When discussing the burgeoning streaming landscape, Sandra Stern, recently promoted to vice chairman of Lionsgate Television Group, observed that popular TV franchises even from long-ago decades can stop the “churn” — that is, subscribers who sign up in order to watch one highly promoted movie or TV series and then drop the subscription after they watch it.
Stern and other top executives at the company joined TheWrap for Tuesday’s virtual Power Women Summit (PWS) panel entitled “The Women of Lionsgate: Brands & Franchises in Today’s Media Landscape,” sponsored by Lionsgate. Stern said the value of producing TV franchises came into sharp focus during the pandemic as stay-at-home viewers entered into the premium subscription service game.
“The big concern for all streamers, for all paid platforms, is churn,” Stern said. “There’s something we must watch [so]we sign up for platform, and once we’ve seen it, we tune it out. The streamers, particularly the pay services, are looking for ways not only to draw in subscribers but to retain subscribers. And the a reliable way to substitute to retain subscribers is to keep them connected to things that they know and love … I think for streamers particularly that is a really major objective.”
Fellow panelist Erin Westerman, Lionsgate president of production, motion picture group, agreed — adding, however, that the potential for sequels never drives the original idea.
“Almost all of our franchises began as movies that were just a one-off, mid-range movies. We did not release the first ‘John Wick’ (in 2014) and call it ‘John Wick 1,’” Westerman said. (John Wick sequels “John Wick: Chapter 2” was released in 2017; “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” followed in 2019 and the much-anticipated “John Wick: Chapter Four” is due in 2023). “We had no real awareness,” she continued, “and we would kidding ourselves if we said we did, that the movie would become the thing that it became.”
Added Westerman, “You go into it knowing that you’re telling a story about a character who you hope the audience will love as much as we love … But the audience has to show up and tell you that they want more of that character.”
Jenefer Brown, Lionsgate executive vice president and head of global experiences, said the company is continually updating its approach to connecting franchise content with new audiences — connecting existing IP to new platforms, including encouraging and connecting with fans who want to partner with Lionsgate as IP-inspired creators of their own products and stories.
“As as content creator, we really want to engage and deliver content to our fans in as many authentic ways as possible,” Brown said. “The Metaverse and Web3 is of course a big topic of conversation. And the reason that we in the IP world are so excited about that space is because it gives us the direct connection to fans.”
Kamala Avila-Salmon pointed out that much of her job as head of inclusive content for Lionsgate’s motion picture group is making sure that the franchises themselves, get a reinvention with each new iteration to make sure the story and characters reflect today’s diverse audiences. She noted that audiences of all groups, including white audiences, want a window into underrepresented cultures and a diverse cast of characters.
“This is not just a social justice enterprise,” Avila-Salmon said. “There are real reasons why we need to think about what some of the social impact of this work is — but [even if] your approach is purely capitalist, it is in your best interest to make content that is relevant to the cultural carriers of your generation.”
And, she added, “There are other things that are taking audience attention — there’s gaming, there’s social media. And so in order to stay relevant, we have to continue to make content that feels relevant to the audience that is actually consuming it.”
For more of the discussion, you can watch the full panel here or in the video above.
The Power Women Summit (PWS) is the largest annual gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media and technology. The event aims to inspire and empower women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year’s PWS provides two days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking around the globe – to promote this year’s theme, “A Time to Unite.” Learn more here: thewrap.com/pws.