If there is one thing that fans of, well, anything, love, it’s merch. Mugs, t-shirts, bobbleheads – slap a fandom sticker on it, and fans will buy it. 

These fandoms, however, are more than just engaging universes and memorable characters. They are intellectual property goldmines. And the more IP you have, the more you can capitalize on it. 

IP kings like Disney have made good use of their intellectual property, appealing to children and children-at-heart for decades, not just through film, but toys, clothing, Happy Meals, and more. 

Disney’s latest venture into the streaming world came behind Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu by quite a few years, but they clearly saw value in moving to a digital platform. We’d like to think that Disney was just practicing a bit of generous Mickey Mouse magic by making their content available for bingeing, but realistically, going digital means more data, and more data means more profits in the future.

Big Data

When a streaming service like any of the big four operates in the digital world, they collect data about their users: how long they watch a certain show, what time they usually watch, if they ever pause, and whether they finished a particular series or not. 

Obviously, the goal of companies like Netflix is to keep you on the service as long as possible, so they use the data they’ve collected to manipulate user behaviour into staying on the site. Those “Recommended For You” options had to come from somewhere, and that algorithm you’ve heard so much about is it.

Interactivity

Getting users to interact with the platform is easy – search, scroll, click – but the goal of IP owners is to get people interacting with the actual intellectual property – the characters, stories, and styles. This has been part of the streaming industry evolution for the past few years as interaction through comments, live streaming, and choose-your-own-adventure films a la Bandersnatch has been strongly facilitated. 

It makes sense, then, that Netflix, with all its IP power and collections of data, is leading the charge towards a new endeavor: gaming

The move isn’t entirely surprising; after conquering the realm of TV and film and seeking new ways to keep subscribers on the app, gaming just made sense. The new feature would give subscribers another reason to fork up a few bucks every month and bring in new subscribers that hadn’t been convinced that getting their own account was worth the money. 

Clearly, Netflix isn’t a gaming company. Jumping onto the video game train seems more like a trendy whim than a well-thought-out business move. Still, even without a well-established game design team, Netflix has a massive draw with its IP. Shows like Bojack Horseman and Stranger Things – both Netflix Originals – feature universes just begging for a video game treatment. Luckily for fans, the latter show is in the works for a gaming transformation at Netflix, likely to be their first gaming release, whenever that may be. 

Netflix isn’t the only streaming company that relies on IP mining to drive revenue. Disney+ entered the streaming world in 2019, with most new-subscriber hype centered on Baby Yoda. The gimmick worked and Disney’s clever use of their 2012 Star Wars franchise purchase raked in new users. 

But the IP mining over at Disney+ doesn’t seem to be heading towards gamification just yet. Instead, they’ve got a nearly endless supply of original IP to create hours of new content without dealing with licensing (unlike Netflix, who don’t own everything they stream). That means they can take owned characters and give them a hit show that already has a ready-made audience, a la Loki and the swarms of MCU fans. However, if Netflix’s jump to gaming provides enough competition, they may need to make the transition themselves – after squeezing every penny out of the big franchises first, of course. 

Until then, Netflix and others will be sorting through the data to figure out what shows to gamify next. Genres, main characters, runtime, and more elements will be analyzed along with the demographics of viewers to identify which shows might work best as games and what type of gameplay the target audience might prefer. 

Netflix’s chief product officer, Greg Peters, acknowledges that they “are in the business of making these amazing worlds and great storylines and incredible characters. And we know the fans of those stories want to go deeper.” 

Final Thoughts

Netflix hopes that IP-based games offered directly on the site will keep viewers logged in and active long after they’ve finished their latest run of a favorite series.  Getting to play as or with the show’s characters could prove the next best thing to watching them, and Netflix is certainly willing to find out. 

Great IP and rights management is key to making the most of intellectual property. As an end-to-end IP management solution, Rightsline helps content owners, distributors, broadcasters, publishers, online platforms, and all media channels execute content strategies and maximize audiences and profitability.