The Wall Street Journal has an article today on DC’s motion comics — the Watchmen one, which is up on iTunes (as I mentioned earlier today), and a Batman:Mad Love one, which is slated to go up on XBox Live next week:
The shorts are a kind of hybrid between a printed comic and a cartoon. The animation isn’t nearly as rich as a fully animated cartoon, with only limited motion that comes in the form of wisps of smoke, darting eyeballs and the like. But the story is advanced with music and voiceovers that speak the characters’ parts.
Warner, a unit of Time Warner Inc., sees the initiative as a way to unlock value from the company’s D.C. Comics library by creating a new kind of comic that can be distributed via the Internet, mobile phones and video on demand. It underscores the importance the studios are attaching to finding new revenue streams as sales shrink from DVDs, a cash cow for more than a decade. Last year, DVD sales totaled $15.9 billion, down from $16.4 billion in 2006, according to Adams Media Research.
They also talk about the cost — Watchmen is free right now, but only for a limited time:
The first episode of “Watchmen,” for example, initially will be free on iTunes but will cost $1.99 starting Aug. 1. Xbox users can buy “Mad Love” with points they purchase from Microsoft or earn with various promotions. The cost will be the equivalent of $1.25 an episode in standard video, or $1.75 in high definition.
Besides being a potentially new revenue stream for the suits over at Time Warner, they also have the benefit of using them to build hype around their films — both the currently playing The Dark Knight and next year’s Watchmen, which is getting some decent buzz this week. From a marketing perspective, they’ve done an excellent job of building excitement for The Dark Knight, and the fact that they’re using it as a starting point to hype Watchmen makes perfect sense.