05.05.16 Good morning. It’s Thursday May 5, 2016, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.
OOH Marketing: Short for out-of-home-marketing. Not surprisingly, out-of-home marketing refers to any marketing that reaches consumers outside the home. In the digital age, an OOH campaign can be shockingly sophisticated, making use of tools such as advanced data and location-based targeting. Speaking of which, Cynopsis will be holding an OOH marketing webinar on May 24. You can learn more here.
All of a sudden, the live TV subscription space is on the verge of getting crowded. Right as Hulu confirmed (more on that below) that it’ll be launching a live TV service come 2017, YouTube is set to get in on the act as well. According to a report from Bloomberg (later confirmed by Variety), the Google-owned company is preparing a 2017 launch for Unplugged, a competitor to the likes of Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and the upcoming Hulu service. Priced at $35 per month, the service hasn’t actually locked down any content partners as of yet, and overall details are still relatively sparse. You can read the Bloomberg report here.
Ellen DeGeneres announced the launch of her own digital network. Titled, straightforwardly enough, Ellen Digital Network, the new initiative launches with YouTube star Tyler Oakley onboard as a content partner. Oakley and DeGeneres will collaborate on original digital projects, and will aim to develop television projects as well. You can find a full look at the new network’s initial content slate here.
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UPFRONT AND NEWFRONT UPDATES
Of all the SVOD services out there, Hulu has the most kinship with traditional television. It gets linear programming shortly after initial airing, and its three owners (Disney-ABC, NBCU, and Fox) are network giants. Heck, the service’s tagline is “Come TV with us.” So it’s fitting that yesterday’s Madison Square Garden presentation, featuring presenters such as Hugh Laurie, Amy Poehler, and Aaron Paul, was billed as an Upfront rather than a NewFront.
Among other news, CEO Mike Hopkins confirmed recent reports that, come 2017, Hulu will launch a live-TV package that will compete with the likes of Sling TV and PlayStation Vue. (Several hours after the NewFront, Variety reported that Hulu is looking to include local TV channels in the new package.)
Hopkins also said that Hulu will hit 12 million U.S. subs by the end of this month, which amounts to year-over-year growth of 30%.
In other news, Hulu has announced that it’s bringing The Mindy Project back for season five, and renewing its drama The Path for a second season. The service also announced an upcoming push into the documentary space with the launch of Hulu Documentary Films. HDF’s first major acquisition is a new Ron Howard-directed doc about the early days of The Beatles, tentatively titled Eight Days a Week, which will debut this fall on Hulu and in theaters. In addition, Hulu will be debuting a second election special starring Robert Smigel’s Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. (Given that Donald Trump had just emerged victorious on the GOP side, the timing of the announcement was fortuitous – for both Hulu and the comedy gods. Triumph will have plenty of material to work with.)
Like many digital media companies this month, Hulu is delving deeper into virtual reality. In a partnership with Live Nation Entertainment, the company will make select concert performances available to VR users. Hulu has already made other VR content available. Its virtual reality app, said SVP of Advertising Peter Naylor, commands an average user time of 12 minutes – ten minutes more than the average for VR.
On the nerdier side of things, Hulu announced a new partnership with Nielsen: The service will use Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings product to measure OTT viewing in the living room. “While data isn’t new to advertising, it is fairly new to TV, and it is going to change TV as we know it,” Naylor said.
In other news, Hulu is partnering with Havas Media and the ad tech firm BrightLine on a new interactive advertising format. And the research firm Millward Brown will help provide marketers and advertisers with studies and statistics related to OTT and living room viewership. Hulu announced Magna Global is a beta partner in that initiative.
The Gen Z- and millennial-oriented Defy Media announced plans to produce 30 new shows over the next year, bringing the company’s slate to more than 100 shows total. Among other programming, Defy’s Smosh brand will be introducing These 5 People, a new sketch series, while the sub-brands Smosh Games and Smosh Cast will launch the comedy-and-competition series Smosh Summer Games 2: Camp. Meanwhile, Defy’s AweMe brand will bring on Danny Trejo as new host of Man At Arms, its series focused on weapons-creation. Other Defy brands include Screen Junkies (known for the Honest Trailers series), Made Man, Break, and Clevver.
