Good morning. It's Monday, June 11, 2012, and this is your first early morning digital briefing. If you would like to read this or any other Cynopsis editions online, click here.
While you may not know Believe Entertainment Group (BE Group) by name just yet, you probably recognize some of the content that the studio has already produced. BE Group was behind The LeBrons, an animated series featuring the NBA superstar, for which the studio partnered with James' Spring Hill Productions. The series has captured more than 50 million views to-date across multiple distribution channels, including YouTube, iTunes, James' social media properties, and Digital Broadcasting Group (DBG). BE Group also partnered with popular DJ/producer, Tiesto, for a 10-episode documentary-style series that launched in January 2012 on YouTube. In the Booth generated more than 70 million views in its first three months on the site. So it's safe to say that BE Group has some experience in producing original digital content that people actually watch. The studio's name popped up again during the NewFronts, when it was announced that it had partnered with Jennifer Lopez to create Tiger Beat Entertainment (TBE), a new original entertainment property to reside on AOL's Cambio. I spoke with Dan Goodman and William H. Masterson III, Co-Founders of BE Group and Executive Producers of TBE (along with Lopez), about the TBE, BE Group, and its place within this drive toward premium, original content for the web.
With premium online video content becoming a huge focus among many digital media companies, why did you choose to partner with AOL?
DAN: The way we look at all of our distribution partners... they are all based on where we think the target demo for the project is going to be best served and where the content makes the most sense. For The LeBrons, we are moving to Microsoft's Xbox platform for season 2. It's a computer-generated animated world, and Xbox is a great platform for that type of content. For Tiesto, we debuted his show In the Booth on YouTube because he had a built-in subscriber base there.
The reason that we ended up with AOL and their Cambio property for our new show with Jennifer Lopez, Tiger Beat Entertainment, was two-fold: Their compatibility with the type of programming we want to produce and, of course, their reach. Tiger Beat Entertainment (TBE) is a youth and young adult property. It skews slightly female. We think Cambio works great in this regard. Cambio is one of the few big properties in this space and is really dedicated to this category from both a content and advertising perspective. We also believe in the overall AOL effort in premium online video. We like where they are going in supporting online content. And, AOL has interesting social tools to amplify our programming.
What kind of social tools?
DAN: Some social tools haven't been released yet, but we're focusing on a lot of social interaction around AOL's program --the ability to watch content with your friends, making it easy to share and post, etc. They are building some of these sharing features into their video players and the site itself. It's no longer about just watching content, it's about taking action and doing something. And that makes a lot of sense for a young audience.
TBE is geared toward this young audience. What would you say differentiates your show from others that are trying to reach this audience?
BILL: There isn't a show out there that is accomplishing what our show wants to do, which is to inform and enrich a young audience with the latest in lifestyle and entertainment news. Our show is dedicated to talking about younger Hollywood; about fashion, music and film for younger audiences; trends in technology, and talking about social media and how it is affecting their lives.
DAN: We gravitated toward it because it's a positive, non-salacious programming platform that we're developing together for teens and young adults.
BILL: We are also producing and presenting it in a very recognizable format Entertainment Tonight for youth. It's a format that both audiences and advertisers would gravitate toward. We're essentially taking a cross-section of components of successful shows, and redirecting and recreating from a content perspective for a younger demographic.
DAN: Another big differentiator is the tone and approach we are taking with this project. We are featuring this audience in an authentic way. It's not just telling an entertainment story. It's telling an entertainment story about a young audience by a young adult audience. It allows TBE to be a part of their ecosystem.
Once you've reached this audience, how will you ensure that you stay within the ecosystem?
BILL: The audience already exists on Cambio. How we continue to keep the content fresh will be related to the team we are putting together. We have a great editorial and production team, as well as the benefit of Jennifer's involvement in the project and her access to talent.
How would you characterize your content strategy? And how has it helped you attract brands and advertisers who want to be a part of it?
BILL: Believe Entertainment Group is an independent studio for A-list talent. We are creating premium entertainment for viewers in the digital age. We are not service-driven. We start with recognizable talent and great content, and develop properties that people are going to care about and want to watch. What we have found is that when we take that approach, audiences follow, and then the advertisers and brands will naturally follow.
DAN: Also, when we bring an ad sponsor or brand partner into a project, it's a way for them to be a part of the content. The talent we work with, the LeBrons, Tiestos and Jennifers have very active online audiences in the tens of millions. It allows brands and advertisers to become a part of the social community that is built around each of our talent partners.
