Cynopsis Backstage at the Upfronts – 05/05/15: Vice, Machinima, DEFY Media, Fullscreen



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CYNOPSISBACKSTAGE
BEHIND THE SCENES at the Upfronts
The People! The Parties! The Buzz!a

Vice

Vice’s NewFront may have been held in a Chelsea arts district event space last Friday, but the vibe was more Brooklyn warehouse party. And with a line stretching down the street, Vice was in no rush to get down to business – at least not before guests kicked back a Moscow Mule or three. When they made their way in, the 430+ attendees at Center548 headed for the fourth floor, where a DJ spun to chatter and pre-drinks before everyone was ushered down a level for the presentation.

The event kicked off (an hour late) with all eyes focused on CEO Shane Smith and the much-anticipated first peek at a slate of 20 new shows. Dressed in his customary black tee and jeans, Smith’s message clear: To Vice, a NewFront is just another party. “Why the f— are we here?” he asked the audience. “Most people who go to the other Upfronts don’t come to ours, because they go to do business. The people here are here for [rapper] Action Bronson, and the free booze. No shame in that.”

The newest Vice correspondent, veteran commentator, Sal Masekela, hopped  onstage to give a quick introduction. “I’ve been a fan of Vice since 1998. I come from a skateboard and music background, and I remember that I was blown away by how a magazine was able to tell stories that weren’t being done at the time. It’s truly humbling to be welcomed to this talent pool.” Then he rattled off stats: online channels have grown 200 percent since launch, the net has won 11 Webby awards and two Peabodys, and Vice is the largest buy of episodes for HBO.

Next, Smith welcomed filmmaker and director Spike Jonze – and got in a few jabs until Vice’s creative director asked, “Have you been drinking?” Smith replied, “My assistant tried to cut me off, but it’s a good thing I’m paying the checks.” The duo discussed their ten-year partnership. “We are doing TV because we have the voices,” Smith explained. “The shows have the same point of view as the web and magazine [platforms], and the intention is to make it personal.”

A sizzle reel showcased upcoming TV series, including Gaycation with Ellen Page; Huang’s World, hosted by chef Eddie Huang; Weediquette; Vice Portraits with Marc Maron; Noisey, Motherboard; Fashion Week International; Black Market With Michael K. Williams; Vice World of Sports and F— That’s Delicious, hosted by the rapper Action Bronson.

The Afterparty
After a fast-moving 30-minute showcase, attendees were invited to join the after party (which seemed to have already started) on the roof. Against the Hudson River sparkling at sunset, guests munched on crostini variations prepared by none other than Eddie Huang. More booze, and hot pizza from Brooklyn favorite Roberta’s, kept coming. Not surprisingly, the party lasted well into the night.


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Machinima

RoboCop, Minecraft, The Justice League…oh my! Machinima’s characters were in full force at Times Square on Monday. CEO Chad Gutstein kicked off the Newfronts event with his personal connection to Machinima’s tagline, Heroes Rise. “When I was seven years old, there was only one thing I wanted to be when I grew up: Batman,” he explained. “I wanted to be a really wealthy orphan…and my parents indulged me with a cape.”

“The Machinima Army,” or the network’s dedicated audience, was the day’s leading character. “We are hero, comic and gaming fanatics,” the CEO said. “Fandom is about being so passionate that you get off your ass and you do something, create something, invent something, a shift from passive viewership to an active, mobilized community. Machinima’s army is filled with active participants that love this content.”

The Breakdown:
- 400 scripted and unscripted series, which have generated more than 100 billion views
Mortal Kombat Legacy is the Internet’s most successful web series to date (the first episode in the first season holds 21 million+ views alone).
– The network’s four most-watched series makes up 1,000 years of viewership, with 3.6 billion views per month, 18.4 billion total views watched
– 77 million global uniques in February 2014, 161 million in February 2015
– New and acquired series: DC’s Hero Project, #4Hero, Clive Barker’s Creepy Pasta, RoboCop, Happy Wheels, Jerome ASF’s The Baka Chronicles and High School 51.
– Returning series: AFK, Chasing The Cup, Realm, Battlefield Friends, Sanity Not Included, Deck Wars, and ETC.

Jamie Weissenborn, Chief Revenue Officer, Machinima shared his company’s Newfronts plan.

What’s the pitch?
We have amassed a unique audience and through careful listening. We understand how to connect with them. The pitch is – communicate and connect with a generation of consumers who salute authenticity.

Machinima’s biggest challenge this year?
With brands, it’s about tracking attribution for our contribution to big campaigns. Also, it’s a challenge communicating the scale and scope of our audience – they are mobile, discriminating, and resemble a cultural shift more than a demographic. With the network, both Machinima and its community have set high standards for entertainment and living up to those standards is a task in itself.

Why jump into NewFronts this year?
Machinima is entering another stage of growth. After breaking ground as the first multi-channel network, we want to showcase our heritage as a preeminent storyteller whose content can be found and shared on any platform.

A Voice From the Crowd
"I liked this NewFront because Machinima’s programming is a way to reach an audience that’s hard to reach – millennial males. People don’t realize how hot the gaming space is.” – Lori Greene, Senior Partner, Director of Content, Maxus.

First, the Fans
With the final message of “we’re back” from Gutstein, the audience was dismissed. Outside however, the Machinima Army was just getting their fandom on. Fans lined up to get posters signed and photos taken with with RoboCop, YouTube sensation Jerome ASF, and Happy Wheel’s Jim Bonacci.

