Good morning. It's Monday, June 25, 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.
In April, Smosh, which has been one of the most subscribed to brand channels on YouTube even prior to the video site's programming initiative, launched Shut Up! Cartoons. The new original channel, which plans to launch 18 new animated series with 180 short-form episodes this year alone, went live with four programs. All together, the four series have collected over 20 million views, while the channel itself has amassed more than 500,000 subscribers. I spoke with Barry Blumberg, EVP at Alloy Digital and President of Smosh, about the launch and relative success of Shut Up! Cartoons.
You were formerly the chief of Disney Television Animation. In launching this channel on YouTube and working with creators to develop new programming, how has the process been similar to that of television, and how has it been different?
I think it's very similar. When I was at Disney, we were always looking for creators that had really clear-cut visions. And it was our job to enhance their visions on screen and make them as true to what they wanted as possible. We do the same with how Smosh, Shut Up! Cartoons, and Alloy works with producers and creators.
At the same time, we don't monkey with the projects around here. At Disney, we had a lot of cooks in the kitchen -- and rightfully so as there are a lot of interests in standards as well as branding concerns. At Smosh and Shut Up! Cartoons, the creators have a lot of freedom. It's indicative of not only the digital space in general but also the Shut Up! Cartoons brand, which is a lot more broad-minded than what I have been involved with in animation in the past.
With Shut Up! Cartoons, you're planning to premiere 18 short-form web series this year alone. Focusing on that short-form aspect, do you think that has added to the success of the channel, in that a good amount of television animation has existed as a 30-minute block consisting of two or three "shorts"? On a platform like YouTube, is there room for long-form original programming?
Cartoons originally came from shorts that ran before feature films decades and decades ago. They evolved into being seven-minutes long, with three forming a half hour of television, such as with Looney Tunes back when I was a kid. So it's not necessarily out of the ordinary that original, online animated programming also can be shorter in length. Storytelling is storytelling, though. Some things are better in a longer format. I look at Pixar and successful half-hour shows such as Phineas & Ferb; these are great for what they are. What we at Smosh, Shut Up! Cartoons, and Alloy really try to do is make platform agnostic content that works on any screen. Whether it's YouTube, which offers the distribution and marketing leverage that it has today, or another platform. I think any of these shorts can work in a movie theater or on a television or on your iPhone. What matters is great characters, great stories, with a little bit of action and comedy thrown in.
While programming on Shut Up! Cartoons is available on-demand, you also release each new episode at a set time, similar to what many other YouTube original channels are doing. If one of the hallmarks of the digital space in general is the ability to access content at any time from any device, why is it important to still set these established "premiere" times?
I think that most people want to watch it when they want to watch it. However, they also like to know when it's available. I know that when my DVR records an episode of Game of Thrones, I would like to know when it's available. Our subscribers know when new episodes are coming out because it's right there in their subscription box.
Or if I am a huge fan, I want to know when it's available as well as when it's being aired. Similar to TV, it builds anticipation for a new episode. When we release a Smosh video on a Friday, we have a huge concentration of viewership that is happening right at that minute because there is anticipation.
The important thing is that different people have different viewing habits. Some watch the programming on-demand, some like to catch it as it's about to here, and a digital platform like YouTube allows for that flexibility in a very natural way.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the social media effort surrounding each episode?
We have a lot of social heft. I don't want to tell everybody exactly what we do, but we have a large social platform that we use to support our programming. The promotional effort surrounding each show is tailored to the platforms that are appropriate for the show. When we release a new episode of Krogzilla, it certainly surfaces on the Smosh and Shut Up! Cartoons Facebook pages. For a cartoon like Pubertina, it shows up on our web properties like Teen.com and Crushable.com as well as their social channels. Also, we are not gratuitous. We view our social platforms as brand extensions and not as solicitation devices. It's important to make the experience as entertaining as possible for our audience.
What would you like to do/see going forward to keep this growth and momentum going?
We've only launched four series so far. I'd like to just keep the momentum going and have different things resonate with different segments of our audience. Obviously I'd love to see a breakout hit, which everyone wants to partner with us on. And we'd love to continue to work with YouTube as this original programming initiative evolves.
You've launched four series so far, which ones are next?
Next week is the premiere of a show that I absolutely love called Snowjacked, which is a strange action adventure story that has little bit of a LOST feel. Our audience is also clamoring for Oishi High School Battle, which mixes live action and animation as a cartoon character is forced to attend a regular high school. That will premiere on July 13. And then there's Sub 3 from Peter Hastings, which is a mock 1960 animation in the style of Speed Racer. And Politicats, which is exactly what it sounds like -- political, talking cats.
Social TV platform provider FANS.tv, which in the past has powered live social chats for broadcast clients like The CW, has launched Battle Mode on its website. It's a new second-screen social service targeted toward viewers of sports and reality competition programming as it allows users to pick sides and interact (trash talk) with each other as they watch the show. Viewers are allowed to pick their favorite team or fighter, or a participant in a singing or dating competition, before entering into the fray. FANS.tv says viewers will be able to "battle" around any program of their choice, but that it will also host select, marquee events. The UFC fight between Clay Guida and Gray Maynard this past Friday night was the first official battle hosted by FANS.tv.
