Stephen Ellis and Gina Lijoi launch RocketFuel Media

In response to changing industry and funder demands, the venture will assist producers in creating digital content for their TV and film properties (Ellis pictured).

According to Stephen Ellis (pictured), cofounder and president of the newly launched RocketFuel Media, Canadian producers are at a significant crossroads in the digital revolution, and need to adapt or die.

“We saw what happened to the music industry 10 years ago when the internet started to disrupt its business model. The bigger players resisted the change, and that caused some pretty cataclysmic developments,” he tells Playback.

“We’re facing the same kind of disruption to our business model. The question is are we going to have the industry impacted the way the music industry was, or are we going to move forward and seize this as an opportunity to keep consumers engaged and not rebelling or trying to illegally file share our projects,” he adds.

To assist broadcasters and producers who are making the leap to digital, Ellis, who previously helmed Ellis Entertainment and is a long-serving CMPA board member, launched RocketFuel Media with cofounder and digital strategist Gina Lijoi.

The venture, says Ellis, will offer a variety of services to producers looking to create online extensions of their TV and film properties.

Gina Lijoi

Depending on the size and scale of the project, as well as the experience of the producer, RocketFuel will help plan a project’s digital marketing strategy or design and develop content for a digital extension.

According to Ellis, funding agencies like the Canada Media Fund, having recognized the need for producers to go digital and, in some funding streams now requiring a digital media component to award funding, expect a comprehensive digital strategy and sophisticated digital media extensions from TV and film producers seeking financing for their projects.

“The funding agencies want to hear more than ‘Yeah, we’re going to do a website based on our show.’ They want to hear that there’s something more meaningful and substantive that will be a digital expression of the show and makes sense for the particular property,” he adds, explaining that RocketFuel also wants to help producers to receive funding.

But as consumers continue to search for any content, anywhere, anytime, and on any device, the challenge facing producers is finding ways to monetize the digital landscape, says Ellis.

“There are ways to monetize, but it’s a timing issue,” he explains.

“In the digital world it’s tough to [lineup financing before production] because there aren’t players out there like the Canadian broadcasting industry who are willing to commit big money to projects in advance of making them,” he continues.

He adds, however, that, on a smaller scale, this too is changing rapidly.

While players haven’t yet emerged who can offer big bucks to producers in advance of their online projects, Ellis says players like Google and iTunes have found ways to monetize web content, and more money will find its way into the hands of producers once digital content overtakes traditional media in viewership.

But the challenge will continue to be creating incentives for viewers to purchase content that can be easily pirated.

“The government has been active there; we’ve got a new copyright act,” he says.

“It brings us in line with our major trading partners like the U.S. and UK. We’re to some degree playing catch up, but there’s still an opportunity and we want to make sure there’s a much brighter future for the TV business than film,” he adds.

Photos: Stephen Ellis, Gina Lijoi from RocketFuel Media