01/15/16: GoPro forced to replace entertainment chief; Latino oriented comedy studio Mas Mejor launches; ESPN launches eSports vertical

CYNOPSISDIGITAL
01.15.16

Good morning. It’s Friday January 15, 2016, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.

VIRTUAL REALITY


GoPro announced that it expects fourth quarter revenue to clock in at about $435 million – well short of the $500-550 it had originally expected. (Calendar-year revenue will likely amount to about $1.6 billion.) Meanwhile, Zander Lurie, the company’s SVP of Entertainment, is departing for the alluring jungles of the survey startup Survey Monkey, where he will serve as Capuchin-in-Chief. (Actual title: CEO.) Lurie had already served as Survey Monkey’s Executive Chairman since May 2015, following the death of previous CEO David Goldberg. GoPro is replacing Lurie with Ocean MacAdams, formerly of MSG and Current TV, according to Variety.

Quick – listen for the nearest sound in the room. You could tell which direction it came from, right? That’s a key element to the aural experience – which means it’s also key to the future of virtual reality. Just as it gears up to form its own dedicated VR division, Google has given developers support for spatial audio in creating VR experiences. Unlike standard surround sound, Spatial audio simulates directional sound, which changes in response to users’ head movements. Until now, spatial audio was the province of far more expensive technologies. Looks like the lowly Cardboard is catching up.

 NEW PROGRAMMING + DEALS


Get ready to see double. The 16-year-old twins behind YouTube’s popular BrooklynAndBailey channel have launched a second channel. Squared focuses on content created by – you guessed it – twins. New videos debut daily at 3 PM E.

Film distributors use festivals like Sundance to shop around for potential acquisitions. Unless you’re Netflix, of course – then you make your move a week ahead of time. The service acquired all streaming rights to Tallulah, a new comedy-drama starring Ellen Page and Allison Janney. (Theatrical rights weren’t covered in the deal.) Netflix already had a bit of a connection to the film: Director Sian Heder is a writer and producer for Orange Is the New Black. The deal’s financial terms weren’t disclosed. The film makes its world premiere the Sundance Film Festival on January 23.

Thanks to a deal with PBS, Amazon has gained the exclusive streaming rights to upcoming Civil War-era prestige drama Mercy Street. Episodes of Mercy Street will be available to U.S. Prime subscribers seven days after linear broadcast – though the show’s pilot actually arrived on Amazon yesterday, three days ahead of the January 17 premiere on PBS.

Mas Mejor: a well-known Spanish phrase that translates, roughly, to “Latino-oriented comedy studio.” Okay, that’s probably not true, but it’s an accurate descriptor. The new studio was just launched by Lorne MichaelsBroadway Video (SNL’s production company) and NBCUniversal Telemundo. It will create short-form sketch comedy content in both Spanish and English. The content will be distributed on masmejor.com, as well as social channels, YouTube, and comScore’s top-ranked Hispanic ad-focused sites. (The content will be free and ad-supported.) Mas Mejor content will also be featured on Telemundo’s digital channels, as well as its TV sketch show Ya Era Hora con Erika y Eduardo. The new studio is also touting distribution partnerships with Popsugar Latina and Batanga Media.

Awestruck, AwesomenessTV’s network aimed at millennial moms, has commissioned four new original series. The new shows, from Ann Lewis Roberts’s Roberts Media and reality production company T Group Productions, will be exclusively available on Verizon’s Go90 streaming service. (One of them has already premiered.) You can learn about the shows here.


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PLATFORMS + TECH


Now that’s putting the “E” in ESPN. The sports media powerhouse has added a new vertical devoted to eSports and competitive gaming. “[W]e decided there was no reason we shouldn’t be doing this on a daily basis with the same rigor we cover the National League Football or other sports,” said Chad Millman, Editor-In-Chief of ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. New hires include Darin Kwilinski, former Managing Editor of the e-sports media company Azubu; Rod Breslau, previously Senior Editor at the eSports news site The Score; and Tyler Erzberger, previously a Staff Writer at TheScore.

Shocker: Movie and TV viewers don’t always respect the sacred boundaries of content licensing deals. So it goes with the millions of Netflix users who take advantage of so-called “proxies” or “unblockers” to fool the service into thinking they’re in a different territory. The thing is, Netflix’s content partnerships vary widely. A good deal of content is available in certain Netflix territories (and there are now 190 of them), but not in others. Using a proxy enables users to skirt that pesky obstacle. But users may not be able to use proxies much longer: According to a blog post from David Fullagar, Netflix’s Vice President of Content Delivery Architecture, the company is working on a means of curtailing proxy-users’ ability to access content outside their own territories. Few other details were offered.

