04/20/17: Crackle announces new programming at Upfront


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Um, wow. At its F8 developers conference, Facebook revealed that it’s been researching brain-computer interface technology that will, in the words of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “one day let you communicate using only your mind.” The project is part of Facebook’s little-known consumer hardware lab Building 8. Building 8 chief Regina Dugan said that her team has been working on a system that can type 100 words per minute using nothing but brain waves. On top of that, the unit is working on a project designed to deliver spoken language through human skin. As Dugan described it: “Your skin is a 2 m2 network of nerves that transmits information to your brain.” As a comparison she cited braille, which “has proven that small bumps on a surface can be interpreted in the brain as words.” Dugan says that, if perfected, such technology could essentially serve as a universal translator. So there you have it: Facebook is working hard to bring outlandish science fiction to life.
Snapchat is getting a dating show. Vertical Networks, Elisabeth Murdoch’s U.K. media company, has greenlit production of a 12-episode short-form series, set to run on Snapchat’s Discover platform. In each episode of the series, two strangers will be given unrestricted access to each other’s cell phones before deciding whether or not to move forward with a blind date. (Although, does it really still count as a blind date after you’ve seen an array of embarrassing texts and selfies?) Called Phone Swap, the show’s episodes will be about four minutes long. Vertical is hardly the first media company to greenlight original Snapchat content; NBCU, A+E Networks, and several others have already done so.


