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CAA Wants an ‘Angry Birds,’ Launches Mobile Apps Company Moonshark

Jennifer Lopez is a partner in the company's first game, "DancePad"

CAA has entered the mobile gaming industry, partnering with Qualcomm in the launch of Moonshark, a startup that publishes mobile games and applications.

The Hollywood mega agency and the telecommunications giant founded the company back in 2011 as Creative Mobile Labs and then brought in Matt Kozlov to run the show and build out a team.

Now rebranded and relaunched, its first game, “DancePad,” debuted Thursday. It is a mobile game of “finger break dancing” — think Dance Dance Revolution on your phone. Jennifer Lopez, whose touring business CAA handles, is a partner in the game and holds a financial stake.

“We focus on creating really cutting edge, creative mobile games,” Kozlov, the company’s CEO, told TheWrap. “Our philosophy is that by working with Hollywood talent – really creative, really artistic people – we can build a large fan base in different fields.”

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Moonshark is not an app developer but a publisher, pairing talented programmers and developers with CAA’s stable of talent. Moonshark also handles the business, from financing to marketing.

The company has a pair of other games in the offing, one in collaboration with YouTube star Phil DeFranco and another with director John Woo, a CAA client. The DeFranco game will launch in the coming weeks while the Woo game is slated for the fall.

"At CAA, it’s our goal to always be thinking about new ways to deliver the most engaging entertainment experiences from movies to online programming, and now through mobile games and apps with the launch of Moonshark,” Michael Yanover, head of business development at CAA, said in a statement. “The Moonshark model offers amazing new opportunities for clients inside and outside of CAA to connect with their fans in a whole new way.”

CAA has also incubated companies in areas like web video (Funny or Die) and social media (WhoSay).

With the mobile game business now charting billions of dollars in revenue, the money is there for the taking. ABI Research projected that the mobile app industry, already generating $8.5 billion in revenue, would grow to $46 billion by 2016.

"Mobile gaming has brought games to everyone from eight-year old boys to 45-year old soccer moms," Kozlov said.

With CBS planning a series out of “Draw Something,” the intersection between mobile gaming and entertainment is growing. WME has invested in a mobile gaming company as well, Grab Games.

As for "DancePad," the partnership with CAA helped the company secure the rights to more than 30 musical artists, including Mayer Hawthorne and The Whigs.

In addition to being an investor, CAA owns a percentage and offers strategic support. Moonshark is also based out of CAA’s offices at the moment, and receives what Kozlov described as “almost unfettered access to its roster of clients.”

“The reason the company was founded is they were getting a lot of inbound interest from clients saying ‘I want to make an application. I have an idea for a game,” Kozlov said.

A group of USC students first developed “DancePad” as part of a senior thesis, and then Moonshark sensed an opening to cultivate a movement around the game like DDR did in arcades everywhere.

“DancePad” is a free download, but that only get you 20 levels. If people like it, they can pay $2.99 to unlock an additional 80 levels.

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