‘Choozing’ your animated mobile content

Characters from Chooz’s made-for-mobile animated series ‘Foreplay’ – chosen for development by Fox TV Studios.When it comes to cutting edge mobile platform programming, Israel’s Chooz is ready to play in the big leagues. At least that’s what executives at American …

Characters from Chooz’s made-for-mobile animated series ‘Foreplay’ – chosen for development by Fox TV Studios.When it comes to cutting edge mobile platform programming, Israel’s Chooz is ready to play in the big leagues. At least that’s what executives at American media giant Fox Television Studios think. The studio recently optioned a Chooz made-for-mobile series under an exclusive deal.

Under the terms of the deal, Fox TV Studios is optioning the Chooz series Foreplay, a made-for-mobile animated series profiling a single woman living in the big city, as a television property.

According to Fox TV Studios Executive Vice President of Global Marketing Regina DiMartino, the show appealed to the company’s executives on a number of levels.

“We were very intrigued by the character, and the edginess and innovation of the creative content also impressed us. “We thought it had definite possibilities for the US,” she told ISRAEL21c.

Fox Television Studios is an independent unit of the Fox Entertainment Group that produces a broad range of television programming for the US and global markets, including Malcolm in the Middle and The Bernie Mac Show. In recent years, its cutting-edge programs have won multiple Emmy, Golden Globe, Peabody, Humanitas and other awards.

The studio opted to acquire all US mobile rights as well as worldwide television, home entertainment, Internet, publishing and merchandising rights under the breakthrough deal with Chooz. Currently, the Foreplay series is distributed by Chooz across mobile platforms outside of the United States.

“I think this is the first animation series that Fox ever bought from an Israeli company,” Chooz Vice President of Business Development Dan Atzmon told ISRAEL21c.

Created in 2001 as the interactive arm of Jerusalem Capitol Studios (JCS), Israel’s leading private media group, Chooz was established with the aim of creating unique and enticing content for what was then termed the ‘new media.’

This was achieved by building a three-tier strategy: creating mobile content, establishing relationships with media outlets and honing relationships within the advertising world while producing content likely to be picked up by sponsors.

“Our main source of business being mobile content, we are working directly with several operators serving as aggregators and sales channels providing us with localization for specific markets in Europe, Asia and the US,” Atzmon explains.

Working with 2G handsets as the original outlet model, Chooz content creators took their understanding of television and storytelling into new media outlets like Internet and mobile.

The result was Girlz, an innovative daily mobile soap opera for teenagers. The soap ran over 200 episodes for four seasons and enjoyed continuous exposure in Israel?s leading teen magazine.

Due to teenage technical savvy, content developers were on-target when aiming at that demographic during the program development phase.

“Teenagers have more handsets and are more technically advanced than most users,” Atzmon explains. “We used to pass notes in class; they send SMS. Kids that age will SMS ‘Will you be my girlfriend?’ instead of asking face-to-face.”

Atzmon terms the new mobile programming wave as ‘bus stop content’.

“You’re waiting for a bus or the doctor and you feel like killing time. So you check out a portal and see what’s on. If it’s something funny or interesting, you go for it.”

Chooz’s next programming development was the award-winning Who Kidnapped Rachel B.? the world’s first interactive detective drama for mobile phones, according to Atzmon. Plotted around a beautiful student who disappears, viewers places themselves in the detective role making decisions about the ongoing search and investigation and scoring points. When the series wrapped up, a best detective was announced and prizes were awarded.

According to Atzmon, Foreplay, is more of an adult oriented made-for-mobile video content series and has taken off with the spread of 3-G networks. Foreplay’s audience is more mature and generally uses more advanced handsets than younger counterparts.

Last month, Chooz won a Mobile Entertainment Award given by the Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) to the “most influential members in the industry for the next year.” Foreplay received a ‘Meffy’ in the Mobile Content category, chosen by a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of mobile entertainment businesses and entrepreneurs.

With a core team of about nine people working out of JCS Tel Aviv, Chooz concentrated on Israel’s market for three years and in 2005 began looking for prospects abroad. It was while garnering an award at the annual digital content award ceremony that they caught the collective eye of Fox TV Studios? decision makers.

“We discovered Chooz at MIP TV last April,” DiMartino explains. “The conference had held its first ‘Made-for-Mobile Screenings’ and Who Kidnapped Rachel B? was featured as the Most Innovative Mobile Concept/ Format. So we decided to contact the company.”

With the US market opening up, Atzmon says the next step for Chooz is bringing back video related production and technology. “Europe, the US, Japan and Korea use new technologies and standards for mobile phones that allow for faster, wider band for handsets; these faster networks allow for more data speed which supports video,” Atzmon explains.

Meanwhile, they’re concentrating on the collaboration with Fox TV Studios. Although Chooz creates English content for all markets – Israel included – concepts and characters need to be stylized and accents honed.

“Their team of writers is working on making it more Western. More American to suit their audience,” says Atzmon.

The team at Chooz has no problem with that. In any case, they’re on to the next project.