What's down the road for digital studios like BE Group?
BILL: The great thing with portals and YouTube and AOL and all of these video platforms is that we think it's going to create a huge surge of demand from the marketplace (from a brand perspective) to develop great content. And with a lot of very well known talent beginning to enter this space, it will bring more validity to online video. And that's where we come in. We have a great track record in being able to take a project and bring it to market, and make it successful, both in terms of audience and dollars. Our show with Tiesto, In the Booth, had 70 million+ views in its first three months. We are always continuing to keep our eyes out for tech companies that can deliver for us; help us magnify our projects and increase exposure. Our proven ability to executive on YouTube, Hulu, AOL and all the distribution partners has been an advantage for us, and we will continue to take advantage of new technologies that come up. We're looking to do deeper reach projects.
DAN: Content is our business. We intend to continue to build premium content for this generation of consumers. There's even more opportunity for us now, and we know what we do well. We're going to continue to define what we think is great entertainment.
Have you seen an uptick in the interest in digital video?
DAN: We continue to see the growth and interest in digital content. We are seeing people continue to spend money in the category. We have been doing this for six years, so we've been spending for a while. But the momentum is clearly building. The great benefit of the recent Digital Content NewFronts is that it forces the conversations and the planning process. People need the rigor and structure to continue to build. Everyone seems to be learning their way through it. But we have seen an increase in interest, and we are hoping it continues to grow as people are predicting, translating to more activity and more spending in the marketplace.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM TV FOR TOMORROW
A Reuters report shines a light on Intel's development of a connected set-top box and its desire to license specific channels and shows from media companies and offer them in smaller packages as part of a "virtual television service." The report says that the set-top box would be able to use facial recognition technology in order to target advertising to the consumer straight through the TV. The technology would not be as invasive as to identify individuals, but would be strong enough to determine the viewer's gender or age to help target advertising. Intel is arguing that such interactive features would add enough value to TV advertising to offset the reduced revenue from the discounted licensing fees it has been requesting from the TV content providers. According to the report, Intel is trying to sell media companies on the idea of a TV service that could include channel packages that are similar to the ones offered by cable companies as well as offering them on-demand. Unsurprisingly, Intel's efforts have been met with strong resistance from the TV side. Reuters says that Intel would like to launch the service before the end of the year.
My Damn Channel and Principato-Young Entertainment have launched The Tweekly News, a new original comedy series hosted and written by comedians Randy and Jason Sklar. The show aims to look at pop culture through the lens of Twitter as the brotherly duo riff on important and unimportant trending topics. New episodes will be posted every Friday, with a total of 10 scheduled for the series. A branded integration with EX, a free online quit smoking program created by the public health nonprofit Legacy, will include a segment called "Time to Re-Learn," during which the hosts dispense advice to stars on Twitter in a fashion similar to how EX encourages people to stop smoking.
Netflix continues to expand its "Just For Kids" user interface to more connected devices, according to GigaOM. New devices to offer the UI include the Boxee Box, WD TV Live players, Sharp and Vizio connected TVs, and Blu-ray players from Panasonic and Sony. The UI offers a special section on Netflix apps/services that highlights kids- and family-oriented content.
IFC has launched a live Twitter game called Bunk Yourself to serve as a social companion to its new game show series, Bunk. In the show, a trio of comedians compete in a series of "bizarre challenges" to win "surreal prizes," says IFC. Types of challenges include drawing, sculpture, creating movie pitches, translating diner jargon, and interacting with a wide array of people and animals. For Bunk Yourself, players tweet their responses to the challenges to the @IFCBunk Twitter handle, which will announce both the challenge and the winner. The game will also feature the host, Kurt Braunohler, interacting with users on the micro-blogging site from his own Twitter handle. The game launched this past Friday when the show premiered at 10:30pm ET, and will continue through the first season's remaining nine episodes.
Shout! Factory has acquired the Video Time Machine, Political Time Machine, and Holiday Time Machine apps from Original Victories, for an undisclosed price. Video Time Machine features over 25,000 video clips dating back as far as 100 years in categories such as movies, music, television, news, sports, games, and advertisements. Political Team Machine offers over 2,500 political videos, also spanning the last 100 years, allowing users to watch candidate speeches and other politically themed video clips. Holiday Time Machine offers up themed television content, commercials, music, and animation. The apps are available across all iOS devices. Shout! Factory will assume responsibility of updating the content on the apps, and says it plans to develop additional apps based on the same platform, as well as support for Android devices.
