For those considering Rovio to be simply that Finnish company behind the Angry Birds mobile games, stop that right now. Rovio has been positioning itself as an entertainment company on the level of Disney—complete with an animation studio, theme park, book business and plush toys. And the company will look to solidify that stance when it launches the Angry Birds Toon video series on March 16 and 17.
“We view ourselves as the media company for the connected device era,” said Michele Tobin, Rovio’s head of brand partnerships and advertising for the Americas. Considering that Angry Birds apps have been downloaded 1.7 billion times and reach 263 million monthly active users, Rovio has the stats to back up such a claim.
In keeping with that Disney 3.0 position, Rovio will be distributing Angry Birds Toons through a new channel being added to the Angry Birds smartphone and tablet apps, as well as multiple video and TV distribution outlets. In the U.S, the new show—which goes into Angry Birds’ characters backstories on the fictional Piggy Island—will be available via Comcast’s Xfinity on-demand service and Samsung Smart TVs, and will eventually be available through Roku and other connected devices.
However, Rovio’s YouTube Channel, which has received over a billion video views, will not be an initial distribution vehicle, but Tobin made it clear that the video platform could be in the cards for the future.
Rovio had the option of following Netflix’s original content distribution strategy and dump the series all at once (a la House of Cards), but is instead adopting a more traditional scheduling system. A single 2 minute 45 second episode will air each weekend, first hitting TV on Saturday and then rolling out to the mobile and tablet Angry Birds apps on Sunday. The company, which has an Angry Birds full-length feature film in the works for 2016, has stockpiled 52 episodes in total and is “not ready to announce a new series at this time,” Tobin said.
While the series will be distributed traditionally through TV network partners outside the U.S. (such as Cartoon Network in India), it begs the question of whether a Rovio TV network is in the works. “That’s not something we can talk about right now,” Tobin said. She also wouldn’t go into detail on whether Rovio feels the need to expand beyond the Angry Bird property. After all, Disney is way more than just Mickey.
“The birds have legs. We have a very large, highly engaged audience, and we’re going to continue to give the fans what they want and also bring them new and exciting content,” Tobin said, citing a 97 percent brand awareness stat for the brand in China.
Given the series’ potential reach (the apps have been downloaded by 263 million users), plus however many people will watch it on TV, it’s not surprising that advertisers have already signed on. Activision, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and BlackBerry are the series’ four launch brands, and “we are definitely going to bring on more advertisers” before all 52 episodes air," Tobin said.