based fighting game fans had come to expect from the franchise—including a number of graphical issues—a well-polished Dragon Ball FighterZ filled the void. As always, marketing played a major role in the game’s success, as well.

“Bandai Namco handled [Dragon Ball FighterZ] marketing to the western audience very well, leveraging Game Informer and E3 (winning several “Best of E3″ awards) to build hype months prior to the game’s release,” Reginald McKim, market analyst at SuperData told AListDaily.

Bandai Namco announced that over 2 million copies of Dragon Ball FighterZ had been shipped as of February 2.

Capcom’s Monster Hunter: World is traditionally a Japanese-heavy IP but found international success, reaching the number two spot for digital console sales in January—no small feat considering the game launched January 26.

SuperData estimates that Monster Hunter World and Dragon Ball FighterZ sold over 1.5 million digital console units last month.

Watch Out For Overwatch

Activision Blizzard’s breakout hit Overwatch held its number 10 spot for digital PC revenue. Combined additional content revenue across both platforms doubled year-over-year, SuperData noted. With over 15 million MAU in January, the game is in a strong position as Overwatch League (OWL) continues into March.

Blizzard’s World of Warcraft held its number seven spot on the PC list. Digital revenue for premium PC grew 24 percent last month overall.

Battling For Supremacy

The ultimate battle royale is taking place between Epic Games’ Fortnite and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds as both titles compete in the popular genre. The two leading battle royale titles earned over $200 million in digital revenue from console and PC last month. While PUBG defended the number five spot for digital PC, Fornite: Battle Royale rose three spots in January to number five on the digital console charts.

Epic recently announced plans to abandon its MOBA Paragon in order to divert all resources to Fortnite, which hit record high engagement in January.

TV Ad Spend Grew In January Despite Digital Domination

Digital advertising revenue experienced double-digit growth in January, but TV held its own thanks to entertainment award shows like The Grammys.

The US ad market grew 10.8 percent in January 2018 compared to January 2017, according to a new report by Standard Media Index. Growth was driven by significant gains in National Television and digital platforms. Other ad mediums didn’t fare as well in January. Radio declined 6.1 percent, out of home went down 2.1 percent and print dropped 3 percent year over year.

It’s not surprising to hear that digital advertising is still on the rise, growing 16.8 percent year over year in January. Digital ad spend has been on a steady increase of around 12 percent since October. Social media saw the largest growth last month at 42 percent overall. Facebook and Twitter saw the most ad revenue growth in January at 55 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

National TV grew 7.1 percent year over year, with 11.1 percent growth in Cable and 2.7 percent in Broadcast. Scatter TV volume—ads purchased outside of Upfronts—saw a 50 percent increase over January 2017, thanks in part to the timing of entertainment award ceremonies. Several college football games and the annual Grammy Awards were both moved to January, which certainly helped. Standard Media Index notes that even without these events, underlying growth was still 5.3 percent.

The Grammys, excluding red carpet coverage, earned $61 Million in ad revenue for CBS, according to the report. This was 3.8 percent increase from last year. CBS reported a 40 percent increase in unique viewers of the show’s live stream over 2017. Despite 24 percent lower viewership overall, the cost of a 30-second spot increased 11.8 percent for the 2018 Grammys.

Riding high on public awareness of the #MeToo movement in Hollywood, the 75th Annual Golden Globes saw a 7.1 percent increase in ad revenue over last year, exceeding $32 million. A five percent drop in viewership didn’t stop a five percent increase in average cost for ad space.

“We see that even though audiences are falling, pricing for these major events continues to increase,” Standard Media Index CEO James Fennessy said alongside the findings. “We expect to see this trend continue as our research shows an impressive return for advertisers that support live programming. Premium video continues to be the powerhouse of ROAS and, given the fragmentation of audiences and safety issues on other mediums, this won’t change anytime soon.”

The automotive industry was the biggest ad spender on National TV last month, despite dropping three percent compared to January 2017. Insurance companies came in second in terms of spending and spent 22 percent more year over year. Rounding out the top five for National TV ad spending are Prescription Pharmaceuticals, Quick Service Restaurants and Food, Produce & Dairy with the largest spend in 2017. Standard Media Index predicts that advertising revenue for National TV will grow 1.6 percent in the first quarter, excluding the Winter Games.

Branded Video Engagement On Facebook Driven By Food And TV In 2017

Branded video engagements on Facebook increased by nearly a third in the last quarter, according to a new report by Shareablee. Ranging from do-it-yourself instructional videos to comedy, the findings show that even relatively new brands can drive engagement on the platform.

