Media franchise

Last updated
Map of Oz within the surrounding deserts Map-of-Oz.jpg
Map of Oz within the surrounding deserts

A media franchise, also known as a multimedia franchise, is a collection of related media in which several derivative works have been produced from an original creative work of fiction, such as a film, a work of literature, a television program or a video game. Bob Iger, chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, defined the word franchise as "something that creates value across multiple businesses and across multiple territories over a long period of time". [1]


Transmedia franchise

A media franchise often consists of cross-marketing across more than one medium. For the owners, the goal of increasing profit through diversity can extend the commercial profitability of the franchise and create strong feelings of identity and ownership in its consumers. [2] Those large groups of dedicated consumers create the franchise's fandom, which is the community of fans that indulge in many of its mediums and are committed to interacting with and keeping up with other consumers. [3] Large franchise-based fandoms have grown to be even more popular in recent years with the rise of social media platforms, as many fans seek to interact with one another for discussion, debate and even to create their own fan-made pieces of media revolving around the franchise, on websites like tumblr, Reddit and the self-titled "wiki" site, Fandom. [4] In the case of successful transmedia franchises, each different medium should expand the target demographic and fandom, build the interest of the consumers and add to the overarching story and narrative of the franchise itself. [5] A connection between the characters, settings, and other elements of the media franchise do still exist within the different mediums, regardless of the fact that they are being presented in sometimes completely different ways, [6] such as the shared, interweaving storylines and elements of the Spider-Man films, television shows, comics and video games. Espen Aarseth describes the financial logic of cost-recovery for expensive productions by identifying that a single medium launch is a lost opportunity, the timeliness of the production and release is more important than its integrity, the releases should raise brand awareness and the cross-ability of the work is critical for its success. [7]

American Idol was a transmedia franchise from its beginnings, with the first season winner Kelly Clarkson signing with RCA Records and having the release of A Moment Like This becoming a #1 hit on Billboard Hot 100. [8] The success resulted in a nationwide concert tour, an American Idol book that made the bestseller list and the film From Justin to Kelly . [8] A transmedia franchise however is often referred to by the simpler term "media franchise." The term media franchise is often used to describe the popular adaptation of a work into films, like the popular Twilight book series that was adapted into the five films of The Twilight Saga . [9] Other neologisms exist to describe various franchise types including metaseries, which can be used to describe works such as Isaac Asimov's Foundation series.[ clarification needed ] [10]

Multimedia franchises usually develop through a character or fictional world becoming popular in one medium, and then expanding to others through licensing agreements, with respect to intellectual property in the franchise's characters and settings. As one author explains, "For the studios, a home-run is a film from which a multimedia 'franchise' can be generated; the colossally expensive creation of cross-media conglomerates predicated on synergistic rewards provides an obvious imperative to develop such products." [11] The trend later developed wherein franchises would be launched in multiple forms of media simultaneously; for instance, the film The Matrix Reloaded and the video game Enter the Matrix were produced at the same time, using the same actors on the same sets, and released on the same day. The other members of the DC, Marvel and Star Wars universe original characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Hulk, Marvel superheroes and Darth Vader, and the other members of the Disney, Warner Bros., Pixar, and Hanna-Barbera universe original characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo.[ clarification needed ] Several other franchises throughout the 2000s had films and games release within days of each other, including King Kong , Star Wars , Harry Potter , DC Comics, Marvel Comics, The Lord of the Rings , The Chronicles of Narnia , Pirates of the Caribbean , and Transformers . [12]

Canon Content

Transmedia franchises occasionally release content through certain mediums that is not canon to the main or greater story that the franchise is built around, meaning that the elements of said content do not truly exist in the main timeline of the franchise. [13] Canon content often times breaks continuity, leading fans to speculate or seek to confirm which mediums are canon and which are not, which can get confusing if the franchise does not provide an answer themselves since entire mediums can be non-canon to the greater story, with a popular example occurring within the Doctor Who franchise, where the released audio series is considered non-canon in the greater context of the TV show. [13] On the other hand, specific episodes, volumes or parts of a series can be canon while others in the same medium are not, such as the fact that only some of the Battlestar Galactica comics are canon, with a large amount of them breaking the continuity of the main story. [14]