To Defy, a wealth of content – in its case, 72 existing shows – is a very useful resource for a company that’s set to launch even more content. “[T]hese shows have…big install bases that we can market to when we launch new programming,” said Keith Richman, Defy’s President. Richman also noted – with some understandable pride – that from production to distribution, Defy is something of a self-sustaining ecosystem. “[Defy’s shows] are all produced by, edited by, and written by, someone whose email address ends with @defymedia.com,” he said. He also said that the company’s existing base of successful content will enable the company to be patient with its new shows, using analytics and other information to improve content, instead of having to issue cancellations at the first sign of failure.
Speaking of which, the company was bullish on its analytics capabilities. Andy Tu, Defy’s EVP of Marketing, discussed Acumen Insights, the company’s research arm, which helps Defy’s partners stay aware of changes and developments across Defy’s numerous platforms and brands.
Defy also announced Z Blocks, a new ad product allowing a single brand to buy in-video advertising across one of one of the company’s four verticals (entertainment, lifestyle, comedy, and gaming). The product allows for one brand to become the only advertiser on a group of shows. Amazon is one of the first ZBlock partners, said CEO Matt Diamond.
Defy prides itself on having an extremely engaged user-base – and on its ability to respond directly to the needs of its audience. According to Richman, the more the company listens to its audience, the better it performs. And in a conversation with Cynopsis Digital, Marketing EVP Andy Tu discussed the importance of braving the Internet comments section. “When we put a show out there, we have a ton of interaction,” he said. “Individual shows will have somewhere in the ballpark of forty or fifty thousand likes, and strings and strings of comments. And while of course you can never pin your content and programming strategy on singular comments, you do get a sense of what’s working and what’s not. And some people eventually become your net promoters. We have an incredibly social fan base.”
At its NewFront event in NYC’s Financial District, Conde Nast Entertainment announced plans to expand its digital video efforts with three new incubator programs. The first two incubators were already launched by the studio Indigenous Media; CNE will join the fun as a production and distribution partner. Those two incubators will now be called Project: Her and Big Script. The former will focus on female filmmakers and their mentors, following their journeys together through social videos, then culminating in a finished project that will premiere on CNE’s digital video network. Big Script, meanwhile, was launched in partnership with both Indigenous and Turkeyfoot Productions, a studio helmed by Hunger Games star Josh Hutcherson and his mother Michelle Hutcherson. The incubator will pair young filmmakers with scripts submitted to the Black List. CNE will distribute the resulting shorts, one of which will be directed by Hutcherson. The third incubator, a Creators In Residence program, will be aimed at helping millennial filmmakers produce content outside the traditional system. The first project from the Creators In Residence program will be That’s What She Said, a scripted comedy created by Samantha Ressler (Modern Family).
CNE also announced that it has launched the second iteration of The Scene, its mobile-first video network, with a new mobile app and social features. The NBA and CNN’s Great Big Story will join 17 existing content partners on the network. As part of the partnership, the NBA will co-create multiple new lifestyle series for The Scene, including one focusing on the lives of NBA stars.
One thing that’s been coming through loud and clear at all the NewFronts: Digital media companies want to offer their partners concrete measurement capabilities. CNE was no different: The company announced a partnership with the measurement firm SimpleReach. SimpleReach will now create a new dashboard – slated to launch this Fall – designed to analyze the performance of branded video across all platforms.
All told, CNE renewed 62% of its digital series slate for the 2016-2017 season. The company also announced that it has lined up a new distribution partnership with Comcast (details were sparse on that front).
“We are a studio and a network that is producing not only digital video, but film, television, social video, digital video, and VR,” CNE Chief Revenue Officer Lisa Valentino told Cynopsis Digital. “We make content for every screen. We’ve got broad distribution across 50 different partners. We’ve doubled our engagement from a year ago,” she added. “There’s a consumer sprint to quality. We’re seeing it in our numbers.”
AOL’s NewFront – billed as “AOL Access: A New Kind of NewFront” – was something to behold. The open-air event, which spanned about four blocks worth of real estate at NYC’s South Street Seaport, was a sprawling, ambitious affair whose budget can only be guessed at. (It certainly helps that AOL is now owned by a telecommunications behemoth called Verizon.) Booths and stations scattered throughout the event area showcased numerous AOL properties and Verizon content partners. And things got very hands on. At the TechCrunch booth, you could grab a remote control and pilot an unwieldy drone. At the Engadget booth, you could strap on the HTC Vive VR headset and find yourself standing in a diving cage while a whale swam past you. And the night culminated with appearances from Snoop Dogg and Demi Lovato, who delivered musical performances on an outdoor stage.
