ITV moves into social gaming with Corrie

Broadcaster ITV is entering the multi-million-pound social gaming market with the launch of Corrie Nation, a social networking game based on its flagship soap Coronation Street.

Becky from Corrie
Becky from Corrie

Corrie Nation will launch on ITV.com and Facebook on 1 November. The game will allow players to build, populate, manage and grow the virtual street and surrounding area in fictional Weatherfield.

It will launch with 60 characters from the soap, with a further 40 to be added later, which players can trade with each other. Ad opportunities will also be available to brands in and around the game.

The game is a key part of ITV’s strategy to drive new revenue streams, hoping to replicate the success of FarmVille, a Facebook game from developer Zynga, which has 63m monthly active users.

ITV is entering a sector that has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years. The global market value jumped from $76m (£49m) in 2008 to $639m (£412m) in 2009, according to Screen Digest, while the UK market rose from $8m (£5.2m) to $49m (£31.6m) over the same period.

The period has also seen all three of the industry’s biggest developers – Playdom, Playfish and Zynga – involved in nine-figure deals. Electronics Arts bought Playfish in 2009 for $275m (£177.3m), while this year Disney bought Playdom for $763.2m (£492m). Earlier this summer, Google invested $100m (£64.5m) in Zynga, which has an estimated 30% market share.

Corrie Nation was developed and built by etv Media’s social gaming subsidiary Enteraction, which will track player usage and use the data to tweak the game. It will be advertised via a cross-media campaign currently being finalised.

Patricia Wagstaff, director of digital productions at ITV Studios, said social gaming represents a great opportunity for the broadcaster.

“It’s a potential new revenue stream, and can be monetised without cannibalising an existing business,” she said. “It also provides a wonderful level of engagement for fans of the show and brands.”

Despite the soap being one of ITV’s most iconic brands, Wagstaff said product placement limitations have prevented it from exploiting advertising opportunities, which it can now tap into via the game.

“We haven’t really allowed advertisers to get their hands on it [the TV show] in a meaningful or contextual way, but this game allows us to have that type of relationship with advertisers,” she said. Latest figures from Lightspeed Research show more than half of social networkers play games, while 23% of respondents said they’re more likely to buy products belonging to a company that had sponsored or advertised in a social game.

Enteraction MD Andy Rogers said, “This is potentially a multi-million-pound revenue stream for ITV, and is a major brand builder.”

Likewise, Piers Harding-Rolls, Screen Digest’s senior games analyst, said, “Facebook is becoming more receptive to the idea of developing a platform of games distribution within it, and as a marketing channel it’s fantastic. Brands are using it to create immersive, interactive experiences.”

Oliver Newton, head of emerging platforms at Starcom MediaVest, said social games are like “digital crack”, which broadcasters and brands need to take an interest in.

“It’s such a fertile ground; people are spending an obscene amount of time on these games, and it’s now leaking over into mobile,” he said.
Newton added the move shows ITV understands its audience for the soap, which is predominantly women aged 25 and 45, and one that’s a “goldmine” for social gaming, which is also popular with women.

ITV’s Wagstaff said current social games lack the necessary “brand affinity” that Corrie Nation can offer.

The soap, which has an annual audience of more than 40m, has an established Facebook base of 483,976 fans, an attribute which Jean-Paul Edwards, executive director of futures at media agency Manning Gottlieb OMD, said that gives it a headstart.

“TV brands already have a critical mass of weight – millions of viewers,” he said. “Therefore, if they create a brand extension online via games, they have an advantage over content properties that are coming from a standing start.”

This story first appeared on newmediaage.co.uk

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