Research Hits The Target

Thursday, February 23 2012
Research Hits The Target

“They see 120 films a year, but more than 100 of those are not in the cinema… And of those, more  than a third are paid for, but more than 60 per cent aren’t paid for…”

A conversation with Chris Watts, from the cross media agency Film3Sixty and its accompanying magazine, Film3Sixty (both part of the Target MediaGroup), is peppered with facts and figures, all fascinating and all supremely relevant to our business. Watts has spent the last six months or more living with figures as part of the most extensive and exhaustive research into film consumption in the UK, so it’s no surprise that he’s awash with figures.

He’s talking to us at The Raygun about his research and is justifiably proud of the data it has turned up.

Almost 20,000 respondents were quizzed about their habits and the findings are as comprehensive as it gets. What’s more, they were selected for their love of film, meaning they represented regular cinemagoers and film fans.

Here are some of the highlights…

That figure of 120 films a year (or 120.37, to be precise) is the average number of films seen.

It breaks down beyond that into the figures we touched on earlier – 17.29 of those 120 are seen in the cinema, 103 outside of it. Of those 103, 64.51 aren’t paid for. It must be noted that the non-paid for results include viewings on free to air television.

The paid-for sector further breaks down into groups: 8.68 were DVDs bought, 7.65 DVDs rented, 7.17 were via premium subscription film channel titles, 3.8 Blu-rays purchased, 3.46 via online streaming, 2.66 rented Blu-rays and 2.25 pay-per-view.

It broke down piracy research too – 37 per cent had been involved in some form of piracy; 18 per cent had downloaded films illegally from file-hosting sites, 28 per cent from peer to peer file-sharing sites; while a surprisingly high 30 per cent had been swapping films on hard-drives and USB sticks.

There were further findings taking in social media and online activity (more  than a third had arranged cinema trips via Facebook, a touch more had also “liked” official film pages on Facebook, 16 per cent tweet about films or film releases on Twitter, 19 per cent follow an actor, while one in three visit official film pages on Youtube). Some of the elements we found most interesting were the breakdowns into different groups.  Rather than just follow the norm – heavy, regular, moderate filmgoers, which takes no account of taste – Film3sixty’s research breaks it down into groups. There’s Blockbuster Only (one in 10 respondents, watch a lot of TV, most likely to pirate, most likely to think cinema is too pricey); Blockbuster Mainly (almost 60 per cent, buy the most amount of home entertainment product, heaviest facebook and youtube users – also the “truest picture of the mainstream film consumer”); Indie Mainly (the second biggest group, heaviest cinemagoers and consumers of DVD, most likely to stream online and watch on a laptop or desktop) and Indie Only (the smallest group, lest likely to pirate and lightest DVD consumers). These groups threw up some interesting figures of their own,  particularly when it came to windows: 65 per cent of the Blockbuster Mainly group were prepared to pay the equivalent price or even more to see a film on another format at the same time as its theatrical release. That dropped slightly to 63 per cent for Blockbuster Only, 53 per cent for Indie Mainly and 42 per cent for Indie Only.

“What we’re trying to understand is film fans’ relationship with the format and the whole life cycle [of a film],” says Watts, talking about the research which cost “a six figure sum” and is, he believes, the biggest single piece of film research ever. “We wanted to look at the way consumers see a film release rather than the industry perspective.”

So now Watts and co have spent around six months poring over the figures (“It’s taken a really long time to go through,” he explains), what will they be used for? Watts says the figure will be shared across the Target Media Group, with its assorted media agencies and others. “It will inform everything we do,” he notes. “We can look at the influence of reviews, the influence of media, every aspect of a film’s release. We can look at the decision making process, [it will help us decide] how to advertise and how to influence people.”

With PR and marketing functions as well as research and digital elements, on top of its core media buying company, the cross-group initiative will enable the company to join up its thinking and strategy.

And it will also feed back into the latest addition to the Target and Film3Sixty empire, the Films3Sixty magazine.

With a print run of 500,000 for its first two issues (inserted via The Guardian and Observer and given away in FOPP stores), and a third on the way,  it’s an interesting new addition to the film sector.

“It’s an agency initiative,” explains Watts. “Marketing has changed completely. Technology driven a change in consumer behaviour and social media has put consumers firmly in control. Consumers choose that they want and when they receive it, and on what devices – on the go, tablets. Marketing professionals have had to think about their approach to advertising.”

The days of just cutting a good trailer and waiting for consumers to arrive have, Watts says, disappeared. “We came to the conclusion that the focus had to be more on the consumer, we had to build a more direct conversation with consumers.  Out of that came Film3Sixty, the agency and then the magazine.”

It covers films for Target clients and adds another string to the company’s bow. “We only cover films for our clients, but it’s a showcase for quality movies. We’ve had a fantastic response to it. It’s a very powerful tool for us. It’s a magazine for UK distributors of quality independent movies, covering intelligent cinema.”

The impressive element has been that home entertainment takes almost as much precedence as theatrical. “It’s very much driven by the needs of our clients. If ours want to put an emphasis of home entertainment we’re very happy to do that. It’s supporting the distribution sector, whatever their priorities are, we’re happy to work with that. Theatrical takes the lion’s share, but, from a business end, home entertainment is a huge part of the revenue stream,” he concludes.

The next issue of Filkm3Sixty is due in March 2012.

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