Joshua Topolsky, previously the digital chief at Bloomberg, is trying to found his own luxury lifestyle media brand. The company, tentatively known as Independent Media, will be ad-supported, according to Re/Code. Topolsky is currently working on raising $5 to $10 million in an initial funding round. You can learn more here.

The ad tech company Sizmek announced that it has received Media Ratings Council accreditation for ads served in-app and on mobile web. (The MRC clarified to MediaPost that the accreditation applies only to served impressions, not viewable impressions. Sizmek, the MRC said, is accredited for desktop viewable display impressions, not desktop viewable video impressions.) The accreditation encompasses videos, rich media, and display.

Netflix may not have made it to China yet, but that doesn’t mean the Chinese can’t stream indie flicks. The movie streaming service MUBI is coming to the world’s largest country as MUBI China, thanks to a partnership with Hong Kong-based Huanxi Media Group. Huanxi will invest a cool $50 million in the launch. In return, Huanxi will receive nothing more than gratitude, a pat on the back, and fully 70% of the venture. (At least MUBI gets to keep its name in the title.) As part of the $50 million, Haunxi will invest $10 million directly into MUBI, taking an eight percent stake in the entire company.

 

CYNOPSIS RATINGS BOOT CAMP


Start the year off right by inviting your team to our third annual Cynopsis Boot Camp on Tuesday, February 9 at the Dream Hotel Downtown in New York City. This intensive workshop will provide the critical tools, strategies and insights needed to enhance your skill set in the ever-morphing areas of ratings analysis. More info is here.

 

RESEARCH


Netflix and Amazon are notoriously stingy with their viewership numbers. But according Alan Wurtzel, NBCUniversal’s head of research, there are some precise numbers out there. Citing research from tech firm Symphony Advanced Media, Wurtzel asserted the following in a presentation to reporters:

– From September through December, Netflix’s Jessica Jones averaged 4.8 million viewers (adults 18-49 during a 35-day viewing cycle) per episode.
– Netflix’s Master of None averaged 3.9 million
– Netflix’s Narcos averaged 3.2 million
– Amazon’s The Man In the High Castle (the company’s highest rated show) averaged 2.1 million

Symphony Advanced Media has a pretty nifty way of going about its business: True to its name, the firm makes use of sound. Using a sample size of (according to Wurtzel) about 15,000 people, Symphony relies in part on audio recognition technology to track which shows viewers are watching. “We use two approaches to track TV/video exposure,” explained Symphony President and CEO Charles Buchwalter in an email to Cynopsis Digital. “For anything hitting the glass (i.e., live broadcast or anything streamed to a TV via connected devices), we identify content via automatic content recognition (ACR, a listening capability). For portable devices viewing videos online, we are able to identify via the URL visited.”

Symphony informed Cynopsis Digital that Wurtzel’s presentation accurately cited their data. (It should also be noted that neither Netflix nor Amazon have publicly confirmed the information.)  You can learn more here.


On January 11, David Bowie’s Vevo page clocked 51 million music video views. (And a mere 50 million of them came from the writer of this newsletter.) Those 51 million views are a 24-hour record for the music video platform, and it’s not particularly close. (Adele’s music video for the hit song Hello hit 36 million views the day it premiered last October.) “The death of David Bowie has touched many people,” said Nic Jones, Vevo’s Chief Revenue Officer, in an email to Cynopsis Digital. “Not just those of us who were teenagers when Ziggy was ‘alive,’ but a whole new group who have been connected to him by the enormous outpouring of grief and the strength of his latest work, Blackstar – in particular the video Lazarus. It is wonderful, as a huge Bowie fan, to hear of the 11 million views the Lazarus video received in the 24 hours after his death, and the connection so many of all ages have now made to his canon of work on Vevo (some 60 videos), bringing over 54 million views in just 3 days.”

 

EXECUTIVE MOVES


Yahoo has lost a couple of execs. Steve Fan, formerly a VP in Yahoo’s corporate development unit, is now Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Chinese Internet company Tencent. Meanwhile, Tekedra Mawakana, Yahoo’s Global Head of Public Policy and Deputy General Council, will be heading to eBay to take on the role of VP of Government Relations.

OneSpot, a digital content advertising platform, has appointed Jon Driscoll as its Chief Revenue Officer. Driscoll will be responsible for business development and sales strategy. Previously, he served as Chief Sales Officer at the social marketing platform Spredfast.

 

DIGITAL SPOTLIGHT


Say it isn’t so. First David Bowie; now this week has seen the passing of yet another great English artist. Take a look at CNN’s brief video rundown of Alan Rickman’s greatest move roles. (Also, do yourself a favor and see the movies.) Check it out here.

See you Tuesday,
David Teich
01.15.16

Roberta Caploe: Associate Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group

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