Adobe has made Adobe Media Server 5 Professional available through Adobe, selected resellers, and Amazon Web Services. The product, when combined with Adobe Access 4, enables companies to stream protected content via a single digital rights management (DRM) workflow to computers, connected TVs, tablets, and smartphones (it's compatible with both iOS and Android devices). Adobe is also making the Adobe Access library available for iOS developers. The company says this will allow video app developers to build the same Adobe DRM capability they use for desktop apps directly into their mobile apps for Apple's devices. Initially available for Linux, versions of Adobe Media Server 5 for other platforms will come this fall.
Online video start-up Ooyala has unveiled Ooyala Now, an analytics dashboard that looks to provide TV programmers with real-time ("up to the minute," according to Ooyala), network-wide analysis of viewer consumption patterns and content trends. Ooyala says the product, which is the first in a series of expanded analytics offerings it is planning for TV programmers, is built on the back of a new back-end infrastructure as well as five years of Big-Data-driven research in online video consumption. The new infrastructure was designed to support the deployment of the company's analytics services at scales necessary for large service providers. The goal here is to help these service providers make more informed decisions when promoting and monetizing content across their network. To that end, the dashboard specifically provides metrics such as popular content by market, real-time viewing stats for each asset, and global consumption patterns. Ooyala says future product updates will bring information such as quality-of-service data and real-time advertising and subscription revenue metrics. Ooyala Now is entering pre-release with select broadcast and publisher partners, and will be widely available in the third quarter of this year.
Microsoft Advertising is teaming up with WPP's 9ine, a sports marketing agency founded by Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo, to develop branded digital campaigns around the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup. Announced via a blog post written by Frank Holland, CVP/Advertising & Online at Microsoft Advertising, the partnership will "offer advertisers a series of platforms to co-create themed digital experiences across multiple screens that will bring fans closer to the passion and excitement of the World Cup."
Google has redesigned its local ad formats for Google Maps for Mobile in an effort to enable advertisers to better reach consumers via mobile search. The enhancements include more prominent placement of clickable calls-to-actions such as "get directions" or "click to call"; a new hyperlocal marker that shows users how close they are to a particular business; and perhaps most importantly, now when a user clicks on an ad, he or she will be taken to the advertiser's website from within the app. To have access to the updated ad formats, Google says AdWords clients should target the relevant campaigns to mobile devices, enable ads to show to search partners, and have location extensions enabled within AdWords.
That's not all the news coming out of a WPP company or Google. Mindshare and Google have teamed up to launch "Mobile Garage," a new venture that aims to help Mindshare clients get involved in using mobile. Mobile hubs will be set up around the globe, starting with New York, London, and Singapore, where Mindshare clients will have access to teams of mobile experts from both Mindshare and Google. The companies say that the hub will work across all aspects of the mobile eco-system, from search optimization and app development, to strategy, planning, and creative. Mobile Garage will also complement Mindshare's existing relationships with WPP's mobile agencies, Joule and H-Art.
The Apple versus Motorola patent war has been dealt a hard blow. Late Friday night, Judge Richard Posner, who has been presiding over the matter in the US District Court of Illinois, dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning that both companies will not be able to re-file their respective claims. This just leaves the patent battles Apple and Motorola are currently engaging in against each other in the International Trade Commission as well as several courts in foreign countries.
Verizon Wireless has rolled out its 4G LTE network in 46 new markets and expanded it within 22 other markets, bringing the total number of markets in which it is available in the US to 304. The wireless carrier's goal is to make its 4G LTE network available in over 400 markets by the end of the year, as well was offer it wherever it currently provides at least 3G coverage by the end of 2013.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
Google was the top web brand in terms of total US audience in May 2012, according to new data from Nielsen. The company received 173 million unique visitors across its properties, and was followed by Facebook, which generated 152 million visitors last month. YouTube (Google again) was once again the top online video destination as more than four out of every five online viewers in the US streamed video from the site. Overall, Nielsen finds that over 276 million Americans have internet access. Among the other findings:
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM CABLEFAX
Digititles focuses on providing movie fans with behind-the-scenes content and other forms of entertainment extras surrounding current and upcoming releases. The company behind the site also says it functions as a social network of sorts, where filmmakers and others involved in the production process can post content such as videos, scripts, pictures, and storyboards, as a way to connect with fans. As a way to demonstrate what the site is and can do, Digititles is promoting a dedicated page for The Amazing Spider-Man. On the page, users can access videos from the set, sketches and 3D renderings of how Spider-Man's web shooter works, and facts about the movie. Similar pages are set up for a slew of other current and upcoming movies as well as popular TV shows from the past and present. There are also categories for animation, games, music videos, and commercials. Give it a look.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
Later - Sahil
Sahil Patel, Associate Editor for Cynopsis Digital
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