A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM E!
Good morning. It's Monday, July 30, 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.
My Damn Channel is an online entertainment network that has been a major presence in the web video space for the last half-decade (in fact, the company celebrates its fifth birthday tomorrow). Named one of the top 50 websites in 2011 by TIME Magazine, the site is behind some of the more popular web series running today, including Wainy Days from filmmaker David Wain and Daily Grace. On the eve of such a notable milestone for the company, I spoke with My Damn Channel's Founder/CEO Rob Barnett about the last five years as well as where he thinks the company and the online video space is today.
My Damn Channel is about to celebrate its fifth year anniversary. Where was web video when you began and where would you say it is now? How has it changed?
In all the years that we've been operating the company, 2012 has been the real game changer. You really had two events colliding at once in just the first half of this year. You had the online upfronts (Digital Content NewFronts) coming to New York to present premium online programming to the advertising community. And in the same breath, you had these major portals funding original premium content in a large way for the first time ever. Those two make 2012 the game changing year out of the last five years.
But when we started, we knew from day one that this was not going to be what my friend Adam Carolla calls the "short money play." We knew this was always going to be the "long money play." We knew it was going to take an X number of years for the idea of original premium content operating on a level playing field with old media to take hold. That said, what we didn't know was that the global thermonuclear economic meltdown was going to happen. That happened when My Damn Channel was just a little over a year old. It made life just a little more challenging. Many of the predictions we made originally took a little bit longer than we had hoped to come true.
But now in this year, we are seeing a lot of the right things in the sky. When you look up, a lot of the most important companies in old media are taking their second look at new media, and for the first time since 2006 and 2007. There is a lot of activity and more so in the last six months than we have seen in the last six years. We are very happy to have weathered all the storms in order to grow My Damn Channel gradually, year by year, and outlast other companies in the space.
Where do you think the ad agencies are in terms of eventually getting to that place where, as you say, old and new media operate on a level playing field?
I play a game every morning before going to work. I make believe that it is two years from today and there is a tremendous amount of advertisers who take as a given that online video belongs as a normal daily requirement of their marketing budget. And we have built relationships over our lifespan with advertisers who did not feel the necessity to jump into online five years ago. We have worked hard to make our clients happy and deliver for them to the point where they've come back time and time again. And that for us was always going to be the true measure of success for the company. Whether it can make revenue that is repeatable with major advertisers. That said, I believe we really needed the online upfronts to begin to make the buying process a bit more focused and uniform for advertisers; they were a place where advertisers got a focused look at the best premium content available in a fixed period of time. I think it's easy for online companies to moan about there not being enough advertising. What's more important is to do everything humanly possible to make it easier for advertisers in this space.
Branded entertainment seems to be an important element of how many online content networks and distributors operate. How would you describe how My Damn Channel works with brands?
The best type of branded entertainment begins and ends with a focus on great creative, great talent, and excellent production. The work of any branded entertainment has to win first because it is perceived as truly entertaining by the audience and then it also happens to have a branded message there -- that is integrated in an authentic and organic way.
The audience is always smarter than people think. However, what we've found in our experience is that the advertisers and brands are equally smart. There is an assumption that a newcomer sometimes makes, which is that he thinks brand marketers and advertisers are far less intelligent than he is. He assumes that brands want ham-fisted product placement. In reality, those people know that the only way they will be successful is if they capture a true audience and a sizeable audience.
For My Damn Channel, we always lead by working with our clients on the creative; by delivering in most cases top talent, or at the very least emerging stars who are confident are going to help capture a large audience; and we always deliver excellent production at the right price. We know as a distributor of content that it must reach a sizeable audience. We have a network of owned and operated sites, which includes our YouTube channel, and we also, from time to time, build a larger distribution network by sharing those ad dollars with partners we work with on a regular basis.
Can you give us an example of a recent branded entertainment program?
