Welcome to the media multiverse: an industry shift towards franchises that live across a mosaic of platforms, and away from linear storytelling on one channel. Mindshare North America, the global media agency that is part of WPP, has released a new report around the power of media multiverses, and the drastic impact on brands
Some background: box office data shows that the past decade’s most successful films have all been part of a media franchise, or have spawned a new one. A similar trend applies to television – when Mindshare NA analyzed 35 popular franchises, the agency found 53 “in-universe” shows currently airing on broadcast television and cable networks (and that’s not even counting streaming services like Netflix or shows that are reboots). On top of that, several high profile media companies and their franchises (such as Disney and DC Comics) are working to unbundle their multiverse content from traditional networks, bringing it directly to consumers through subscription streaming services.
But while it’s no secret that franchises drive Hollywood success, the real implications of the media multiverse are much bigger. Here’s what it really means for marketers and consumers:
1) Franchise trumps format – consumers are flocking to interconnected stories. From prequels to pop-up stores, from Facebook Live after-shows to mobile games, theatre plays to fanfiction, today’s stories don’t just live in one format or one linear progression. It’s tempting to think of franchise trends and fandom solely in terms of popular superheroes or “popcorn stories” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. For example, one of the most popular franchises that Mindshare NA measured was Breaking Bad, a prestige drama that got its own prequel, the prequel got its own after-show, and the franchise itself got a pop-up restaurant, a pop-up bar, and more.
2) Brands are at risk of getting cut out. As consumers start paying for more franchise content directly via subscription services, media properties will have even more control over their storytelling and distribution. And that means fewer or no commercials – which means advertisers could lose their place at the table.
3) The way forward. It’s crucial for brands to adapt to this new marketplace. Advertisers must identify which particular franchises align best with their brand DNA, and what the opportunities are for sponsorship and integration. Examine your current media buys to understand your presence within franchises across channels. Figure out what unique features and properties your brand can bring to a franchise; how your brand can help fans to more deeply enter these worlds.
4) Fans won’t wait. When fans want more from a beloved franchise, they don’t wait for the next season or the next film. Instead, they take matters into their own hands, whether it’s home-made movie trailers, cosplay at fan conventions, or online fanfiction. For example, nearly 11 million visitors contributed or read fanfiction on one of the three major fanfictions sites in August 2017 alone. Brands who can leverage that multiverse fan passion will win.
“There is a tremendous opportunity for brands to enter the media multiverse,” says Joe Maceda, Managing Director, Invention Studio Lead, Mindshare NA. “Consumers’ love for these types of media properties is creating an even greater demand for more content and experiences, which brands can help provide. If done the right way, advertiser-created experiences in the multiverse can build a remarkable amount of brand love—more so than what a brand could do on its own.”
“The idea of a franchise might not be new, but the impact that it’s having on today’s media landscape is unprecedented,” says Autumn Nazarian, SVP, Spotlight Lead, Mindshare NA. “We’ve entered the next stage of storytelling, where everything is interconnected and media properties are focusing on depth instead of mass reach.”
Measuring Media’s Most Successful Franchises: What Brands Should Know
Mindshare NA evaluated 35 of entertainment’s most popular franchises across the U.S. The agency ranked them against audiences and across channels, and evaluated the different ways various audiences engage with the programming, to find the right environments for brands to connect with consumers. Some highlights from the research include:
Using weighted data from both a custom survey and a QUID analysis, Mindshare NA found that Pixar, Disney, and Game of Thrones rank the highest out of the 35 franchises surveyed against total audience. Movie franchises dominate most spots in the top 20, with a few beloved scripted TV programs interspersed. The top 10 TV-based franchises are Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
Interestingly, the surveyed reality TV franchises all fell into the second half of the rankings, with The Kardashians at #26, and the HGTV and Project Runway TV franchises near the very bottom. It’s likely this had something to do with their saturation of the market.
