ANGELES — Serial entrepreneurs Prerna Gupta and
husband Parag Chordia launched their mobile reading app
Hooked in September as a way to publish fiction for the
social media generation.
during the last year, the Silicon Valley upstarts have
been making a bold pitch to Hollywood — use data to
find the next "Harry Potter."
which publishes experimental short stories in the form
of text message conversations, has won investments from
entertainment business heavyweights at companies like
Warner Bros. and talent agency WME.
would studio executives care about a fiction app for the
Snapchat-addicted? Some think the San Francisco startup
might have a diamond in the rough — the data it uses
to figure out which stories are working for its readers
and which aren’t. Hooked is one of several tech
companies that are trying to bring better analytics to
Hollywood, which is trying to find new ways to target
younger audiences who aren’t going to movies as
frequently as their parents.
of Hooked, including Warner Bros. production head Greg
Silverman and former WME agent-turned entrepreneur
Charles King, think Hooked could identify new material
and writing talent, and test scripts and story ideas
before they become movies and shows — taking some of
the guesswork out of the inherently risky business.
film industry has always made decisions based largely on
instinct and experience, and that breeds uncertainty as
companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars before
they find out if they have a hit like "Zootopia"
or a flop like "Gods of Egypt."
Hollywood, most films require a huge capital investment,
so the more data that’s available, the easier it is to
get them made," said Molly Schmidt, an investor at
WME Ventures. "Hooked could provide granular data
that could be very valuable for a studio, financier or
any other stakeholder."
while Hooked is sure to meet with skepticism, it’s a
logical extension of the entertainment business’ push
to use numbers and technology more skillfully.
the marketing side, studios and cinema chains are
teaming up with third-party tech firms to target their
advertising campaigns to certain segments of the
audience, a more tailored approach than traditional TV
commercials and billboards.
Zealand-based company Movio is using data analysis to
help cinema chains and studios do a better job of
finding the audiences for their films. The company’s
new service Movio Media pools audience data from theater
loyalty programs to help studios target moviegoers
interested in certain types of films.
its database of 15 million moviegoers, Movio, owned by
publicly traded company Vista Group, can analyze
demographic data including age, gender and location and
market to consumers based on that information.
cinemas are sitting on a huge amount of data," said
Will Palmer, co-founder and chief executive of Movio.
"There’s already a massive move toward media that
is measurable and targeted."
company says it has worked with all the major studios,
and Sony Pictures has signed a deal to use Movio’s
services for its movie slate. The studio has also forged
a partnership with ad agency UM and cinema advertising
company National CineMedia to better target ad campaigns
with data, starting with the July 15
have made huge advancements in the use of data to reach
moviegoers," said Elias Plishner, head of worldwide
digital marketing for Sony Pictures’ film division.
are still major limits to what data studios can access.
Theater chains are reluctant to share customer
information with studios, preferring to use it for their
own marketing efforts.
more data they can get the better," said Eric Wold,
a media analyst for B. Riley who follows cinema
companies and movie studios. "But I’m doubtful
how granular they can get."
Hollywood is making progress in using metrics for
marketing purposes, the creative end of the business
remains a mystery. Enter Hooked, which has yet to test
its Hollywood ambitions or develop scripts, and its
founders are still trying to figure out how their
platform could benefit studio players.
now, Hooked is experimenting with a new form of writing
that it thinks will prove attractive to millennials. Its
stories don’t read like traditional fiction. Rather,
the pieces — which span genres including mystery,
romance and horror — take the form of a text message
conversation. For example, one thriller on the app
follows a person stuck in the trunk of a car, texting a
friend for help.
users start reading a story, they must push a button on
the app to see the next line of dialog. If they don’t
continue, Hooked can then tell exactly when readers have
lost interest. Users can also "like" stories
and leave comments, giving the app feedback about what
parts of the story work and what do not.
company recruits graduates from creative writing
programs to build its library of pieces, most of which
take only five minutes to read. About 450,000 people
have downloaded the free app and 9,000 stories have been
published on the platform.
and investors say the app could be used to find new
writing talent and original stories to adapt into
movies, shows and online videos (in an early example, a
story called "Past Perfect" was converted into
a three-minute short film using Snapchat videos). It
could convert existing scripts into episodic Hooked
stories and see how readers react, piece by piece.
may seem like a stretch, and some are skeptical of the
idea, including "Foxcatcher" movie producer
interesting conceptually, but who reads movie
scripts?" he said. "How accurate is the
judgment of a bunch of people who read scripts on
main goal is to reach a big enough audience so it can
start making money, either through advertising or a
premium subscription model. Hooked so far has raised
$3.1 million in capital from investors.
thought Hollywood would just laugh in our faces and
dismiss us as being completely ignorant, but it has been
the opposite," Gupta said.
and Chordia previously founded music app maker Khush,
which they sold to rival tech company Smule in 2011.
Acharia-Bath, a talent manager and investor who
represents "Quantico" actress Priyanka Chopra,
said data mining could help fix Hollywood’s diversity
problem. Having more data could make it easier to get
unusual concepts and more diverse casts approved by
providing hard evidence that audiences gravitate to
think it can push the boundaries for Hollywood in
experimenting with new storylines and diverse
characters," she said. "If you can test
stories and get data to test out stories, you could take
out some of the guesswork."