Apple will soon release a new way for app developers to track consumers who use their products, reports The Wall Street Journal. However, the new method will be better suited to protect consumer privacy, according to what the paper's sources tell the WSJ. Last year, Apple made the decision to stop allowing developers and mobile ad networks from using the Unique Device Identifier (UDID), a serial number unique to each Apple device, to track consumers and serve ads to them. The use of UDID was criticized for making it easy for companies to identify individual users. This new method, which reportedly will prevent such concerns from arising, may be unveiled in the coming weeks.
An upcoming patent suit between Apple and Google-owned Motorola Mobility is in danger of being fully dismissed. According to several reports, a federal judge has canceled a scheduled June 11 trial between the two companies over patents covering mobile phone and tablet technology. In his ruling, the judge said that neither side is capable of proving damages brought on by the other side's alleged patent infringement. In a "tentative" order, US Circuit Judge Richard Posner said the opposing lawsuits should be dismissed with prejudice, in other words, Apple and Google/Motorola Mobility cannot bring the matter over the same patents to court again. Judge Posner will deliver a formal written opinion in the coming week with a decision on the matter.
As a preview of TabLens, comScore's upcoming new monthly report on tablet ownership and consumption, the measurement service has released some findings that indicate that in the US, roughly 25% of smartphone owners used a tablet during the three-month average period ending in April 2012. The study also found that tablet users are nearly three times more likely than smartphone users to watch video on their device. To Mark Donovan, comScore's SVP/Mobile, the growth in tablet usage means the devices "are poised to fundamentally disrupt the way people engage with the digital world both on-the-go and perhaps most notably, in the home." Other highlights include:
In late 2011, Time Warner Cable (TWC) enlisted the services of Google and Leapfrog Online to implement a campaign designed at targeting, reaching, and converting consumers through mobile. TWC with the help of Leapfrog built a mobile-optimized website that incorporated mobile best practices such as concise and condensed information, prioritization of key calls-to-action, and simplified screen layouts, allowing users to order services directly from the device. In addition, the campaign developed unique consumer experience paths, in that the site drove consumers who were looking to purchase or receive customer care to separate sites and call centers. Leapfrog monitored this aspect of the campaign in order to adjust budgets, key words, and call-center staffing to match consumer demand. And finally, the campaign used search ads and a click-to-call search extension to enable consumers to call TWC from the devices. The results of this campaign shine a light on the potential value of mobile/search campaigns; they include:
Facebook's new App Center, which was launched last Thursday night, initially offers over 600 apps that are accessible both online through Facebook.com as well as through the social network's native apps on iOS and Android devices. As noted when the company first announced the App Center, it only "lists high-quality apps, based on feedback from people who use the app." A "Send to Mobile" feature allows users to push an app they find on the computer to their mobile device; if it requires a download to play it on the smartphone or tablet, the user will be sent to the iOS App Store or Google Play.
NBC Entertainment has appointed Robert Hayes to the newly created position of EVP/Digital Media. Hayes will be responsible for the network's day-to-day digital strategy and operations, covering NBC.com, social media channels, online, mobile/apps, connected devices, multiplatform programming, product development, digital media business development, and digital marketing. He will report to Len Fogge, President/NBC Entertainment Marketing & Digital.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
A&E Network has launched Storage Wars Fan Challenge, a new second-screen app that gives viewers the opportunity to compete against each other by playing in a fantasy-style game that is synced up to the show. In the app, players test their bidding skills by selecting the cast member who they think will be the winning bidder for the season. During each new episode of Storage Wars, players will earn points based on how well their chosen cast member performs. Extra points will be awarded if the chosen cast member wins a locker that is worth a lot of money. Other ways to earn points include frequently using the app, sharing content on Facebook and Twitter, checking into the show, and playing trivia games, as well as answering pop-up questions that will live on the app during each broadcast. A global leaderboard will show which players are performing the best. To earn a shot at the weekly $1,000 cash prize, a user simply has to play the game. The app is currently available for free on the iPad and on AEtv.com. It's coming to other devices later this season. Social TV tech company TVplus is powering the app.
Later - Sahil
Sahil Patel, Associate Editor for Cynopsis Digital
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