Credit to AOL – the event got at a fundamental truth about the digital format: Digital is hands-on. Whether you’re watching streaming content on your phone or wearing a VR headset, digital platforms are fun to hold and play with. NewFront presentations don’t always reflect that fact.
AOL and Verizon, of course, have very deep pockets, as well as the luxury of owning and/or partnering with a slew of media properties. And that was part of the point: The event was a show of force. AOL seemed to be saying, “Our ecosystem of properties and partnerships is so extensive, you can literally walk around in it.” It was a noteworthy choice, though, to showcase content partners like the NBA right alongside fully owned properties.
In an on-site interview with Cynopsis Digital, AOL’s U.S. Head of Mobile Sales, Alia Lamborgini, explained the rationale like this: “There’s this massive democratization of content going on. So it doesn’t matter to a consumer where the content lives. Because they’re going to get it in all of these different hubs and places anyway. So it’s less about, where does the content live, where’s the walled garden, and more about, how can we further democratize the content, further democratize the creators, and get the content distributed. That’s good for consumers, it’s good for advertisers, and it’s good for vendors as well.”
And yes, there was some news out of the event as well. The company announced that it will relocate the studio for AOL BUILD, its live interview series, to a new location near its existing Manhattan offices. The new studio will be designed for VR and 360-degree video shoots in addition to live video. (AOL acquired the VR production company RYOT last month, which, to say the least, should help the company’s VR efforts.) As for live video, CEO Tim Armstrong told the media that, between all of its global partners, AOL is already streaming 100 million hours of live video daily.
Armstrong also said that AOL’s audience is now 70% mobile, and that the company has plans to launch 20 new video series across its portfolio. And, echoing a theme that has reverberated throughout the NewFronts, Armstrong championed the importance of data. “Data is the oil of this economy,” he said, noting that companies rely on brands and content to build programming, and to distribute it to the right people at the right time. Verizon and AOL, he pointed out, have one of the largest data sets in the world. (Side note: Just think about what that data set will look like if Verizon successfully acquires Yahoo…But that’s a discussion for another day.)
Brian Angiolet, Verizon’s SVP of Consumer Products, also spoke. Angiolet noted that the content of go90, Verizon’s mobile video service, will be migrating to AOL’s tech stack in Q3 of this year. At that point, he noted, AOL properties will be able to write editorial surrounding go90 programming. And companies will also be able to use AOL’s programmatic ad tech to buy ads across all of Verizon’s content.
Live virtual reality specialist Next VR has teamed up with Live Nation to stream hundreds of concerts and other events to virtual reality users. The content will be available through the NextVR app on the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR headsets. The first concert to be streamed under the deal will come this summer.
Apple will soon launch a redesigned version of Apple Music, according to Bloomberg. The new version is designed to feature a more intuitive interface, and to better integrate with the iTunes download store. It will also offer an online radio service, according to the report.
Magna Global, Interpublic’s ad-buying unit has committed to spending at least $250 million on YouTube instead of TV. The spending will come between October 2016 and December 2017. Magna Global’s clients include Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson. The story was initially reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Cynopsis Digital Exclusive: The data and analytics company ListenFirst Media has named Evan Cowitt as Vice President of West Coast Sales, a newly created position. In addition to working with existing ListenFirst clients, Cowitt will oversee a number of business development initiatives, including the expansion of ListenFirst’s work in the auto and CPG industries, as well as the establishment of strategic relationships with consumer and entertainment brands. Cowitt joins ListenFirst from the digital advertising company PointRoll, where he served as VP of West Coast and Detroit Sales. He’s also held positions at MovieFone, Rotten Tomatoes, and Walt Disney Studios. “ListenFirst has set the standard for measuring the online presence of brands,” said Cowitt, “and I’m honored and excited to help lead the new innovations and groundbreaking developments the company has in store."
Today, Netflix is debuting Marseille, its first French-language original series. The show stars a legendary French actor – who is it? Find the answer in tomorrow’s newsletter. (Or just watch the series on Netflix.)
Yesterday’s Trivia Question: Prior to founding YouTube, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim all worked for which company? Answer: PayPal.
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