Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


Producing Digital Content Synergies

Posted on | May 14, 2011 | No Comments

The convergence of production, storage and distribution with the proliferation of digital technologies has had a dramatic effect on both the consumer as well as the corporate supplier side of the media business. Digital technologies have generally been very positive for the media consumer, who has access to much more content via more channels during more times of the day. However, it has been harder for media businesses to be successful in the new digital media markets because of the increased competition due to reduced barriers to entry and lack of competitive advantages.

In The Business Of Media (2005) by David Croteau and William Hoynes, they discuss some of the challenges and opportunities facing The Making of Avatardigital media businesses and the strategies of the larger media firms. In particular, they point to synergies obtained by utilizing resources across multi-divisional and multi-company media giants. The growth of media firms through acquisition or internal investment gives them considerably more options when it comes to producing and promoting their products. In trying to advantage of vertical and horizontal integration growth strategies, media companies have looked to find new ways to utilize their vast resources to efficiently produce and promote digital content. Some of the large media conglomerates like Disney, Fox, Comcast/NBC Universal, Viacom, etc. have the capacity to take advantage of multiple sources of expertise and production facilities as well as advertising, public relations and other promotional capabilities.

Media firms in the new digital environment are increasingly utilizing all available resources to develop and package a single content concept. In the process of cross-production, media companies try to utilize production and post-production capabilities across the organization to promote and commodify a concept in a wide range of media. This might include any combination of the following: film, DVD, TV show, comic book, novelization, action figures (and Happy Meal toys), soundtracks, and computer games. They might also license the rights to images and likenesses of major characters and props to other organizations. All these products can add to revenue streams while also further promoting the digital property.

A related process called cross-promotion is also a critical strategy to ensure the concept’s success. This involves promoting a single concept via different media across the scope of an organization or in cooperation with other firms. Through a wide range of advertising, public relations and marketing techniques, media firms take advantage of internal resources and joint ventures to saturate the media space with images, sounds, and personalities associated with the concept.

An interesting example is James Cameron’s science fiction epic Avatar (2009), a blockbuster movie that made enormous profits for News Corp, the global media company started by Rubert Murdoch with operations in film, television, book publishing, cable programming, magazines and satellite television. Avatar was the most expensive movie to date with production costs in excess of $300 million. Cameron’s own production assets were central and other parts of the global film production circuit were recruited including Peter Jackson’s visual effects studio Weta Digital in New Zealand that also included government tax credits. Parts of Fox’s own 20th Century Fox were involved as well as IMAX and Panasonic. Luckily, the movie became the highest grossing movie in history after only 41 days in the theaters.

No doubt the film’s success was also due to the estimated $200 million for distribution and promotion taken on more directly by Fox and NewsCorp’s substantial properties including The Wall Street Journal. Probably the most controversial was the saturation of the 2009 World Series that Fox broadcast with advertisements and images from the movie. In another event promoted as “the world’s biggest live trailer viewing”, promotional clips were shown on the four-sided, center-hung, Mitsubishi high-definition video display screens at the Dallas Cowboy’s Stadium just before kickoff against the Seattle Seahawk’s on November 1, 2009. Millions saw the trailer through the Fox sports simulcast of the ad as the game was being broadcast on Fox. Social media was also an important part of the marketing campaign, utilizing Facebook, Twitter, and of course, Murdoch’s rapidly eroding MySpace.

This post does not pretend to cover in detail all the cross-production and cross-promotion strategies used in construction and marketing of Avatar, but it is important to recognize the extraordinary measures involved in releasing modern media concepts.

I wanted to list some of the products available on that promote the Avatar brand and contribute the concept’s revenue stream. In fact, Amazon has a dedicated store for Avatar.


AnthonyAnthony J. Pennings, PhD has been on the NYU faculty since 2001 teaching digital media, information systems management, and global communications.


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    Professor at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea since 2016. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, digital economics, and strategic communications.

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