* Social media played big role in film's promotion
* Movie studios spent $2.9 bln in 2011 on TV ads - Kantar
By Ronald Grover
BEVERLY HILLS, May 4 The success with which "The
Hunger Games" film harnessed social networks, en route to
becoming 2012's biggest blockbuster, underscores a growing
threat to billions of dollars in movie-advertising revenue on
which broadcasters rely.
The futuristic movie about children fighting to the death
has scared up more than $375 million at the U.S. box office
since it opened in March, in part because Lions Gate
aggressively stoked interest on social network sites like
Facebook and Twitter.
That meant Lions Gate marketers likely spent $15 million to
$20 million less than a larger Hollywood studio might have,
using a campaign heavier on television advertising, Lions Gate
Entertainment Corp Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer said
during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles
Movie studios will likely buy fewer TV ads in the future,
and look more to online promotion, he said in answer to a
"The mix will change," said Feltheimer. "Companies that are
conglomerates, with large broadcast networks or a bouquet of
cable channels are going to have to adapt. And it will be
Lions Gate devotes 10-15 percent of its budget to online
promotion, he said. To stoke interest among its target audience
of under-30 moviegoers, the studio's efforts included a channel
on Google Inc's YouTube, a blog on Tumblr dedicated to
the movie's futuristic fashion, and a contest in which fans
collected pieces to the film's poster on several sites.
In all, the studio spent $45 million to market the film's
opening, according to people with knowledge of the expenditures.
TV networks "face a huge, huge risk" down the road, agreed
Mel Karmazin, CEO of satellite radio service Sirius XM Radio Inc
and a long-time advertising executive.
"It won't happen in 2012 or 2013 but in the longer term it
will hurt them," he said. "People listen to what their friends
say they like. Word of mouth is what advertising is about."
Movie studios spent $2.9 billion last year to advertise
their movies on TV, according to Kantar Media, which advises
agencies and brand owners on media strategies. That was up 15
percent from 2007.
"The demographic that social networking really plays to is
the 'twilight' late teens to early 20s," said Kenneth Wisnefski,
founder and CEO of internet marketing company WebiMax.
"When they see something they like, they go online to tell
their friends about it."
In contrast, he said bad word-of-mouth reviews among social
network users doomed the 2009 Sacha Baron Cohen film "Bruno,"
which opened strongly with $30.6 million on its first weekend
but stalled and ended with $59.9 million.
"A lot of those viewers went online to tell their friends it
was terrible," said Wisnefski.
Chase Carey, deputy chairman and chief operating officer of
News Corp, which owns cable channels and the Fox
network, downplayed the threat of social networking sites.
"TV will have a truly important place in generating interest
in new movies," he said at the conference. Users of social
networks "don't like pop-ups and other ads."
Feltheimer said Lions Gate's online marketing was especially
successful in Australia, where the movie will likely generate
$35 million in ticket sales, among its larger foreign markets.
The studio surveyed "The Hunger Games" moviegoers, said
Feltheimer, and found that 55 percent of them got "the majority
of the information about their movie" online.
"That made me think that the paradigm is changing even
faster than we thought," he said.