BuzzFeed, driven primarily by its Tasty brand, ranked as the top branded video creator on Facebook in 2017 with 11.6 million engagements. Turner ranked number two with 11.2 million engagements, per Shareablee.

The top 50 media companies generated more than 35,000 total branded videos on Facebook and 96 million branded video engagements in the fourth quarter of 2017—an increase of 29 percent year-over-year.

BuzzFeed, Turner and Group Nine Media (The Dodo, Thrillist, Seeker, NowThis) drove 33 percent of all views for branded content videos posted on Facebook by the top 50 US publishers. Tasty and Group Nine Media were both founded in 2016, illustrating how new brands can engage Facebook users on a massive scale.

TV networks attracted the highest increase in engagement, with a 79 percent jump year-over-year in the fourth quarter. Adult Swim ranked number one with 2.3 million video engagements, followed by Food Network with 1.6 million. Turner’s Adult Swim, Food Network, HGTV, MTV and ESPN were the top TV networks on Facebook.

“Branded video, published socially, is rapidly becoming one of the most important new advertising formats for marketers to reach and influence their customer,” said Tania Yuki Shareablee founder and CEO in a statement. “This is particularly true in a changing landscape when it comes to how content is prioritized on Facebook.”

Engagements are defined as reactions, shares and comments. The study did not mention how many branded videos were promoted through paid advertisements.

Facebook rolled out its big News Feed algorithm change last month that prioritizes friends and family. The move continues to whittle away organic reach for brands while rewarding those who create meaningful interactions.

Users spent 50 million fewer hours a day on Facebook after the latest News Feed change, the company reported. Time will tell how the change will impact branded videos on the platform, especially in terms of organic reach. Last year, Facebook delivered the best ROI across mobile devices alongside Google.

Tencent Backing Skydance Is A Case Study For Western Marketers

With the Chinese government’s clampdown on foreign investment on entertainment, Tencent’s investment into Skydance Media becomes a prominent deal. The conglomerate took a minority stake in the Western media brand, and the investment represents a broader strategic partnership that includes the opportunity for Tencent to co-finance films while marketing and distributing merchandise in China.

How Tencent Benefits

Although Tencent’s interest may be in growing the global reach of its film division, the company can also support TV, video game and VR projects with Skydance—like the brand’s Netflix exclusive, Altered Carbon, which premiered in February.

“Our strategy is to create content natively in one division that can cross over into one or both of the other divisions, giving fans multiple touchpoints in which to experience and interact with Skydance content,” Jesse Sisgold, president and COO for Skydance Media, told AListDaily.

Sisgold also said that Tencent will have the opportunity to partner on Skydance projects on a “first-look” basis, which may include the upcoming Mission Impossible: Fallout and the next Terminator film along with all-new projects.

Although the primary goal will be to develop content for global audiences, Sisgold said that Skydance is “very open-minded” in pursuing co-productions with Tencent that appeal mainly to the Chinese market. He added that a Chinese production would be the type of project where the “story and characters authentically call for production and key elements out of China.”

Newzoo market consultant Tom Wijman explains that Tencent benefits from the fact that Skydance owns the rights to popular franchises that include Star Trek, G.I. Joe, World War Z, Top Gun and others, contributing to nearly $5 billion in worldwide box office.

How Skydance Benefits

It’s not uncommon for popular Western franchises to have large followings in China, but Tencent’s marketing through its QQ and WeChat, the dominant Chinese social platforms, and its expertise of the market, may strengthen them even further.

“So much more is handled online in China than here,” said Sisgold, comparing the Chinese market with Western ones. “This allows an effective distributor in China to leverage large amounts of consumer data and habits, and as a result employ a more focused and efficient marketing conversation directly with the project’s likely consumer—versus the scorched earth approach that often occurs with billboards, TV commercials, etc., here.”

The partnership allows Skydance to leverage Tencent’s unmatched presence in the Asian market. Given Tencent’s online ticketing platforms, social messaging apps and online video platforms, the impact of its promotion “can be instant and massive,” according to Sisgold.

“If they really activate all relevant tools at their disposal, they can go beyond really anything we experience here for a fraction of the cost,” said Sisgold.

Affirming the importance of the Chinese market, Sisgold also said it’s important to have a local partner to be effective.

“Their well-established network and massive reach among online consumers combined with their fan base around game publishing and social media responds well to our tentpole, sci-fi adventure productions,” said Sisgold. “In addition, it has valuable know-how to publish, market, and distribute films in the Chinese market.”