A show you can find on our site that is running as we speak is The Tweekly News, starring the Sklar Brothers. This is a show that is fully backed by a brand. It's promoting an quit-smoking program called EX. For this show, there's not only a media campaign, but the brand's message is integrated into each episode. For example, in every episode the Sklar Brothers do a segment where they give stars advice, something to re-learn each week. That aligns with the brand's message; it's the way the brand is speaking. So with this show we're speaking in the voice of the brand but adopting it in a comedic way that viewers can enjoy.
Describe your business model. How do you support the production of all these new programs you're doing this year?
We have multiple revenue streams for our company. There's advertising, which includes both media campaigns and branded entertainment campaigns. Then there is licensing of our programming to other platforms. Then there is the hiring out of our studios to another production entity or company. And now in 2012, you're seeing a long list of companies creating original premium content with partners like My Damn Channel, further diversifying our revenue stream beyond just advertising.
We also believe that not everything on the web will be free. There are some incredible examples that speak to this in just the last year. Creators slash geniuses slash leaders of men and women like Louis C.K. prove that certain special content can be presented to an audience in a unique way; from an artist that people truly love and respect. There is still an opportunity in the world's worst economy [laughing] for some people to still pay for some of that content. To that end, we are developing premium, paid programming that we have yet to roll out.
You guys have partnered with and featured a lot of recognizable celebrities across the original programs that have appeared on My Damn Channel. For a space that is still treated as relatively new and which still sort of raises eyebrows when you hear an A-list celeb do something that is exclusive to the web, what has the process been for you guys in securing these celebs to this new platform?
The founding principle of our company and the reason we selected the name "My Damn Channel" is that we are first and foremost designed to give artists who we love and respect the opportunity to create work that really fit their vision, without the normal show business process of dozens of executives getting in the way and altering that vision. We also believed on day one that we needed to pay our artists as much as we could, doubling down on that freedom with cash. We believed the only way we could successfully build our own brand, and a sizeable audience, was to attract the best talent possible. Only by doing that could we attract advertisers to begin helping me pay for all of this good stuff [laughs].
For example, David Wain premiered his Wainy Days web series the day we launched My Damn Channel. That first episode featured him and Elizabeth Banks. David and I have known each other since we both worked at MTV. So at the pitch meeting at My Damn Channel, I asked him what he wanted to do. And he said he wanted to make a series where he attempted to sleep with the hottest women in Hollywood in every episode, with every date going horribly wrong. It took me about a second to say yes. And five years later, we still make this show together. But the real victory for this series came last season, the fifth season of the show, because it was fully sponsored by Fiat. They worked with David to integrate the car into each episode in a way that was entirely funny. They were incredibly great to work with, better than anyone reading this would imagine.
As part of its sponsorship of Team USA, AT&T has launched a digital campaign called "My Journey" that offers a window into the day-to-day lives of various Olympic athletes preparing for the current Games in London. The campaign consists of seven short films that are available online as well as several 30-second vignettes that AT&T plans to air during primetime broadcasts of the Olympic Games. AT&T says these 30-second segments will encourage viewers to interact with the "My Journey" series online and across various social channels. AT&T says viewers will also be able to download the athletes' favorite songs for free and enter a chance to win the athlete's gear. US Olympians who will be featured in this series include swimmer Ryan Lochte and marathoner Ryan Hall.
On July 17, British pay-TV provider BSkyB launched Now TV, an online video streaming service that offers access to over a 1,000 feature films on a "pay-as-you-go" basis as well as over 600 titles via a monthly subscription plan. Late last week, BSkyB in its yearly earnings report announced that it plans to soon add content from its Sky sports and entertainment channels to the streaming service. According to The Hollywood Reporter, live sports programming will be available on the service by the end of this year, while programming from BSkyB's entertainment channels will come at some point next year. The service is currently available for UK consumers on PCs, Macs, and select Android smartphones. In the same report, BSkyB said that it will make Now TV available on iOS devices and the Xbox 360 within the next month; on YouView when the platform launches; and on Roku, the PlayStation 3, and other platforms later this year.