In Japanese culture and entertainment, media mix (wasei-eigo: メディアミックス, mediamikkusu) is a strategy to disperse content across multiple representations: different broadcast media, gaming technologies, cell phones, toys, amusement parks, and other methods. [15] It is the Japanese term for a transmedia franchise. [16] [17]

The term media mix gained its circulation in late 1980s and is first used to describe adaptations of Sakyo Komatsu's Japan Sinks ,[ clarification needed ] but the origins of the strategy can be traced back to the 1960s with the proliferation of anime, with its interconnection of media and commodity goods. [18] Some of the earlier popular Japanese franchises such as Vampire Hunter D in the 1980s and Pokémon in the late 1990's, acted as benchmarks in the country's transmedia dominance. [19] [20] The latter in particular began as a video game available on Nintendo's Game Boy, and crossed through the mediums of television, film, news, and other non-media related realms, such trading cards, merchandise, and more. [20] A number of Japanese media franchises have gained considerable global popularity, and are among the world's highest-grossing media franchises. For example, Pokémon 's penetration into the American market of the franchise along with others of Japanese origin, such as Yu-Gi-Oh! , [15] gave rise to the recognition of what is variously called transmedia storytelling, crossmedia, transmediation, media synergy, etc. [18]

Researchers argue that the 1963 Tetsuwan Atomu marked a shift in Japanese marketing: from the focus on the content of the commodity to "overlapping the commodity image with the character image". [16]

The book Anime's Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan by Marc Steinberg details the evolution of the media mix in Japan.

Japanese terminology

Development to other forms


Long-running franchises were common in the early studio era, when Hollywood studios had actors and directors under long-term contract. Examples include Andy Hardy, Ma and Pa Kettle, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Bulldog Drummond, Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Hulk, X-Men, Tarzan, and Batman. The longest-running modern film franchises include James Bond , Godzilla and King Kong , Friday the 13th , A Nightmare on Elm Street , Universal Monsters , and Star Trek . In such cases, even lead actors are often replaced as they age, lose interest, or their characters are killed. Spin-offs and adaptations of popular pieces of media within a franchise can even be created, which ultimately leads to the creation of brand worlds. [21]

Since the creation of Disneyland in 1955, bringing fictional media franchises to life through the theme parks is slowly became increasingly popular as the way to perfectly blend tourism and real-life involvement with media itself. [22] Similar to transmedia, the concept of bringing fictional media into a non-fictional space where fans can immerse themselves in real-life versions of elements from the fictional worlds they love, adds to the overall narrative the franchise creates through its other mediums. [23] Marvel's Avenger's Campus park is one of the many franchise-based theme parks created in recent times, following the creation of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure and Star Wars' Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland and Disney World.

Media franchises tend to cross over from their original media to other forms. Literary franchises are often transported to film, such as Nancy Drew, Miss Marple, and other popular detectives, as well as popular comic book superheroes. Television and film franchises are often expanded upon in novels, particularly those in the fantasy and science fiction genres, such as The Twilight Zone , Star Trek , Doctor Who and Star Wars . Similarly, fantasy, science fiction films and television shows are frequently adapted into animated television series, video games, or both.

A media franchise does not have to include the same characters or theme, as the brand identity can be the franchise, like Square Enix's Final Fantasy or the National Lampoon series, and can suffer from critical failures even if the media fictional material is unrelated. [24]


Non-fiction literary franchises include the ...For Dummies and The Complete Idiot's Guide to... reference books. An enduring and comprehensive example of a media franchise is Playboy Enterprises, which began expanding well beyond its successful magazine, Playboy , within a few years after its first publication, into such enterprises as a modeling agency, several television shows (Playboy's Penthouse, in 1959), and even its own television channel. Twenty-five years later, Playboy released private clubs and restaurants, movie theaters, a radio show, direct to video films, music and book publishing (including original works in addition to its anthologies of cartoons, photographs, recipes, advice, articles or fiction that had originally appeared in the magazine), footwear, clothing of every kind, jewelry, housewares (lamps, clocks, bedding, glassware), guitars and gambling, playing cards, pinball machines and pet accessories, billiard balls, bedroom appurtenances, enhancements, plus countless other items of merchandise.

