According to recent smartphone market analysis from International Data Corporation, global units shipped rose 16 percent year over year for Q1 2015 to over 334 million. Samsung (OTC: SSNLF) extended its lead over Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) by nearly 6.3 percent market share, due in part to the growing ubiquity of Google’s (NASDQ: GOOGL; GOOG) Android OS, which represented some 81.5 percent of the market last year alone. With tools like Myriad’s Alien Dalvik, a virtual machine port that allows Android apps to be run on non-Android phones, it is little wonder that Google continues to dominate in areas like mobile, traffic acquisition and core search, as indicated by the recent earnings release which trounced analyst expectations, leading to an all-time high of almost $700 a share on July 17, as the company added roughly $65 billion market cap in a single day.
With mobile gaming set to finally overtake the console market by as much as 14.8 percent this year according to Newzoo, generating around $30.3 billion in revenues worldwide, it is important to understand how, in an industry where content is king, the $4 billion and $3 billion Apple and Google pulled down last year respectively, is really just the beginning of what’s to come. Contrast those figures for instance with a company whose very name is historically synonymous with gaming, Nintendo (OTC: NTDOY), which did just $2.4 billion last year and is moving more and more toward portable gaming instead of the console market, and it is easy to see how big mobile gaming already is.
Because content is king in the world of gaming (not to mention the broader world of digital media), the strategy being deployed by WRIT Media Group (OTC: WRIT), which acquired legendary brand Amiga Games in 2013, makes a great deal of sense. The company’s focus on bringing retrogaming content to mobile platforms, as well as to the console, PC and set-top market, building on storied brands like Amiga and Atari, is an ingenious way to tap into this increasingly hot space by publishing classic games which already have an existing fanbase, and which have proven they can resonate with end users. The company has even negotiated a Channel Application Development and Games Distribution Agreement with Roku, whose streaming player set-top box has sold well over 10 million units to date. In this same vein, WRIT’s acquisition of Front Row Networks, which is engaged in production, distribution and financing for a variety of entertainment, such as family programs, music documentaries and live concerts, puts the company is a solid position to capitalize on the increasingly broad array of devices consumers use to enjoy media (as well as capitalizing on the ever-lucrative theatrical release market).
The company’s approach to the rapidly changing digital media market would not be possible without the leadership of guys like Eric Mitchell, WRIT’s chairman and CEO, whose two plus decades of business development, finance and strategic planning expertise are the cornerstone of the company’s over-the-horizon strategy. Historically, Mitchell was instrumental in helping Sony (NYSE:SNE) Pictures Entertainment division, Tri-Star, acquire the theatrical distribution rights for such blockbusters as Cliffhanger ($190 million gross profit worldwide) and the comedy Weekend at Bernie’s II ($5.7 million gross profit), as well as multi-picture distribution rights with Carolco Pictures.
The Carolco deal brought home over $250 million in profits for Sony and led to such Verhoeven classics as Basic Instinct ($303 million gross profit worldwide) and Total Recall ($196 million gross profit worldwide).With over $500 million of production financing arranged across 46 feature films in his role as an advisor to Ascendant Pictures and VIP Media Fund, this Carnegie Mellon University graduate with an M.S. in management from MIT’s Sloan School, provides exceptional guidance at the helm of WRIT, allowing the company to judiciously execute their dual media vectors in mobile gaming and entertainment. And Eric Mitchell is just the tip of the talent iceberg for WRIT Media Group.
Patrick Roberts, WRIT’s president and COO, who heads up the company’s wholly-owned Retro Infinity and Amiga Games subsidiaries, is no less astute, bringing to the table more than 30 years in business development, as well as computer graphics and software development, with a particular emphasis on such key areas as compression and mobile optimization. Having previously developed software for such family entertainment giants as Dreamworks (NASDAQ: DWA) and having been a supervising effects animator for Disney’s (NYSE: DIS) Animation Studios, as well as having won a Vanguard Award for his work as Senior 3D Animator at EDS Digital Studios, Roberts is the kind of visual artist needed to ensure that WRIT’s content looks as good as it feels.