In exchange for its distribution strength, Tencent is complemented by Skydance’s experience producing and financing feature films, according to Sisgold. But the relationship has the potential to extend past movies, since Skydance also produces video game and VR content, with a zombie-themed World War Z game expected to release later this year. The company released Archangel, its first entry into VR, last summer.

Given Tencent’s extensive investments in the gaming space, which is documented in the Discovery Channel’s film Game Vision, Skydance’s interactive titles could benefit greatly from the partnership. At the same time, Tencent can license IPs from Skydance for its upcoming games.

“Backing from Tencent means that any Skydance product is guaranteed to be featured on QQ and/or WeChat,” Wijman explained. “Any interactive game Skydance might publish definitely has the potential to be featured there as well.”

Advances In Stadium Technology Are Opening Doors For Marketers

When it comes to stadiums, marketers have historically been limited—think Jumbotron messaging with LED ribbons or static images.

But with floods of event-friendly technological innovations and 60-plus new major sports stadiums set to open between now and 2020 around the world, more brands have opportunities to build marketing strategies to reach fans through far more innovative ways.

First, there are brand activations that directly benefit consumers—including ways to use tech to sponsor seamless logistics to the purchasing process of getting to the venue, finding the shortest line, best food options, merchandise delivery to seats and live in-game updates around scores and stats.

 Josh Veilleux, vice president of global partnerships for AEG, which owns the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the 02 Arena in England, said that marketers have to look at what’s going to enhance the consumer’s experience.

“We want sponsorships and activations to improve the stadium experience for fans, but we don’t want it to overwhelm them,” Veilleux said. “If they can provide value to the fans in a genuine way that either saves them time, increases their knowledge of the sport or event while viewing or takes them into the action, they’ll be able to reach the fans in a meaningful way.”

While in-stadium marketing is traditionally the realm of major beverage, food, entertainment and sports brands, there are also opportunities for non-endemic companies.

Last month, Impact, an Illinois-based company in the business-process optimization sector, opened a branded restaurant, in the main concourse of Staples Center. As a sponsor, Impact is looking to use the comprehensive marketing partnership and multi-year agreement to build brand recognition with key decision makers in Southern California who frequent the iconic venue.

“The marketing value lies in the name recognition that Impact will receive in the Los Angeles market,” said Don Duvall, Impact’s vice president of business development. “It is better for our sales rep to walk into an account and have the client know who you are, and having our name on the restaurant will do that.”

For mass-consumption brands like Coca-Cola, which can easily represent at global events like the 2018 Winter Olympics, the fan experience in the venue is a very small part of their marketing strategy.

According to Ricardo Fort, VP of global sports partnerships for Coca-Cola, the brand benefits a lot more from sponsorships when it takes the message of what happens inside its venues and broadcasts it outward to as many people as possible. For example, the brand positions Coke Music TV to broadcast livestreams of music artists curated by the brand.

“We have marketing initiatives of how we serve consumers in stadiums, but in general, the vast majority of our efforts goes to whoever else is not there,” said Fort. “As a fan and as a marketer, it’s very interesting to see the capabilities. But things like VR and AR, things that can be experienced outside of the venue, are more meaningful for us than how we pay or get served inside of a venue.”

Although having a fan’s favorite player or celebrity usher them to their seat through a hologram may be cool, Cara Vanderhook, vice president of marketing and communications for Staples Center and Microsoft Theater, prefers more old-school marketing strategies. She said activations that resonate most with consumers are the ones where fans walk away with something tangible. In return, the advertiser gets more eyes on their brand as guests travel throughout the event with a physical item.

Vanderhook said these opportunities can overwhelm some. “It requires advertisers taking the time to get creative and determine the best way to push that information to consumers,” she said. “With the proper research and technology, it can be effective.”

Robert Vartan, who oversees corporate partnership sales and development for the MLS franchise Los Angeles Galaxy, said the evolving stadium experience for fans varies by property, but holistically should provide marketers with more customized and unique touchpoints to communicate their marque, mission, tagline and products.

“Any opportunity to align with a positive, lasting emotion is an invaluable asset to any sports and entertainment marketer,” said Vartan. “The future is not telling the fan how the brand will serve them—but actually showing them.”

For marketers, it’s ultimately important to know when to be reactive to an audience or proactively push beyond fans’ expectations.

“Auditing every aspect of your game-day and event-day experience is the first key,” said Vartan. “Becoming your own secret shopper and immersing in the everyday fan’s perspective will provide great results and insight.”