Non-fiction media franchises also exist in the television and film mediums, with reality TV being one of the most well-known examples; ranging from competition shows like The Amazing Race to the day-in-the-life episodes of the many different Real Housewives series. [25] Documentaries and docuseries are other highlights of the non-fiction branch of media franchises, [25] such as the popular Planet Earth series, which serves as both a film and television transmedia franchise.

See also

Related Research Articles

Anime is hand-drawn and computer-generated animation originating from Japan. Outside of Japan and in English, anime refers specifically to animation produced in Japan. However, in Japan and in Japanese, anime describes all animated works, regardless of style or origin. Animation produced outside of Japan with similar style to Japanese animation is commonly referred to as anime-influenced animation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fandom</span> Subculture composed of fans sharing a common interest

A fandom is a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Fans typically are interested in even minor details of the objects of their fandom and spend a significant portion of their time and energy involved with their interest, often as a part of a social network with particular practices, differentiating fandom-affiliated people from those with only a casual interest.

<i>Otaku</i> Someone highly interested in anime and manga

Otaku is a Japanese word that describes people with consuming interests, particularly in anime, manga, video games, or computers. Its contemporary use originated with a 1983 essay by Akio Nakamori in Manga Burikko. Otaku may be used as a pejorative with its negativity stemming from a stereotypical view of otaku as social outcasts and the media's reporting on Tsutomu Miyazaki, "The Otaku Murderer", in 1989. According to studies published in 2013, the term has become less negative, and an increasing number of people now identify themselves as otaku, both in Japan and elsewhere. Out of 137,734 teens surveyed in Japan in 2013, 42.2% self-identified as a type of otaku.

<i>Pokémon</i> Japanese media franchise

Pokémon is a Japanese media franchise managed by The Pokémon Company, founded by Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures. The franchise was created by Satoshi Tajiri in 1996, and is centered around fictional creatures called "Pokémon". In Pokémon, Pokémon Trainers are people who catch, train, care for, and battle with Pokémon. The English slogan for the franchise is "Gotta Catch ‘Em All!". There are currently 1015 Pokémon species.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fictional universe</span> Self-consistent fictional setting with elements that may differ from the real world

A fictional universe, or fictional world, is a self-consistent setting with events, and often other elements, that differ from the real world. It may also be called an imagined, constructed, or fictional realm. Fictional universes may appear in novels, comics, films, television shows, video games, and other creative works.

Slash fiction is a genre of fan fiction that focuses on romantic or sexual relationships between fictional characters of the same sex. While the term "slash" originally referred only to stories in which male characters are involved in an explicit sexual relationship as a primary plot element, it is now also used to refer to any fan story containing a romantic pairing between same-sex characters. Many fans distinguish slash with female characters as a separate genre, commonly referred to as femslash.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pikachu</span> Pokémon species, mascot of the Pokémon franchise

Pikachu is a fictional species in the Pokémon media franchise. Designed by Atsuko Nishida and Ken Sugimori, Pikachu first appeared in the 1996 Japanese video games Pokémon Red and Green created by Game Freak and Nintendo, which were released outside of Japan in 1998 as Pokémon Red and Blue. Pikachu is a yellow, mouse-like creature with electrical abilities. It is a major character in the Pokémon franchise, serving as its mascot and as a major mascot for Nintendo.

Mew (<i>Pokémon</i>) Fictional Pokémon species

Mew is a fictional species from the Pokémon franchise. A small, pink, Psychic-type Mythical Pokémon, it was added to Pokémon Red and Blue by its creator, Game Freak programmer Shigeki Morimoto, with the intent of making it obtainable, but was left out for development and technical reasons. After being discovered through data mining, its presence in the games was surrounded by rumors and myths, contributing to the Pokémon franchise's success. For years, Mew could not be legitimately obtained in the games except via Pokémon distribution events or glitching.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canon (fiction)</span> Concept of continuity between different fictional works

In fiction, a canon is material accepted as being authentically produced by an author or an ascribed author.

Shipping is the desire by followers of a fandom for two or more people, either real-life people or fictional characters, to be in a romantic or sexual relationship. It is considered a general term for fans' involvement with the ongoing character development of two people's character arcs in a work of fiction. Shipping often takes the form of unofficial creative works, including fanfiction stories and fan art, most often published on the Internet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Jenkins</span> American media scholar

Henry Jenkins III is an American media scholar and Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts, a joint professorship at the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. He also has a joint faculty appointment with the USC Rossier School of Education. Previously, Jenkins was the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities as well as co-founder and co-director of the Comparative Media Studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has also served on the technical advisory board at ZeniMax Media, parent company of video game publisher Bethesda Softworks. In 2013, he was appointed to the board that selects the prestigious Peabody Award winners.

