Since 2013 when the network revived the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon tradition, Shout! Factory TV has become known for its marathons.
While many networks only trot out marathons during holidays, if at all, marathons have become a staple of the network’s strategy year-round, taking advantage of the burgeoning demand for what they term “super” long-form content.
On Wednesday, March 28 at 3 p.m., the tradition continues, as Shout! Factory TV teams up with Twitch to host a 24-hour marathon of ReBoot, the first entirely computer animated TV show from 1994.
The timing is no accident, as the event comes two days before Netflix’s reboot of Reboot, entitled ReBoot: The Guardian Code, hits the streaming service.
“Marathons have worked for us,” said Gene Pao, senior vice president, digital media, Shout! Factory TV. “The viewers have been really excited when we do marathons, despite the fact that these are older programs that they have seen before. What’s unique is that it’s a new way of watching it, especially when you get a bunch of people together watching it at the same time, and they can chat, comment and enjoy it in a different way.”
Marathons often occur monthly on Shout! Factory TV.
“We program a monthly cycle to release and promote stuff,” he said. “Every month we create a promo that highlights what’s coming up. What we like to do is anchor that programming with a marathon or something notable to get people excited about watching our service.”
The marathon format is consistently the viewer favorite.
“With the binge-watching phenomenon and the success we’ve had, and Twitch has had with super long-form programming, as I call it, we’re starting to do it more and more,” he said.
Twitch, who’s hosting the event on Shout! Factory TV’s Twitch channel, has been at the forefront of the eSports revolution – and Shout! Factory believes the format extends further, lending itself to marathon TV watching.
“We equate it to a long sporting event where you’ve got people in a stadium all able to watch it at the same time, and you’ve got chats that are going so fast. We saw this during Mystery Science Theater 3000 marathons. It was impossible to read it all,” said Pao. “You’re in a stadium and you’re hearing people cheer. You can’t tell what people are cheering but you can tell by the volume of cheers, or the volume of chats, how popular something is at a certain time.”
With Twitch, Shout! Factory has found a kindred spirit in devising ways to drive fan engagement for hours and hours on end.
“The way we think about presenting programming online and getting that fan interaction, and how Twitch thought about, is almost identical,” Pao said. “We’ve continued to push that concept with our content on their platform, as well as others, but we like their platform the best because of the features they provide.”
To get fans further engaged in the marathon, Shout! Factory will be giving away a few hundred 3D postcards that were previously included in their ReBoot DVD boxed set. This will happen during the live Twitch chat, as well as before and during the event on Twitter to encourage people to join the co-stream.
In addition to all 47 episodes of the show, the event will showcase special features like “Fast Forward: The Making of ReBoot” and “Alpha Numeric: Looking Back at ReBoot with Co-Creator Gavin Blair.”
But ReBoot is just the beginning, as the network’s recent headlines attest. Two weeks ago, Shout! Factory TV purchased the rights to Roger and Julie Corman’s 270-title library. A few days ago, the network followed that up by acquiring the rights to ITV’s titles, which include a diverse range of films such as Sophie’s Choice and The Last Unicorn, and the Gerry Anderson TV catalog.
“It’s part of our broader strategy to acquire libraries that we think are going to have value on multiple platforms,” said Pao. “That gives us a huge advantage because we have so many different platforms that we can exploit content on, not just digital.”
After all, Shout! Factory first began as a DVD and Blu-Ray creator and distributor.
“We apply the expertise we’ve developed with physical distribution and more recently with theatrical experiences to digital,” he said.
Shout! Factory believes a great “rebundling” is on the horizon.
“These big bundles are going to start to unbundle,” Pao said. “Then what we’ll have is a rebundling of services in the future because consumers can’t tolerate having to choose individual subscriptions for hundreds of channels. It’s just too much choice. You’re going to see networks rebundling, and when that happens we want to be one of the major players when it all shakes out.”
Their first move is to modernize their ever-growing library.
“What we’d love to do is partner with some of these emerging digital streaming brands to vary the tune,” Pao said. “One of the mantras we have is how can we take these beloved titles from the past and make them more contemporary? Or make it in a way that would appeal to a new generation of viewers.”
The network’s template may have come a year ago in the form of another marathon: Ask Dr. Ruth, the classic sex talk show with Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
Entitled “Swiping Right with Dr. Ruth,” Shout! Factory brought Dr. Ruth into the digital age.
“Instead of just running a marathon of old Dr. Ruth episodes, we went over to Dr. Ruth’s house and created a whole new set of interstitial programming. We asked Dr. Ruth about sex and relationships topics today.”
Shout! Factory TV hopes to apply that formula to its growing portfolio.
But even as Shout! Factory aims to expand, their brand remains the same.
“We’re purveyors of classic and cult TV and film,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been known for and are good at, and that is what we want to leverage our strength going into the future.”
The future begins now. Tune in to Shout! Factory TV’s 24-hour ReBoot marathon March 28 at 3 p.m. pt on Twitch.