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Sony’s Crackle made a slew of new announcements at its upfront event, held at Sony Square NYC in Manhattan. In programming news, the company announced that it has greenlit a number of new titles. Those include two series executive produced by Curtis “50 Cent” JacksonThe Oath, a scripted drama focused on gang subculture, and RPM (still a working title), a drama series about a crime syndicate’s getaway driver. The company also renewed existing shows Snatch, StartUp, and SuperMansion for new seasons. Other new greenlights include comedy series Accident Park, drama shows The Row and Tribes, techno-thriller film In the Cloud, and weekly talk series Crackle Spotlight: This Week On, in which Smosh’s Ian Hecox will highlight Crackle’s new programming. Unmentioned was the fact that Crackle recently lost its most popular show, Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, to Netflix. (Though oddly enough, Seinfeld did briefly pop up in Crackle’s new sizzle reel.) Crackle also announced deals with Mashable and Fusion Media Group’s A.V. Club to produce video content based on its programming.
Crackle also took time to showcase new research, commissioned from the brand-oriented consultancy Miner & Co. Studio. (“Demographics are good, but psychographics are better,” said Crackle EVP and GM Eric Berger.Attitudes are gender blind, and behaviors can be age blind.”) The study, which was in the field between March and April, reached 1,500 gamers and streamers living in the U.S. Among other results, the study found that 9 in ten game console users prefer streaming to traditional TV. 9 in 10 respondents said they were open to watching ads in exchange for free content, and 8 in 10 said they prefer streaming ads to traditional TV ads. (All good numbers for Crackle, naturally.) Crackle’s message was clear: It’s going after gamers, big-time. And it’s using Sony’s existing tech infrastructure – including PlayStation consoles and PlayStation VR headsets – to do so.
The question is, how can Crackle make sure that it turns gamers into Crackle viewers? “Number one is the UX,” said Rene Santaella, Sony’s Senior Vice President, Global Ad Strategy & Operations, Sony Pictures Television Networks, in a post-presentation conversation with Cynopsis Digital. “We have an opportunity where we can create a Crackle UX experience that fits someone holding a dual shock controller – that takes advantage of product features built on this platform. And there’s an opportunity to do programming that really keeps this connected entertainment enthusiast in mind. And that becomes a lens for which Crackle originals we end up greenlighting, and helps us programs the channels. It becomes a filter for us. We’re thinking about an entertainment consumer who likes gaming, who likes streaming, and who loves their console.”
Looks like Facebook isn’t building its own voice assistant anytime soon. “We are not working on that right now,” David Marcus, VP of messaging products told Variety at the company’s F8 developers conference. That leaves the likes of Amazon and Google with one less competitor in the space.
Also at the F8 conference, Facebook exec Mike Schroepfer unveiled two new 360-degree cameras. Called the x24 and the x6, the devices come equipped with 24 cameras and 6 cameras, respectively. Facebook says it will license the designs to a select number of commercial partners later this year.  
No surprise here: The second screen can be a distraction. Nielsen recently conducted a neuro-scientific study for the Council for Research Excellence, finding that viewers only pay attention to what’s on their TV screens about half the time; the other half of the time they’re paying attention to a mobile device or tablet. That makes mobile phones and tablets the biggest source of distraction for TV viewers, by light years. Other forms of distraction might include everyday activities like eating or reading. But it’s not all negative for programmers and advertisers: According to the study, the presence of a second screen decreased the amount of channel-flipping. (Another notable tidbit from the study: Nielsen found that watching TV content with another person led to increased engagement with advertising, likely due to conversations related to the ads.) Carl Marci, EVP and Chief Neuroscientist at Nielsen, said the study shows that advertisers should think hard about the audio content of their ads: While second-screen viewers may be more likely to stay tuned to a channel, there’s a good chance they’re not looking at the TV.
Tweet of the week: @CharlotteAbotsi: HARRY IS SO BEAUTIFUL #SNL
Canvs, the language analytics company that measures emotions around content, analyzed tweets about TV and streaming programming from April 12-18 using Twitter data from Nielsen. Insights from the 2,799,654 tweets expressing a specific Emotional Reaction (ER) include:
– Tops in beautiful ERs: the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live on NBC where musical guest Harry Styles had fans professing their adoration for the One Direction singer (now gone solo) and admiring his looks.
– A particularly creepy episode of The CW’s Supernatural featuring a spooky goat man had viewers feeling afraid.
– Tops in badass ERs: a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy on ABC where fans were impressed with how main character Dr. Meredith Grey responded to an emergency on a plane.
– One show that had viewers laughing the most was VH1’s Basketball Wives, with people finding Evelyn and Shaunie particularly amusing.
Mike Woods has joined Wurl, a Silicon Valley company that distributes online video channels to both OTT and pay-TV services. The veteran product exec will start at the company on May 1, reporting to Wurl CEO Sean Doherty. Woods previously served as VP of Product Management at Disney’s Maker Studios, leaving the company earlier this year.
Mobile brand advertising company Kargo has named Ed Carey as its first EVP of U.S. Sales. Carey joins Kargo from the business services company Dun & Bradstreet, where he served as Global Vice President, Advertising Market Development. Based in Kargo’s New York office, he’ll report to Adam Chandler, Kargo’s Chief Business Officer.

Jamie Hector, co-star of Amazon’s Bosch, also played an ambitious young drug boss in HBO’s The Wire. One of the character’s most memorable quotes: “My name is my name.” Speaking of which, what was his name?  (Email trivia@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, and state.)
Our Last Trivia Question: A 1969-set drama about women in the newsroom debuted on Amazon Video last year, but it wasn’t renewed for a second season. What was it called? Answer: Good Girls Revolt. Kudos to Bellinda Alvarez-The Hollywood Reporter/CA, Andy Pittman-TAMU/TX, Mathew Tombers-Intermat, Inc./NY, Louis Lewow-Lewow Media Group/GA, David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/CA, Susan Nessanbaum-Goldberg-M and S Entertainment/CA, Lorrie Shilling/CA, Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/CA, Aaron Paquette-Screen Engine/ASI/TX, and Christine Allen-McGee Media/NY.


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One thing that Facebook has made very clear at the F8 developers conference: It’s diving headlong into augmented reality. It’s worth checking out CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s rundown of the company’s new AR efforts. From the Wall Street Journal’s YouTube channel, watch here.


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