<i>Yaoi</i> fandom Fandom consisting of readers of yaoi

The yaoi fandom consists of the readers of yaoi, a genre of male x male romance narratives aimed at those who participate in communal activities organized around yaoi, such as attending conventions, maintaining or posting to fansites, creating fan fiction or fan art, etc. In the mid-1990s, estimates of the size of the Japanese yaoi fandom were at 100,000–500,000 people. Despite increased knowledge of the genre among the general public, readership remains limited in 2008. English-language fan translations of From Eroica with Love circulated through the slash fiction community in the 1980s, forging a link between slash fiction fandom and yaoi fandom.

Transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fan fiction</span> Type of fiction created by fans of the original subject

Fan fiction or fanfiction is fictional writing written in an amateur capacity by fans, unauthorized by, but based on an existing work of fiction. The author uses copyrighted characters, settings, or other intellectual properties from the original creator(s) as a basis for their writing. Fan fiction ranges from a couple of sentences to an entire novel, and fans can retain the creator's characters and settings and/or add their own. It is a form of fan labor. Fan fiction can be based on any fictional subject. Common bases for fan fiction include novels, movies, musical groups, cartoons, anime, manga, and video games.

Multi-platform television is "a mode of storytelling that plays itself out across multiple entertainment channels". Each medium that the story unfolds across makes a distinctive contribution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">MissingNo.</span> Pokémon species caused by a programming error

MissingNo., short for "Missing Number" and sometimes spelled without the period, is an unofficial Pokémon species found in the video games Pokémon Red and Blue. Due to the programming of certain in-game events, players can encounter MissingNo. via a glitch. It is noted as one of the most famous video game glitches of all time.

There is significant awareness of Japanese popular culture in the United States. The flow of Japanese animation, fashion, films, manga comics, martial arts, television shows and video games to the United States has increased American awareness of Japanese pop culture, which has had a significant influence on American pop culture, including sequential media and entertainment into the 21st century.

The Pokémon universe is a fictional universe that encompasses the Pokémon media franchise, including stories and fictional works produced by The Pokémon Company, Nintendo, Game Freak and Creatures, Inc. The concept of the Pokémon universe, in both the fictional works and the general nonfictional world of Pokémon, stems from the hobby of insect collecting, a popular pastime which Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri enjoyed as a child. Players of the video games are designated as Pokémon Trainers and the two general goals for such Trainers are: to complete the Pokédex by collecting all of the available Pokémon species found in the fictional region where that game takes place and to train a team of powerful Pokémon to compete against teams owned by other Trainers and eventually become the strongest Trainer: the Pokémon Champion. These themes of collecting, training and battling are present in almost every version of the Pokémon franchise, including the video game series, the anime series, the manga series, the film series and the Pokémon Trading Card Game.

Convergence culture is a theory which recognizes changing relationships and experiences with new media. Henry Jenkins is accepted by media academics to be the father of the term with his book Convergence Culture: where old and new media collide. It explores the flow of content distributed across various intersections of media, industries and audiences, presenting a back and forth power struggle over the distribution and control of content.

<i>Halo</i> (TV series) Science fiction television series

Halo is an American military science fiction television series developed by Kyle Killen and Steven Kane for the streaming service Paramount+, based on the video game franchise of the same name. Produced by Showtime Networks, 343 Industries, Amblin Television, One Big Picture, and Chapter Eleven, the series follows a 26th-century war between the United Nations Space Command and the Covenant, a theocratic-military alliance of several advanced alien races determined to eradicate the human race.