Roberts also co-founded one of the pioneering third-party mobile developers in the industry back in 2002, Lower Mars, which focused on entertainment middleware and smartphone apps for such companies as Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and Motorola (NYSE: MSI). Later, Roberts went on to co-found advisory and development services firm MediaPlasm, which has assisted such media juggernauts as Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOXA;FOX) TV with monetization of their social media and over-the-top content platforms, providing similar services to other big clients and partners, such as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), and Target (NYSE: TGT).
Behind the lens at WRIT’s entertainment media subsidiary, Front Row Networks, is creative director Andy Morahan, who cut his teeth in the directorial game working with such artists as George Michael and the English electronic pop duo Pet Shop Boys. Morahan later went on to work with such high-end production companies as Propaganda, RSA/Black Dog and Vivid, directing videos for music legends like Aerosmith, Guns’n Roses and Van Halen, as well as world-famous artists like Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, winning multiple MTV Video Awards for his work.
Morahan didn’t stop there, he branched out into commercial work after establishing himself as a music video director par excellence and scored a homerun right out of the gate, directing the iconic Guess Jeans ad for Great Guns that starred Juliette Lewis and Harry Dean Stanton. A commercial which garnered over 60 awards, including six Clios, a Silver Lion at Cannes, and five D&AD’s (Design and Art Direction). Morahan then went on to direct commercials for clients such as Barclays (NYSE: BCS), Ford (NYSE: F), and Toyota (NYSE: TM), before forming his own shop, Bikini Films, one of the top London-based media production houses in the game today, specializing in commercial and music video production.
Also on the team at Front Row Networks are John Diaz (advisor) and Bob Johnson (strategic business consultant), both of whom have an impressive professional track record. Diaz has more than four decades doing a wide variety of music and video production and distribution, stretching all the way back to his early days as a non-paid stage manager at the original Woodstock festival. One of the top pioneers in events for broadcast and music videos during the heyday of MTV, Diaz has handled television production for domestic and international markets on some of the biggest music events of all time, doing specials for the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and The Rolling Stones. One of the first employees at mp3.com and later an executive VP at VUNET, the internet division of Vivendi (OTC: VIVHY), Diaz has been on the cutting-edge of digital music distribution since the origins of the space.
Johnston on the other hand is a logistics-focused 3D production maven, with a résumé that includes live action feature programming work for top names in the industry like IMAX and Lionsgate. With extensive experience handling everything from budgeting and scheduling, to mapping out post-production workflows on some 300 plus stereoscopic projects, including the requisite capture/playback hardware technical development and consultation for both public and private venues, Johnston is instrumental at Front Row Networks when it comes to keeping projects moving forward and within budget. Considerable work in international markets like Brazil and Korea, where he was vital to getting the 3D market up and running via work with TV Globo and Skylife 3D, underscores a career that also includes physical production and promotion work for massive multi-day music festivals, featuring numerous top 40 acts.
From Barry Manilow and Fleetwood Mac, to Ozzy Ozbourne and Rush, Johnston has been a key asset when it comes to making large-scale events go off without a hitch, and he was also vital in handling various aspects of early tour development for the initial solo tours of such world-renown artists as Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson. Add to this Johnston’s experience in frontline project development from commercials and television, to music videos and feature films, where he obtained production credits ranging from production manager/supervisor, to producer/associate producer on big budget gigs for outfits like Disney, Dreamworks, Fox, Paramount and others, and you have the portrait of a top industry professional who brings a great deal of strategic experience and vision to the table at WRIT. Johnston’s portfolio of projects includes such hits as “Alien Resurrection” and the pilot for the “24” TV series starring Kiefer Sutherland.
WRIT Media Group’s strategy is clearly powered by a deep bench of seasoned industry talent and the company deserves a closer look by investors who are interested in playing off the burgeoning mobile gaming and digital content distribution markets.
Find out more at www.writmediagroup.com
Update 9/21/15: WRIT Media Group has started a Kickstarter campaign to launch the Retro Infinity Player. For more details, visit: http://dtn.fm/writ-media-kickstarter
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