By David Marlett, Managing Director, enkHouse
I just finished a marathon contract drafting session. Yes, I am an attorney, though I prefer the moniker of “Recovering Attorney”. There should be an AA group for Attorneys Anonymous.
“Hello, my name is David.”
“It has been 17 months since my last billable hour.”
The contract in question was one of several Transmedia Co-Production Agreements we (enkHouse) have been entering with a number of publishers to do enhanced eBooks and über-apps for some of their front and backlist books. Some of the agreements are a bit generic, along the lines of a joint venture, but I needed a contract specific to this newly emerging space, one that covered the contingencies, but didn’t narrow things too much… because frankly, I’m not sure how much latitude will be required.
(By the way, I’d be happy to share with you my draft of that contract; just shoot me an email.)
One school of thought is to create a standalone company with the publisher and us as co-owners, that way the ownership percentages cover the contingencies of revenue share, provides some additional liability protection, and is a cleaner vehicle for adding other parties to the revenue share trough, such as third-party financiers (if any are needed).
In this particular instance, though, I opted to go with a modified co-production agreement that I gleaned from my film industry jaunts. In fact, I used a type of agreement that is particularly suited to adaptations from pre-existing media already produced for another platform, and it seemed to work pretty good. I did put in an option of forming a separate company to hold the rights, etc., if it seems expedient to do so down the road. We’ll see; it’s now off to the publisher and their attorneys.
There are a lot of questions raised in the process of drafting these agreements, such as the production budget, shared marketing and distribution costs, etc., and they are questions for the industry as a whole to consider.
For me, distribution is the bigger conundrum than production. Sure, we have our deals with Apple, streamlining the on-ramp to that wide iOS Superhighway. But what about the new interstate (interstellar?) highways being built, like Android Parkway and the Windows 7 Turnpike?
I am betting that soon there will be a company dedicated to the distribution of transmedia; a great opportunity for taking the myriad new products and getting them out into the right channels and in front of the right audiences, with a good P&A boost. (P&A = prints and advertising in the film biz.)
That leads to thoughts on the marketing of apps, enhanced eBooks and other transmedia products. Though not exclusively, we seem heavily reliant on word of mouth and platform ads (think iPad commercials), but that isn’t a scalable way to drive your app to market.
What do you think is the best way?
Who out there is getting really good at this? Will we see film distribution companies starting to take on transmedia projects that arise from books? Perhaps internet marketing companies making the jump?
Or, are you thinking of forming that sparkling-new app distribution and marketing company? If so, great, let me know. I want in.
PS: Only the cool kids are attending the DBW WEBcast on 10/12, Transmedia 101 for Publishers and Authors. So, well…you decide.
David Marlett is the managing director of enkHouse, a transmedia production company based in Dallas and Los Angeles, focused on enhanced eBooks and interactive apps for the publishing, film and other entertainment industries.