  1. Keiles, Jamie Lauren (December 1, 2022). "'Avatar' and the Mystery of the Vanishing Blockbuster - It was the highest-grossing film in history, but for years it was remembered mainly for having been forgotten. Why?". The New York Times Magazine . Retrieved December 3, 2022.
  2. Lemke, Jay (2004). "Critical Analysis across Media: Games, Franchises, and the New Cultural Order" (PDF). First International Conference on CDA. Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  3. Fuschillo, Gregorio (2018-05-04). "Fans, fandoms, or fanaticism?". Journal of Consumer Culture. 20 (3): 347–365. doi:10.1177/1469540518773822. ISSN   1469-5405. S2CID   150052589.
  4. Wilkins, Kim (2019-07-11). Young Adult Fantasy Fiction. Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108551137. ISBN   978-1-108-55113-7. S2CID   199244984.
  5. Jenkins, Henry (December 2010). "Transmedia Storytelling and Entertainment: An annotated syllabus". Continuum. 24 (6): 943–958. doi:10.1080/10304312.2010.510599. ISSN   1030-4312. S2CID   143801652.
  6. McErlean, Kelly (2018-03-05). Interactive Narratives and Transmedia Storytelling. doi:10.4324/9781315637570. ISBN   9781315637570.
  7. Aarseth, Espen (2006). "The Culture and Business of Cross-Media Productions". Popular Communication. 4 (3): 203–211. doi:10.1207/s15405710pc0403_4. S2CID   46602603.
  8. 1 2 Jenkins, Henry (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide . NYU Press. p.  61. ISBN   9780814742815.
  9. Click, Melissa (2010). Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media, and the Vampire Franchise. Peter Lang Publishing. p. 12. ISBN   978-1433108945.
  10. Palumbo, Donald (1998). "Asimov's Crusade Against Bigotry: The Persistence Of Prejudice as a Fractal Motif in the Robot/Empire Foundation Metaseries". Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. 10: 43–63.
  11. Barry Langford, Post-classical Hollywood: Film Industry, Style and Ideology Since 1945, p. 207, ISBN   074863858X.
  12. Harry J. Brown, Videogames and Education (2008), p. 41, ISBN   0765629496.
  13. 1 2 Harvey, Colin B. (2015), "Transmedia Memory", Fantastic Transmedia, London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 182–202, doi:10.1057/9781137306043_9, ISBN   978-1-349-45500-3 , retrieved 2022-11-23
  14. Bourdaa, Mélanie (2018-03-14). "From One Medium to the Next: How Comic Books Create Richer Storylines". M/C Journal. 21 (1). doi:10.5204/mcj.1355. ISSN   1441-2616.
  15. 1 2 Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, p. 110
  16. 1 2 Steinberg
  17. Denison, Rayna. "Manga Movies Project Report 1 - Transmedia Japanese Franchising". Retrieved 2015-07-31.
  18. 1 2 Steinberg, p. vi
  19. SAITO, SATOMI (2015-12-20), "Beyond the Horizon of the Possible Worlds", Mechademia 10, University of Minnesota Press, pp. 143–161, doi:10.5749/j.ctv1rdv223.14, ISBN   9781452949833 , retrieved 2022-11-23
  20. 1 2 Bainbridge, Jason (2013-10-25). "'It is a Pokémon world': The Pokémon franchise and the environment". International Journal of Cultural Studies. 17 (4): 399–414. doi:10.1177/1367877913501240. ISSN   1367-8779. S2CID   144360372.
  21. Marazi, Katerina (2014-12-01). "Brand Identity, Adaptation, and Media Franchise Culture". Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, Film and Media Studies. 9 (1): 229–242. doi:10.1515/ausfm-2015-0012. S2CID   56267324.
  22. Månsson, Maria; Buchmann, Annæ; Cassinger, Cecilia; Eskilsson, Lena, eds. (2020-07-07). The Routledge Companion to Media and Tourism. doi:10.4324/9780429430398. ISBN   9780429430398. S2CID   213642766.
  23. Mayer, Hervé (2020-03-20). "Disney's Star Wars: Forces of Production, Promotion, and Reception. William Proctor and Richard McCulloch (eds.). Iowa City: University of I". Caliban (63). doi:10.4000/caliban.8195. ISSN   2425-6250. S2CID   251029975.
  24. Bernstein, Joseph (12 August 2013). "How To Kill A Major Media Franchise In A Decade". Buzzfeed. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  25. 1 2 Kackman, Michael; Kearney, Mary Celeste, eds. (2018-06-22). The Craft of Criticism. doi:10.4324/9781315879970. ISBN   9781315879970.


Further reading