PROGRAMMING CALL: Cynopsis Digital will be producing an Online Video Content e-Special Report on Wednesday, August 29. The report will take an in-depth look at the development behind some of the best original web series as well as the innovators who have made them successful. If your company has released a premium, original series this year, and would like it to be considered as among the best in the web video space, please send your submission, which should include a brief overview of the series with pertinent information such as creator(s), producer(s), story, genre, cast, and the latest stats, to Sahil Patel at firstname.lastname@example.org, no later than August 10.
The Cynopsis Sports Media Awards Breakfast takes place on August 9 in New York City. If you haven't seen the finalists and registered to attend yet, you can do so here.
Apple has had discussions with Twitter over the last several months to potentially make an investment in the social networking company, according to a report from The New York Times. Based on what sources tell The Times, Apple's investment -- if it were to happen -- would be quite significant ("hundreds of millions of dollars"), and would potentially push Twitter's valuation past the $10 billion mark. However, these talks have not been official negotiations and therefore nothing may come from it.
BalconyTV, an online music video website and YouTube channel that focuses on up-and-coming artists performing on apartment balconies and rooftops, has received institutional funding support from Polaris Venture Partners, Lerer Ventures, and Greycroft Partners. TechCrunch reports the investment number is $750,000. The company, which was founded by three friends from Dublin, is now produced in over 30 cities around the world. It offers access to 7,000+ video archives, which it says have been viewed over 30 million times. Some recognizable artists who have performed for the site/channel include Mumford and Sons, The Script, and Jessie J. Stephen O'Regan, Co-Founder and CEO of BalconyTV, said the funding will go toward expanding the service globally.
Compass Labs has built Facebook attribution measurement features into its CLIQ social ad platform. The company says by supporting Facebook's view tags for Premium and Marketplace ads within CLIQ, it enables advertisers to attribute conversions to impressions served, rather than just clicks. The goal is that this will help advertisers better understand their audience, which includes data on the average time spent between exposure and conversion, so that advertisers can optimize against the "highest converting" audience segments.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
A new report from ABI Research finds that global handset shipments have decreased year-over-year for the second consecutive quarter, which is something that hasn't happened since the 2009 economic crisis. According ABI, Apple saw a 26% decrease in mobile shipments in the second quarter when compared to the previous quarter. Aside from the economic conditions in Europe, which ABI says has affected this global market, the report notes that Apple's decline is due to consumers holding off on buying a new iPhone as they anticipate the arrival of the next generation of iPhones later on in the third quarter of this year. RIM and Nokia also witnessed declines, of 13% and 30% quarter-over-quarter respectively. This, ABI says is because both companies are racing to transition to new mobile operating systems before their cash reserves are depleted. It's a different story for Samsung, however. The company did see a 13% decline in feature phone shipments in Q2 2012, but saw a 16% increase in smartphone shipments over the same period. Assuming the Galaxy S III has a little to do with that.
Russ Fradin, former CEO and Co-Founder of Adify and EVP at comScore, has joined the Board of Directors at RTB video marketing company TubeMogul. He will help inform the strategy and direction of TubeMogul. Fradin is also the current CEO of Dynamic Signal, a "word-of-mouth" social media marketing company.
Intergi Entertainment, which operates an ad network specifically targeting online gamers, is expanding beyond the United States as it opens its European headquarters in London today. The company's first overseas office will be headed by the trio of James Haley, UK and European Sales Director, Alistair Williams, European Senior Account Manager, and Nathan Thomas, International Sales Director.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
The Photo Editor iOS and Android app from Aviary might be the best application of its kind. Available for free, the app gives you pretty much everything you want out of a photo-editing tool; it features, among other things, the ability to enhance the photo with just one tap, add effects and stickers, and insert some text. Really, the true appeal is in the fact that it's very easy to use. So check it out (As a note: For developers, Aviary offers a free downloadable SDK to embed the photo editor directly into their app).
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Later - Sahil
Sahil Patel, Associate Editor for Cynopsis Digital
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