In my humble opinion...

October 20, 2009

Is Comcast Contemplating a Tilt-a-Whirl-- Theme Park TV Content Strategy?

The players: Comcast - NBC - Vivendi - GE - Blackstone - Halloween

What is your favorite amusement park ride?  Mine is the tilt-a-whirl.  Why?  Because the tilt-a-whirl is a chaotic platform that revolves as an unpredictable fun ride in motion.

Marketing needs to be about a big idea.  In David Ogilvy’s first book, “Confessions of an Advertising Man,” he wrote:  “Unless your advertising is based on a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.”  What might Comcast’s big idea be with NBC?  Certain financial analysts and shareholders view Comcast’s interest in purchasing NBC Universal as an ill-advised, non-core business move for a “cable company.”  Is this decision, chaotic, strategic, or both?   I believe Comcast intends to distribute information and entertainment by embracing TV as a service -- centered around building a companion content strategy focused on theme parks.  The NBC Universal Orlando Rip Ride Rockit Roller Coaster – will have you paying for a personalized music video to see yourself screaming at 65 mph.  Future admission to theme parks ­may be free, (subsidized by a Comcast Cable subscription), but visitors  will pay  “premium fees” for the privilege of seeing themselves have fun – with participants using Twitter to Tweet this moment with family and friends, who will send it to their friends on Facebook and so on.  Get the picture, video, print, t-shirt, mug, hat  ……, share a slice, just like pizza

Research briefs note that theme and amusement parks are strong drivers of timeshare vacations domestically and have a huge economic impact on international tourism – attracting an impressive number of visitors to key destinations throughout Europe.  Despite the economic downturn, regional and local parks have had very good 2009 seasons.  Having fun seems to be universal and, more importantly, recession-proof.

Who likes theme parks?  Everybody – with or without their parents and grandparents along for the ride.  Why?  Because having fun is an “event” that bears repeating over and over again.  Take the holiday, Halloween, for instance.  Did you know, as reported by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, that over 81% of amusement parks will hold Halloween or fall-themed events this year?  Hmmmm.  This is a lot of dynamically-changing content to be serviced, complete with predictable emotions and Hollywood-style special effects, boosting advertising – as art.   

For Comcast, theme parks will be their public relations toolbox.  Theme parks build brands, or facilitate changing the perception of a brand say from a cable company to a media mogul.  Theme parks offer multi-platform, alternative event landscapes, upon which Comcast can layer numerous revenue models.

NBC Universal has theme parks.  So does Blackstone Entertainment, lots and lots of theme parks and event forums.  Blackstone just recently purchased Busch Entertainment, the country’s second-most popular parks-entertainment group, second only to Disney Parks.  Blackstone also owns 70% of Merlin Entertainment, another family entertainment leader.    Is Comcast already courting Blackstone for targeted acquisitions to add theme park “content channels” to its corporate profile if an NBC/Comcast deal is struck?  Blackstone Entertainment already owns 50% of NBC Universal Orlando.  A Comcast deal with NBC gives Comcast real estate in Disney’s back yard.  This opens the door, I believe, for Comcast to pursue a national and international theme park acquisition strategy as a media mogul.

Here’s my chaos theory.  Theme park amusement communities are going to become Comcast’s new ad agency training grounds for personalization and promotion to generate revenue growth.  Is this content strategy BRILLIANT?  I think so Theme parks will let Comcast offer “TV as a Service” setting up customized content “inside and outside the box.”   It is easy to imagine how additional “fees” as micropayments and subscriptions will create revenue growth for Comcast to successfully marry content and distribution as a fun reward – even after your visit to a theme park

Will the centrifugal and gravitational forces of the tilt-a-whirl amusement park ride make it a Comcast favorite for years to come?

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