Atari Unveils TV Plans with Initial Focus on South Africa

Robert Blagman, the head of global content distribution at Atari, addressed delegates at DISCOP Johannesburg to discuss the company's plans in the TV space, as it looks for television networks and producers to partner with. By Kristin Brzoznowski

"The reason we came down to South Africa was to find TV networks and other companies that want to partner with Atari--with our games, mobile apps, any type of content that Atari is doing," Blagman said.

Atari's roots are in the video-game business, with notable success in the '80s. After two bankruptcies, a new CEO, Frederic Chesnais, came to the company in 2013 and restarted game production. This year marks the first time since 1980 that Atari is debt-free.

The company's top classic titles, including Pong, Asteroids, Centipede and Missile Command, have made $2 billion in historical revenue. With more than 200 games in its vault, Atari is looking for networks to help bring these brands to life on television. And it's looking initially at South Africa. Blagman cited research that 58 percent of the primary demographic in South Africa plays video games, and 77 percent of gamers in the country play for at least one hour a week.

The company has already started working on a TV property called Game On, which will see a life-sized version of classic '80s games like Pong played out on giant sets.

"The whole point of unscripted reality game shows based on legendary Atari video games really seems to resonate around the world," said Blagman. "What we're finding as we meet with TV networks, production companies and media executives is that people have a very fond memory of Atari. Right now we seem to be at the cusp of something brand new as far as TV game shows that also wrap around online, offline and mobile.

"One of the things we're doing with Game On is that the set itself is probably going to be over a million dollars. It's going to be an amazing outdoor set. We're hoping, if things go as they should, to build the set in South Africa and film here for different parts of the world."

Atari is also working on a studio show for the Code Breaker brand. The game show will feature prizes that are "over the top," according to Blagman, such as a shopping spree at Tiffanys or your own reality series. He revealed that Atari has already signed a deal with Discovery's Science channel to do a science-based version of the show.

"Why an Atari TV show?" Blagman questioned to the crowd. "We have a built-in audience, capitalizing on video games, and future-focused fans. We have first-generation demographic appeal and huge in-program sponsorship opportunities. We're going to be meeting with major international advertisers to co-brand on the shows. We're going to do celebrity and themed episodes, and we're going to format and franchise in each market.

"One of the things we offer is, it will be exclusive to your television network," he continued. "As a partner, you'll have unique access to the full Atari library and to Atari's global think tank. You'll also be the first to market with multimedia opportunities, and you get a one-on-one business relationship with Atari."

Blagman concluded by saying that the company's current aim is to "standout out in a cluttered, crowded media market, and with Atari we think we can do that."

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