Today’s Storytelling is Converging to Transmedia
Updated: Sep 13
All roads lead to transmedia, at the crossroads of Interactive Entertainment, IP and Fan Ownership
By: Danny Pantuso, Venture Investor, Decasonic
In my time leading Product at Fubo Gaming - NYSE: FuboTV’s subsidiary - it became apparent that the core challenge facing every media company is how to turn passive viewership into actively engaged fandom. As a TV service, we did so by creating a second-screen sports wagering experience that integrated with the live sports viewing experience.
Now as a Venture Investor at Decasonic, I see how this confluence of media, gaming, and technology isn’t unique to sports streaming and viewership. Gaming, movies, and streaming services alike are all converging to transmedia storytelling: interwoven pieces of a story told through different media formats and likely involving emerging media formats powered by web3. The future will have narratives spanning both gaming and traditional television series, offering audiences the opportunity to seamlessly shift from passive viewing to active participation.
Transmedia is more than just multimodal media
Transmedia storytelling goes beyond just expanding or copying stories across different media. It's about blending the story smoothly into various formats for that particular audience. Unlike when the same story is shown in multiple places (like turning a book into a TV series), true transmedia storytelling tries to reveal special parts of the tale optimizing for that format. This not only encourages fans to look for each piece of the story, but also creates a deep attachment for the earned revelations of the intellectual property (IP) behind it.
Robert Pratten, CEO at Conductrr, suggests a framework for the essential 3 pillars of well-executed transmedia.
Characters - the importance of stories and lovable characters
Community - the importance of connecting and rewarding fans
Convenience - getting the right content to the right people at the right time.
The combination of these three pillars empowers IP owners to do more than just use characters across different platforms. Instead, they can use this synergy to create a personalized narrative for each audience member. This customized approach generates interest and deepens engagement with the IP.
Characters+Convenience – the personalization of the story experience for each person based on their relationship to the world.
Convenience+Community – the continued “personalization” but in a broader sense as applied to audience segments. For example, an audience team collaborates to unlock content that only they can see. Also at this intersection is the ability to share content and refer friends to the world.
Community+Characters – this is the relationship between the community and the world. Creators should provide opportunities to strengthen the relationship through procedures and technology to allow fan contributions, character interactions, and such like.
Converging to Transmedia
Our society's appetite for media is on the rise, with Americans estimated to have spent an average of 11 hours per day consuming various forms of media in 2020. We can only assume that generative AI will continue to accelerate this trend. Younger audiences, in particular, prefer shorter and more engaging content; if they don't find ways to interact, they quickly move on.
As a result, media companies and major brands are finding creative ways to partner with the game platforms where fans of their IP typically socialize. They’re recognizing that games – such as Minecraft, Fortnite, and Roblox – have become virtual gathering places where young people play but also just hang out.
Netflix, which first acknowledged this trend in their 2018 earnings report saying “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO,” is taking its first steps towards getting involved in gaming. Today, they are making a big push into video games, first dabbling with interactive titles like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and now with a full suite of mobile titles.
Gaming studios, on the other hand, see the same opportunity to expand their fan base and keep their IP alive but are coming at it from the other direction.
At the high-cost side of the scale, they’re creating companion animated series, showcased by the Witcher topping out as one of Netflix’s most-watched series of all time. Riot’s Arcane series was just greenlit for season 2, with a budget in the hundreds of millions. Forward-thinking gaming studios like Midnight Society are utilizing tradeable Founder’s passes with voting rights to bring gamers into the game development process, build gamer clans, and showcase their loot outside the game.
Similarly, billion-dollar NFT collections like Doodles are creating animated shows to bring characters to life, give them utility, and keep “HODLers” engaged. They’re starting with a static IP base and community and creating the media to sustain it.
Tying it all together conglomerates like Sony are filing patents for the NFT technology that will power fan engagement across platforms.
How Brands, Fans, and Studios can tap into Transmedia
Moving from simply using IP for profit to engaging in transmedia storytelling could be both ambitious and costly. It requires valuable IP, multiple distribution platforms, and the development of a supportive community, ideally through platforms owned by or connected to the IP owner.
But when well done, it grows the pie for everyone. Fans get more content. Brands get more ways to engage. Media companies have more levers to monetize.
Where major media companies are succeeding is in creating ecosystems that marry their platforms and IP with platforms and tools that build community. By tokenizing assets within a transmedia narrative—whether it's a beloved mascot, an iconic product, or a character-driven storyline—brands can allow fans to co-create, trade, and share in the narrative's evolution. Major brands like McDonald's and PepsiCo see how these campaigns don't just disseminate messages; they invite audiences to become part of the narrative, fostering loyalty, emotional investment, and a sense of belonging. It transforms mass push-based advertising into demand-based engagement.
Built on blockchain infrastructure, creators, fans, and brands can seamlessly collaborate, co-create, and reap the rewards of a shared transmedia experience. The tokenization inherent in Web3 technologies breathes life into characters, artifacts, and story elements, allowing them to transcend their original medium. This digital ownership not only amplifies the emotional connection between fans and IP but also enables the seamless transfer of these assets between different media formats, unlocking a realm of interconnected experiences.
Smart contracts, a cornerstone of Web3, enable the creation of novel revenue-sharing models. In the transmedia realm, this translates to equitable compensation for various contributors across platforms—be it writers, artists, developers, or even fans themselves. This revolutionary shift empowers the entire ecosystem by valuing every participant's role in enriching the story.
Additionally, the interoperability ingrained in Web3 nurtures the growth of diverse storytelling formats. IP owners can seamlessly pivot between games, interactive experiences, films, and beyond, as Web3's open architecture supports the integration of various platforms.
This flexibility is a game-changer for transmedia, ushering in an era where narratives become fluid, traversing mediums and captivating audiences in new, immersive ways. Web3 technologies don't just adapt to the transmedia vision; they actively shape and amplify it, propelling the evolution of storytelling into uncharted territories.
Projecting into the future
Going forward, burgeoning entertainment ecosystems will harness the full spectrum of available tools to weave increasingly expansive and intricate tales. While transitioning from mere IP exploitation to transmedia in gaming is ambitious and costly, the trend ultimately benefits everyone involved: Fans, brands, and media companies all gain more opportunities. Blockchain technologies will be a critical enabler for this trend, and will continue to breathe life into new ways to engage, monetize and connect with stories and media.
About the Author:
Danny is a Venture Investor at Decasonic, web3 native venture and digital assets fund building blockchain innovations for the global mainstream. With a technical background from Stanford University and experience as a product manager, CEO/founder, and now a venture investor, Danny is the in-house expert on product-market fit within web3.
Before Danny joined Decasonic, he worked in Product in Reykjavik at Iceland's largest travel marketplace and then founded Iceland's first takeaway and delivery marketplace during Covid. Upon exiting, Danny led Product at Fubo Sportsbook, integrating live wagering into FuboTV's sports-focussed streaming service.
He spearheads investment theses in web3 gaming, entertainment, AR/VR, and web3 x AI, working with startups to develop tokenomics, core user loops, and investing in the future of fun.
Danny's mission is to identify the best entrepreneurs in crypto, connect with them, evaluate the opportunities, and help them succeed post-investment. Outside of work, he's a life-long gamer, sci-fi and history nerd, and avid reader.