02/04/16: Spike Jonze to be co-President of Viceland; Bankruptcy court won’t void Netflix’s contract with Relativity Media; Defy Media may be for sale


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Good morning. It’s Thursday February 4, 2016, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.


doesn’t lose all that often, but apparently it can happen. The company’s efforts to void its contract with Relativity Media – just as Relativity is attempting to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy – have fallen short. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Michael Wiles disagreed with Netflix attorney Scott McNutt, who argued that Relativity would be unable to meet its content obligations to Netflix under its new reorganization plan. Wiles said that Relativity had made a “good faith” effort to deliver films to Netflix, and that Netflix wasn’t incurring any real risk by maintaining the contract, as any films not delivered can simply go unpaid for. But it’s not all sunshine for Relativity: Wiles declined to let them emerge from bankruptcy just yet. First, he said, the company must secure $80 million in additional funding, and lock down the involvement of actor Kevin Spacey and his business partner Dana Brunetti, who are slated to take over as Relativity Studios Chairman and President, respectively.


The MCN Defy Media may be up for sale. According to VideoInk, several companies are looking to snatch of the company. The asking price is reportedly in the $500 million range. Sources close to Defy tell VideoInk that Viacom is the likely buyer.
Leave it to Gen Z to coin a snappy shorthand for “sociopath.” Astronauts Wanted, the production company founded by former MTV executive Judy McGrath, is partnering with Canvas Media Studios to make a new web series. Socio, a crime thriller starring India Eisley, centers on a teenage tech wiz who teams up with a detective to catch a serial killer. Series creator Bernie Su (the co-founder of Canvas) told The Hollywood Reporter that the series aims to “dive into the mind of a teenage sociopath who operates on social media.” (An apt description for any teenager.) The pilot has already been shot. Canvas and Astronauts Wanted say they’re still shopping the series to different digital distributors.
VH1 announced that it is teaming with the social TV sentiment platform Canvs and the audience participation platform Telescope. The three will partner to create a “Best of Social” digital activation surrounding the VH1 series Hit the Floor. “The activation allows fans to discover who the most loved, hated, craziest, (& more) characters and moments are each week – and then share them,” a VH1 spokesperson said in a press release. The activation uses data from Canvs to attribute fans’ emotions to the characters of the series. The activation itself was developed and designed by Telescope.
The multichannel streaming service fuboTV announced that it has partnered with 15 new linear networks, all of which are now available on the subscription service.  These include Univision, Pivot, El Rey, REVOLT, and others.


Justin case you hadn’t heard: Justin.tv, the pioneering live-streaming site that ultimately became Twitch, is making a comeback on Snapchat. Founder Justin Kan made the on his website. “I love putting my random adventures in travel, startups and entrepreneurship on my Snapchat Story,” he wrote. Justin.tv, founded in 2007, was known for its round-the-clock broadcasts of Kan’s life. The site would go on to launch thousands of different channels, allowing users to live-stream their own broadcasts.


Cynopsis Webinars   I   Tuesday, March 1st  I 1:30-3:00PM  I  Register
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Questions? Contact Trish Pihonak.



Will people really pay $10 per month for a premium version of YouTube? The answer will soon become clearer. While the subscription YouTube Red service debuted last year, it has yet to debut exclusive programming. That will change on February 10, when the service debuts Scare PewDiePie, a reality-adventure series starring the titular YouTube mega-celeb, along with three new original films. 
Election junkies rejoice. FiveThirtyEight, the ESPN-owned news site run by data whiz and polling guru Nate Silver, is launching a six-part documentary series. FiveThirtyEight Elections, produced by ESPN Films, will focus on pivotal moments from past presidential campaigns. The first episode, called The Dean Scream, centers on the ill-fated presidential campaign of Howard Dean. It premieres today – here.
If you go 90, you can see #50. Verizon’s Go90 mobile streaming service will feature a live-stream of Super Bowl 50 this Sunday. (Only Verizon customers have access to the broadcast.) Meanwhile, in the run-up to the big game, Go90 will live-stream three concerts from the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, near Levi’s Stadium, where the game will be played. 


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Does strong Facebook engagement lead to strong TV viewership? Facebook certainly wants you to think so. The social media giant is highlighting a study it commissioned from Nielsen analyzing nine regular season NFL game broadcasts last October and November. Facebook says the study shows a strong correlation between the volume of posts and shares leading up to kickoff, and TV audience at the start of a game.  As Variety points out here, there’s no ironclad evidence in the study that the higher volume of Facebook engagements during higher-rated games isn’t merely the result of prior interest. But it’s compelling study nonetheless, especially coming from a company that’s been trying to up its live sports-related ad revenue. 
FYI announced that the second episode of Kocktails with Khloe, starring Khloe Kardashian, brought the network its best-ever single-day record for digital viewing. The episode’s cross-platform views accounted for over one third of FYI web traffic, according to FYI. The episode aired on January 27.


Between Being John Malkovich and Her, writer-director Spike Jonze hasn’t exactly established a reputation for realism. That may change. The Oscar-winner has been named co-President of Viceland, the new cable network from the digital news and documentary giant Vice Media, launched in partnership with A+E Networks. Eddy Moretti, Vice’s Chief Creative Officer, will be the other co-President. The two will oversee all of Viceland’s content. And, perhaps just to remind you that it’s a leap year, the network will launch February 29.



No offense to two great football commentators, but this is bound to be more entertaining than anything Jim Nantz or Phil Simms have to offer: In a live video broadcast, revered comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele will provide commentary during Super Bowl 50. Or at least, their oddball characters, Lee and Morris, will. The website building platform Squarespace will be hosting the broadcast on its site. You can check out a teaser here

See you tomorrow,
David Teich

Roberta Caploe: Associate Publisher @robertacaploe
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