Genvid CMO eyes video’s next frontier in Massively Interactive Live Events

Genvid has added new leadership to its ranks as it gears up to create a new kind of video experience through a mix of hyper-interactive narrative storytelling, big brands, and gaming. The company plans to leverage well-known and beloved content brands and franchises alongside proprietary cloud-based livestreaming technology to bring online experiences where large fan audiences are active participants, and who collectively have direct and instantaneous influence on a story’s outcome as it unfolds in real time.

They refer to this type of emerging content, which is a blend of streaming TV programming, interactive cloud gaming, and a long-run live event, as Massively Interactive Live Events (or MILEs).

Genvid has already put on one experimental MILE, commissioned for Facebook, called Rival Peak. This first early example of what Genvid ultimately aims to do was exclusive to Facebook and highly successful in terms of viewership when it ran roughly a year ago. The 12-week survivor-style episodic event clocked 100 million viewer minutes, according to DFC Intelligence’s November 2021 Cloud Game report.

The company has raised $166 million in venture funds and plans to double its workforce in 2022. It’s already announced a forthcoming MILE around the highly popular The Walking Dead franchise. The event, The Walking Dead: Last Mile, is teed up for this summer and will also be hosted by Facebook.  

Bringing in streaming content expertise and spearheading overall operations of the publishing division that will produce and introduce new MILEs to market, including The Walking Dead effort, is newly named president of Genvid Entertainment Andrew Schneider.

Andrew Schneider Genvid
Andrew Schneider (Genvid)

Schneider joins from Fox Bet & PokerStars USA, and his previous experience includes SVP of marketing for Disney Streaming Services, where he oversaw global performance marketing to support the launch of Disney+ and ESPN+. It’s a dual appointment for Schneider who is also joining Genvid as chief marketing officer of parent company Genvid Holdings.

“The Genvid vision appealed to me in a very great way,” Schneider told Fierce, who also brings experience as a gaming entrepreneur as co-founder of Live Gamer, as well as interactive storytelling during his time at Sony Pictures Digital.

However, while there are other examples of interactive storytelling (like Netflix’s 2018 experimental project Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which served as one point of inspiration for Genvid) nobody’s quite nailed it yet, he said, in terms of marrying cloud gaming tech with the narrative aspect of engaging a community at large and allowing fans to participate in a whole new way.

That was a big draw to Genvid, according to Schneider, in “being able to take this cutting-edge technology and apply entertainment principals, and live in the intersection of streaming video and video gaming, and create something new altogether.”

For Schneider, creation of subsidiary Genvid Entertainment, which is the publishing arm for MILEs, means creating a direct-to-consumer channel. There’s a branding effort underway, he said, to create demand and grow awareness of what MILEs are, and to entice consumers to come in and sample what they have to offer.

That starts first with Facebook, but the plan is to evolve into a multichannel publishing direct-to-consumer model that can cross platforms to meet consumers where they are.

There’s still a lot to be built out he noted, but is “very excited about not only the opportunity but where the company is already.”

Fans impacting their favorite franchise universes

One intriguing aspect about MILEs that could be big draw for superfans is the ability to impact the franchise’s official canon or history.

It’s something that’s pretty unique “and will be extremely rewarding and gratifying,” Schneider said.

For the upcoming MILE, Genvid is partnering with Skybound Entertainment (company of Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman) so fans can expect “a very authentic experience from our instantiation of The Walking Dead: Last Mile,” he added.

Participants will be able create their own character in the virtual Walking Dead environment during the MILE and what happens to that character is largely up to the user. In the virtual world individuals can make small decisions, while the collective group is tapped for larger changes. There’s even a possibility that participants could see their user-created character, as well as events that unfold during the MILE, show up in another manifestation of the Walking Dead, be it television or a comic book – something Skybound has said is part of the appeal, according to Genvid VP of Communications Garth Chouteau.

Giving power over to fans to impact franchise storylines could be a little scary for content creators, he acknowledged. But there’s no need for Skybound (or fans for that matter) to worry about an individual rogue person taking the fate of storyline and universe off track or impacting the canon in a negative way, Chouteau reassured, thanks to the collective nature.

“It’s all of your fans together contributing to shape the future history,” Chouteau told Fierce.“I think they’re [Skybound] trusting to the idea that millions of Walking Dead fans collectively won’t go completely off the reservation,” he said. So even though individuals do have agency in the MILE, it’s not enough so to say, wipe out the population or create some other catastrophe-level impact.

Genvid secret sauce

The ability for millions of fans to tune in live simultaneously, individually make decisions within the game and impact the story broadcast in real time is somewhat a feat itself.

Genvid’s MILEs don’t require any special hardware or software.  Users can access them on any devices that gets streaming video (and Facebook for the two mentioned) and don’t need to download or install any platforms.

It’s a cloud-based broadcast of content, that uses what Chouteau refers to as Genvid’s “special sauce”: the Genvid SDK, a proprietary livestreaming technology. It effectively allows all viewers to interact and engage with the content they’re streaming in real time, passes that user interaction collectively back to servers in the cloud where it’s processed and then incorporated into what’s being broadcast in real-time, he explained.

In terms of timeline, MILEs are longer than your average event, with Genvid envisioning many weeks or even months-long, Chouteau noted.

That doesn’t mean users need to stick glued to the screen, as there are multiple ways to catch up quickly with weekly companion recap shows or pop-up video recaps for example (Rival Peak’s 12-episode companion show “Rival Speak” hosted by Wil Wheaton averaged 14 million viewers). The Walking Dead: Last Mile event will be a multi-month experience but users can jump in as its convenient, be it for five minutes or for an hour, and still make an impact, as the interactive livestreams run persistently 24/7.

More MILEs in the pipeline

Genvid is still in development on monetization mechanisms, but Schneider said there will be opportunities for many different avenues, including micro-transactions. First order of business, he said, is bringing this new type of experience to market.

For Rival Peak and the Walking Dead MILEs, which were essentially commissioned by Facebook, there’s no monetization built in and they were still somewhat proof-of-concepts.  But for Facebook, it was a way to provide very sticky content and keep users coming back and stay. Chouteau  said the platform was “extremely happy” both what they saw with Rival Peak and so far with early work on The Walking Dead MILE.  

Currently Genvid has four MILEs in various stages of production (the Walking Dead version being the first to market), all based on very popular global brands or franchises across comic books, video games, film and TV.

“That’s the way to go after something like this and to tap into passionate fan bases that already exist,” Schneider said. He noted it doesn’t preclude Genvid from going down the original route, but tapping existing fan bases is the likley route for the foreseeable future.

Genvid is on track to release one MILE per year for the next few years, potentially two, which is largely a function of streamlining the pipeline, according to Chouteau.

As to the potential market size, DFC’s cloud gaming report projects revenue from cloud games and interactive streaming will grow from a little over $1 billion in 2021 to $13.5 billion by 2026. The firm said that new concepts like the metaverse and MILEs “expand the definition of gaming and interactive content and are expected to drive the future of interactive cloud streaming.”

The report noted that 2021 saw major initiatives around MILES and gaming events “that highlight a major short-term profitable growth opportunity” and “are already generating significant revenue opportunities, primarily form virtual sale items.”

“We do have significant opportunities out there, now it’s time to deliver those experiences that are really going to spark the imagination of fans globally,” Schneider said.