Hollywood Trade Variety Moves Into Data and Research Business

Hollywood trade magazine Variety launched a new data service called Flixtracker today, parent company The Variety Group announced.

Flixtracker is a paid subscription database for film and digital entertainment that is still in development, like a pre-natal IMDB. It’s the latest effort in Variety’s bid to establish a lucrative data and research division, now branded as Variety Insight.

The Variety Group acquired broadcast television database TVtracker, the model for Flixtracker, earlier this year. It will launch two more products, Incentives Tracker and VScore, in 2012.

“It’s becoming much harder to make a profit in film and television,” Variety president Neil Stiles told the Observer. “People need more insightful information to make decisions, so moving to data and research for us is a logical step.”

Flixtracker aims to use Variety’s journalistic DNA to bring a level of accountability to the fast-changing and rumor-prone arena of film development.

“We’re not TMZ, we’re not the trashy end of that marketplace,” Mr. Stiles said, explaining why studios are eager to give the information to Flixtracker. It doesn’t hurt that they’re staffing it up with studio veterans.

“We just hired a former development executive out of Fox who’s heading up the tracking effort with Flixtracker,” he said.

A Flixtracker subscription costs $1,000 annually, per user. Around 250 companies currently use TVtracker, which was launched in 1999, with between 20 and 200 individual users each.

Its chief competitor is Baseline StudioSystems, the subscription film and television industry database that The New York Times Company sold to Laurie S. Silver and Mitchelle Rubenstein, the L.A. entrepreneurs behind Movietickets.com, earlier this year. (The New York Times Company reportedly paid $35 million for it in 2006.)

According to Mr. Stiles, TVtracker’s edge over competitors is that it’s more forward thinking.

“It’s the only company that’s consistently monitored the digital portal,” Mr. Stiles said.

Like many publications weaning themselves off advertising revenue, Variety has launched a corporate conference series, hosting 31 this year alone, and has erected a digital pay wall. As a result Mr. Stiles anticipated an increase in paid circulation around 6,000 in January’s audit.