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The “Bill & Ted” Guide To Successful Theatrical Launches

Lessons Learned About PVOD From One of the Most Successful Movie Releases of 2020 

With cameras ready to roll on the long-awaited sequel in the “Bill & Ted” franchise, no one knew a global pandemic would force Orion pictures to “Face the Music” in more ways than one. In addition, no one could predict that “Bill and Ted Face the Music” would become a playbook for the future of not just Premium Video on Demand (PVOD), but launches across the board, from PVOD to theatrical.

To succeed, the movie studio would need to create the same kind of demand for people to watch the comedy on the couch as they normally would for going to the theater with their friends. But nobody had found the formula yet. 

ACR (automatic content recognition) data proved traditional, linear TV alone couldn’t deliver the blockbuster reach that the movie studio needed. The question was, what is the new playbook in an age where premieres don’t happen only in theaters?

Finding the formula, in the nick of time

For the “Bill & Ted Face the Music ” August 28, 2020 PVOD premiere, Orion’s goal was to generate major awareness — but that awareness had to turn into real sales (in theater and on-the-couch).  They turned to Operam, an agency that had driven success for several post-COVID 2020 PVOD releases. Together, they created a bold new playbook with two complimentary, parallel campaigns: an optimized PVOD push paired with an accompanying theatrical push. Operam shifted budgets to 70% digital and CTV and 30% linear. The campaign kicked off in social media, with Tik Tok performing particularly well. The bulk of the budget was invested in connected TV (CTV), working with partners like Samsung Ads that enabled them to target consumers across 45 million households across the country.

Because connected TV has the ability to target specific audiences, Orion could specifically reach consumers who were not exposed to the ad on traditional TV. In addition, the call to action and measurement was easy. After all, consumers just needed to click their remote to watch the movie right then and there: in fact, the Samsung Ads media buy drove 2,000 deeplink clicks to the movie purchase page on Apple TV using 1st screen ads.

CTV drove results literally everywhere. “Bill & Ted Face the Music” reported that during its opening weekend, the comedy charted No. 1 on both transactional video streaming services. Deadline reported “in the pic’s PVOD run sources tell us Bill & Ted Face the Music has notched around $32M” — 10x what the movie earned in theaters.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Playbook

  1. PVOD doesn’t stand for “pandemic”, it stands for “profit”. Movie studios are now multichannel retailers, and that means sales in-theater and in-home both matter. A connected TV campaign can drive revenue in both channels. It’s now as vital as posters outside the theater have always been. Think broad.
  2. Being multichannel means managing reach and frequency is more important than ever. Movie studios need partners that can help them manage reach and frequency across everything from linear to connected TV to mobile. Connected TV, with its ACR (automated content recognition) data, can help. 
  3. Digital lets you make the most of your star power. Why do studios greenlight a movie? Usually they believe in the script, the stars and the niche. Digital means movie studios can reach very specific audiences — like people who love a certain film genre and a certain actor etc — that are far more likely to see the movie and tell all their friends than the general public would. 
  4. Locking in hefty traditional upfront TV deals is too risky when anything can happen. In the new world of complex releases through multiple channels, there are a lot of moving parts. Don’t let your media buy be the one thing that can’t change.
  5. Be excellent to each other. Driving success post-pandemic will require new partners, new capabilities, and new kinds of collaboration. Movie studios, who have this collaborative creative spirit at their core, need to bring that same spirit to their marketing. 

Brian Lam is the Head of Programmatic at Operam, where he has been contributing to building out solutions to solve for better transparency, reduction in fraud, and CTV solutions across the industry. Prior to Operam, Brian managed performance campaigns for A24, Avicii, Big Sean, Blizzard, Indiegogo, Lionsgate, Warner Brothers and more. Stephen Metzger is the Head of Marketing and Operations for Operam, overseeing partnerships and for the organization.