Also of note:
— The Stephen King franchise scored in the top 10 among the overall audience, possibly riding on the interest around two new movies that opened over the summer.
— In the ongoing fan battle between Star Wars and Star Trek, Star Wars was the clear winner from a franchise standpoint, with higher rankings across most of the major audience segments and higher scores in general across various fan metrics.
— Among affluent audiences (those with a household income of $125,000 or higher), we saw many similarities to other income groupings in regards to love for Pixar, Disney, the comics properties, and Harry Potter – but it was also interesting to see that James Bond rose into the top ten.
— When evaluating only TV-specific franchises, House Hunters scored the highest for familiarity – but Chopped had the highest appeal.
— When measuring which franchises people particularly want to see more of, Game of Thrones scored as the most extendible franchise, with Pixar following at a distance. Few respondents indicated that they would like to see more of The Kardashians, Angry Birds, or The Bachelor.
— There are over 1.4 million stories on fanfiction.net written about the 35 measured franchises. Harry Potter alone made up half of those stories – 771,000.
Teenagers – Ages 13-17
Teenagers are the only group to rate Harry Potter as the number one media franchise. Their next four favorites are all part of the Disney kingdom: Pixar, Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars.
The research shows this group has an especially high level of engagement with their favorite franchises, watching across devices, buying merchandise, and following these media multiverses online and across social channels.
Adults Ages 18-34
Pixar proves to be the top choice in franchises for adults ages 18-34. After that, other top franchises include Disney, Marvel, Harry Potter, and DC comics. Among TV properties, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead also made their top 10 list.
When asked what they specifically want to see more of, their answers followed very similar trends: Game of Thrones, Pixar, Harry Potter, Marvel comics, and Stephen King.
Adults Ages 35-54
Older adults still favour the family-friendly franchises like Pixar and Disney, but more mature offerings like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead also made their top five list. In fact, they consider themselves to be superfans of those two shows in particular, in addition to Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul.
In the future, they’re most likely to watch Game of Thrones, Pixar, Marvel, and the Despicable Me series.
Men Ages 25-54:
Among men ages 25-54, Star Wars stands out as their top franchise, but followed closely by their top television franchise, Game of Thrones. Pixar, Marvel, and DC Comics round out their top five. Then it’s Disney, The Walking Dead, Stephen King, Star Trek, and Harry Potter to finish the top ten.
These fans want to see more from Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Star Wars, as well as both the DC and Marvel comic universes. And they’re most likely to watch Game of Thrones, Pixar, Marvel, Stephen King, and Star Wars in the future.
Women Ages 25-54:
Women ages 25-54 have a similar set of preferences to men in that age bracket: nine out of their top 10 franchise picks were found in the men’s bracket as well, just in a different order. Disney takes the top spot, but is followed by Pixar, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, and The Walking Dead to round out the top five. After that, it’s Marvel comics, Star Wars, DC comics, Stephen King, and Lord of the Rings.
Mindshare NA released its research as a collaborative project between several teams, including the agency’s Invention Studio (a unit dedicated to driving creativity in media), the Spotlight team (the agency’s sports and entertainment partnerships unit), and the Insights team.
Mindshare NA worked with E-Poll on a custom survey across 1,337 consumers across the U.S., ranging in ages 13-54. Respondents shared their thoughts and feelings across 35 high performing TV and movie franchises, with insights including but not limited to:
- Awareness and familiarity with the franchise
- Viewing behaviors and engagement activities with the franchise
- Overall fandom and likeability
- The desire to see more content from this franchise
Mindshare NA combined the data from the custom survey and QUID analysis which analyzed the volume of national press, social, and digital coverage to create proprietary franchise rankings and measurements.
With the results of the survey, the agency also created 35 individual “playing cards” for each of the franchises, to be used for Mindshare NA clients in determining which media properties and audiences make the most sense for particular brands.
 Sources: Box Office Mojo, FilmSite.org
 “In-universe” meaning spinoffs or shows that lead to a spin-off