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mocoNews - Warner's iPhone App Push: Beginning Of The End For Small Developers?

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Dianne See Morrison
mocoNews.net
Tuesday, May 26, 2009; 12:00 PM

Hollywood studio Warner Brothers Digitial Entertainment is gearing up to become a major distributor of iPhone and iPod Touch apps, with plans to release another 25 apps by the end of the year, Variety reports. Warner Digital Distribution director of worldwide marketing Stephanie Bohn told the trade magazine, "We've established ourselves in the physical world; now we're trying to do the same in the digital world." So far, the studio has developed and released 15 apps this year, including one for its upcoming film "Terminator Salvation", as well as other major film and DVD releases. Apps coming down the line are ones for Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes.

Other studios have also developed iPhone apps for their films. Paramount rolled out an app for its film Star Trek, while Sony (NYSE: SNE) released an "Angels and Demons app. What makes Warner's attempt different, according to Variety, is the studio's positioning itself as an "end-to-end" app distributor, which includes developing the app, getting it approved by Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), and marketing it. Warner also said it was broadening the range of apps it would launch, not just ones that are linked to its studios properties. It will also look at being more inventive as to what the app can offer, for example, offering episodes of video apps. Some of the apps will come from its theatrical unit and Warner interactive, while others will be built by outside developers that the studio is reaching out to.

Do Warner's plans for iPhone apps signal the end to the success stories we've heard of small developers, and even sole individuals making it big on the App Store? Is the App Store embarking on a second phase in which larger content players will emerge as the dominant players? Warner certainly thinks so.

Bohn touted, for example, the studio's strong relationship with Apple ("We spend time talking with them weekly, if not daily," she said) and the power of its marketing machine, which of course, smaller developers just don't have. Warner says it will market apps through social media marketing, but also through print and TV ads, and for movie apps, trailers on DVDs.

It also appears that content brands such as Warner may be able to price their apps high above the typical 99-cent mark, and still appeal to consumers. "The Terminator: Salvation Graphic Novel" app (pictured, right), for example, sells for $3.99. It's also considering selling future apps at even higher prices?such as $5.99, $7.99 and up. For smaller developers, getting the price right has an immediate impact on sales, whereas a large studio has more room to experiment.


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