Mobisodes, games extend ABC franchise

Maybe they should rename it “Lost, Inc.”

It’s still a hit TV show, first and foremost. But “Lost” has also spawned mobisodes, videogames, books, viral videos, interactive Internet sites and much more.

For the exec producers who run that enterprise — Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof — the show’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. “Lost” came along right when the ability to create video for multiple platforms exploded. Among primetime series, few shows are better suited than “Lost” to embrace the brave new world.

But there have been a few bumps along the way.

“We’ve learned some things worked better than others,” Cuse says. “We’ve enjoyed the opportunities ‘Lost’ has given for us to try to expand the brand on other platforms. (But the) skill set involved in running a TV series does not translate directly to success in other platforms.”

Lindelof and Cuse say their experience with ancillary products and platforms has varied depending on whom they’ve collaborated with.

They loved what Australia-based Hoodlum, for example, came up with for the show’s recent “Find 815″ interactive campaign. But the duo was less thrilled with some of the products that emerged early in the show’s life, including a series of studio-commissioned “Lost”-themed novels that had little to do with the actual show.

“Us realizing we were managing a brand started early in season one,” Lindelof says. “ABC business development came to us … but we said all those conversations will be moot if we don’t have a hit show.”

A year later, after getting rid of those novelizations, the “Lost” team came up with the idea for “Bad Twin,” a book discovered on the show by one of the characters. Created for the show and distributed in bookstores, the novel wasn’t about what was happening on the show, but it tied into the world of “Lost.”

That’s become the mantra for all of “Lost’s” extracurricular activities, be it mobisodes or videogames: The other platforms can’t be considered canon, or required for “Lost’s” TV audience.

“Our criteria is, everything you need to know about ‘Lost’ is contained in the mother ship,” Cuse says. “There are definitely large segments of the audience that want more. And the ancillary media platforms give us opportunities to put out stories that might be interesting to some but not all.”

For example, the show’s first alternate reality game centered on the Hanso Foundation, the shady “Lost” organization responsible for the show’s “Dharma Initiative.” Rabid fans — particularly those on the Internet — feasted on that more in-depth mythology.

Those off-season interactive experiences also specifically feed into that season’s plot points. This year’s focus on the mysterious discovery of Oceanic Flight 815 at the bottom of the sea was foreshadowed by the “Find 815″ campaign.

Lindelof and Cuse are already busy plotting the off-season interactive campaign for season five of “Lost.” But they also employ a brand manager to handle at least 30 different outgrowths of the show, including mobile games and player platform games to more obscure licensing.

“We’re very involved in certain things and uninvolved in others,” Lindelof says. “Just running the show takes an enormous amount of time.”

That’s one reason “Lost” won’t be producing another batch of mobile episodes in the near future.

The “Lost” producers are proud of the fact that they managed to strike a deal between ABC and the labor guilds in order to produce the short-form segs with “Lost’s” top stars, scribes and helmers.

“They came out great,” Lindelof says. “But the process of breaking those 13 two-minute stories and editing them was enormously time consuming. In terms of doing them again, creative has to drive it.”

Lindelof says he’s also aware of the show’s saturation point.

“We spend the majority of our time saying ‘no’ to these things,” he says. “There’s something about the less of the show that exists, the more valuable it is. It makes it sexier to want to watch it on Thursday night if it isn’t everywhere.”

Cynthia Littleton of Variety will discuss “Lost” with Cuse and Lindelof at 9 a.m. Tuesday at NAB.

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