02/18/16: Fandango acquires Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes; NextVR inks partnership with Fox Sports; Bill Simmons to launch new digital media ventur



CYNOPSISDIGITAL
02.18.16

Good morning. It’s Thursday February 18, 2016, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.

TOP NEWS

 
NBCUniversal
-owned Fandango is no longer just a place to buy movie tickets. First came the steady addition of new exclusive web series; now the company is getting more ambitious. Fandango inked an agreement to acquire the film buff-friendly site Flixster, along with Flixster’s well-known subsidiary, review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The deal was reached with Warner Bros. Entertainment, which owned Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes. As part of the deal, Warner Bros. will take an equity stake in Fandango, becoming an ongoing strategic partner. Fandango’s goal, according to a release: to create the “ultimate digital network for all things movies.”
 
It’s been an eventful several months for Bill Simmons. Last year the sports writer left Grantland, the ESPN-owned sports and culture site he founded; ESPN shuttered the site shortly thereafter. Now Simmons is launching new digital venture The Ringer. An email newsletter launches in March; the website launches in spring or early summer. Over half a dozen former Grantlanders have joined the venture. The editorial scope of The Ringer, operating under the aegis of Bill Simmons Media Group, was not disclosed. Simmons is busy – he’ll also soon host an upcoming HBO talk show.  
 
 

NEW PROGRAMMING + DEALS

 
Vimeo
is acting as a sort of people’s champion of late. Last month came the announcement of Share the Screen, an effort to boost female filmmakers. Now the video-hosting site has partnered with the LGBT media and marketing strategy firm Here Media in an effort to spotlight the work of LGBT filmmakers. The terms of the deal give Vimeo a distinct marketing and consumer targeting edge: The site will be able to reach LGBT consumers through marketing campaigns that will run across Here Media’s brand verticals. (Those include The Advocate, OUT, and several others.) The first film from the new partnership will be comedic thriller Hush Up Sweet Charlotte, directed by Billy Clift.
 
In its first-ever deal with Cablevision Systems, CBS has agreed to let the cable operator provide live-streaming of CBS programming. Cablevision customers will now be able to use CBS.com, as well as the CBS App, to stream CBS live programming on mobile devices and online. The feature will be available for any customers located within a market served by a CBS-owned station.
 


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PLATFORMS + TECH

 
This
is why comScore swallowed up Rentrak. On a call with investors yesterday, comScore CEO Serge Maata said that the company would roll out a “cross-platform” measurement apparatus by April. The merger with Rentrak is what made this possible: Before, comScore’s efforts were focused primarily on consumer web activity. With Rentrak’s operations now folded into comScore’s, the combined company (just called comScore) will also be able to measure VOD, set-top box, and movie box office data. So come April, Nielsen will have something it’s never quite had before: serious competition.
 
Viacom Velocity, Viacom’s marketing and creative content arm, is launching Viewprint, a data-driven consumer analysis initiative. The company calls Viewprint a “proprietary data-driven creative map developed by Viacom’s data science team to innovate how custom marketing campaigns are creating.” Viewprint will track fan sentiment across social, linear and digital platforms. Velocity’s creative team will then use the findings to inform and hone their marketing campaigns. “While instinct still comes first, a little extra secret sauce like Viewprint can make the ‘creative + science’ recipe even more potent,” said Dario Spina, Executive Vice President of Viacom Velocity, in a release.
 
If you’re Netflix, and you’re active across 130 different countries, how do you compute the tastes and search preferences for so many people, spanning so many regions and cultures? That’s the question the service is trying to tackle – and they’re doing it with a new algorithm. Netflix’s new recommendation methods will tailor search results to the tastes of specific countries and regions, the company announced. It’s all pretty fascinating – you can learn more from the company’s blog post on the subject.
 
Last year, Yahoo lost 42 million dollars on its original programming, and later shuttered Yahoo Screen, its video hub. Instead, the company announced, its video efforts would be relocated across its various digital verticals. That was then. Now, the company has officially shuttered a number of those verticals: Yahoo Food, Yahoo Health, Yahoo Parenting, Yahoo Makers, Yahoo Travel, Yahoo Autos and Yahoo Real Estate. All that’s left is News, Sports, Finance and Lifestyle. While the company said that some of its videos might (yet again) be relocated to one or more of those four, it seems all but certain that some of that programming is kaput.
 
The Apple TV app store has activated support for app previews (videos showing an app in action, as opposed to just screenshots). It’s a godsend for developers, who will now be able to offer potential buyers vivid pre-purchase demonstrations of how their apps work. iPhones and iPads have supported app previews since 2014.
 
 

VIRTUAL REALITY

 
NextVR
is quickly carving out a niche for itself as the go-to partner for live virtual reality content. Coming on the heels of smaller programming deals with the likes of CNN and Fox, as well as tens of millions of fundraising dollars, the company has now inked a five-year pact with Fox Sports. NextVR will be bringing reams of Fox Sports content to Samsung Gear VR users, starting with the Daytona 500 this Sunday, February 21. So what does virtual reality bring to sports viewership that’s new and exciting? “It’s a chance to expand the fan base,” Brad Allen, Executive Chairman of NextVR, told Cynopsis Digital. “For people who aren’t fans of auto racing, and this included me, virtual reality will make you want to attend a race in person.” Added Allen, “Fox Sports, one of the biggest broadcasters in the sports world, will provide a tremendous opportunity to expand the live virtual reality events we can deliver. When you consider the events they have broadcast rights to, it provides the ability to create experiences for fans they never had before.”
 
The Associated Press has launched a new portal for virtual reality and 360-degree news content. The tech company AMD is partnering with the AP on the venture, providing software and hardware support. The content will be available for headsets including the Oculus Rift, the Samsung Gear VR, and the Google Cardboard, according to Fortune.
 
 

EXECUTIVE MOVES

 
The strategic video content studio Magnet Media has hired Neil Chase as its first Chief Strategy Officer. In the past, Chase has served as a digital media consultant, as Senior Vice President, Editorial for Federated Media Publishing, and as Continuous News Editor at The New York Times. “Neil’s experience (as a gifted journalist first and a digital executive second) puts him in a perfect position to help our clients form strategies that helps them tell their story and reach their audience,” Megan Cunningham, CEO of Magnet Media, told Cynopsis Digital. “Over time, the digital landscape has become increasingly complex – and video storytelling is at the center of much of the complexity at this moment. Bringing an industry leader onto the team like Neil will enable us to serve our clients more strategically, helping them find their audiences efficiently and at scale through video storytelling.”
 
Martin Tremblay, the former President of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, has joined Just for Laughs as EVP of Strategy and Development. Just for Laughs is best known for its prestigious comedy festival, but there’s a key takeaway from this hire: Just for Laughs wants to be known as a more diverse company, geared toward TV and digital media as much as anything else. This statement from Tremblay serves as a case in point: “[Just for Laughs is] a dynamic company that established itself with the success of its festivals, its television programming and its digital presence around the world.”
 


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DIGITAL SPOTLIGHT

 
Great Big Story
, the CNN-funded digital news and short documentary site, has begun rolling out its first original content. That includes The Dreamers, an eight-part docu-series centering around exceptional and innovative individuals at work in their respective fields. The series was co-sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise. You can check out a new preview here.

See you tomorrow,
David Teich
02.18.16

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

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