Quote of the Day
“Gaming and comic books are not a genre: they’re a psychographic.” – Chief Content Officer Daniel Tibbets


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DEFY Media

Before Defy Media’s event on Monday, the multi-channel network already had the NewFronts crowd abuzz with an Honest Trailer focused on the two-week shuffle. The vid broke the silence about gripes attendees (and the press) might have harbored about the NewFronts, but “despite what that video might indicate – we really are excited about being here,” DEFY’s President Keith Richman said during his opening remarks at the Paramount Hotel. “Although, we are a company that appreciates people who laugh at themselves.”

That set a fun tone to the rest of the evening. As guests mingled for the first hour, nibbling on kabobs, steak sliders, chicken-pot-pie, mac and cheese and bags of popcorn, the bar served special berry cocktails, champagne and top-shelf drinks.

The theme of the evening: “content democracy,” said Richman. “We’re going to produce the content you see in the ‘wild,’ or out in the newsfeeds or even in the primetime news. You may go to other NewFronts which promote programming that asserts advertising vocabulary, but we have the content that passes the ‘smell test.’”

Richman offered details.

What’s the pitch?
The program for our Newfront is pretty straightforward. More than 150 million millennial consumers ages 13-34 connect with DEFY content every month with programs and brands including Prank it FWD, Honest Trailers, and celebrities for teens Smosh, Clevver, and Made Man among many others. That content drives over 500 million video views, all happening outside of the ‘traditional’ media channels. Beyond reaching this changing audience, we understand them through our Acumen insights platform, which both we and our partners utilize to provide information on what makes this audience tick.

What is Defy’s definition of success for this NewFront season?
 Our main goal is making sure that our partners, current and future, understand the breadth and popularity of our programming and brands. We’re creating high quality shows that run anywhere from five minutes to 55 minutes, with over 22 of our weekly programs drawing more than 500k views an episode, and we’re successfully bringing that content across relevant places and platforms that millennial viewers expect. We strive not just to tell brands about our content but also that the same team behind huge programs such as Prank it FWD, Honest Trailers and Smosh are the same creators who we partner brands with to reach and connect with this hard to find audience.

What’s next?
We will double down on our investment in Prank it FWD, which has quickly become one of the largest digital programs ever created. We’ll showcase and raise a glass to the 100th episode of Honest Trailers, and we’ll continue Smosh’s plans for domination in the teen humor space with the launch of their movie adjacent to Vidcon this coming year. We’re excited about several new shows and as a business DEFY will continue to build and partner with top content distributors and platforms to expand on our enormous web, mobile and YouTube audiences.”

Surprise!
Smosh has 900 pounds of fan mail…these are actual millennials writing a letter, knowing what a stamp is and going to the postal office. Wow! Actually, they are making some of the most creative fan art. 

Strange…But Cool
Madame Tussauds
announced a partnership with SMOSH to create the figures of Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox in a wax-doll form. It’s the first YouTube celebrity to be featured at the wax museum, and it will tour its U.S. attractions with an interactive experience.


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Fullscreen

Fullscreen is ready to break up with TV. For its first NewFront presentation, held at the Highline Stages on Monday, the multi-channel net encouraged the audience to not “advertise at us like traditional TV, but create with us.” Beyond its well known programming from Rooster Teeth to Red vs. Blue, the event largely focused on Fullscreen’s branded partnerships

“This is an extremely exciting moment for me. Five years ago we backed a young entrepreneur to create a media network, with 70,000 creators reaching more than 5 billion views per month,” said Peter Chernin, CEO of The Chernin Group and Fullscreen partner. “The environment for your brand matters. Years ago when you bought space on MTV or Fox, you were buying into that channel and got the halo of that brand. Today, the channel brand has disappeared, but they have enormous brand loyalty to creators.”

“Fullscreen reaches one in four millennials under 35 years old, with 60 percent of viewership on mobile tablets,” added Fullscreen founder and CEO, George Strompolos. “This is a generation who grew up with mobile TVs and production studios in their hands. It’s what we call cell phones!”

SnapChat, SnapChat, SnapChat
The spotlight was on the disappearing photo app when talk turned to branded partnerships. The MCN touched on its partnership with AT+T for the digital series @SummerBreak (1.7 billion social media impressions) and SnapperHero, the first scripted series produced for Snapchat.

“We had no idea how to make SnapperHero before we started working on it,” said  Billy Parks, Fullscreen’s Senior Vice President, who shared their winning strategy. “It was completely uncharted territory to figure out how to make an episodic scripted format on Snapchat, which is a confusing platform in the first place. We initially reached out to influencers to tap their audience to ask them what hero they should be for the series. The audience felt ownership in the show because of this tactic. Next, we tried to crack the code with a ‘Snap-hack,’ and later harnessed how to work with our partners. Our idea was this: 1) Make a great show 2) Bring the audience into content creation and 3) Connect with the power of the AT+T network.”

Bryan Thoensen, Senior Vice President, Content Studio continued: “We didn’t just take TV and chop it up for SnapChat, we made it feel native to Snapchat. In the end we hit 180 thousand followers. We know that this engagement is critical. However, the thing that is most important is  what does this do for the business, and what is this ROI?”

Unlikely Officiator
Fullscreen announced its acquisition of the social agency McBeard, and in the spirit of the deal, Strompolos and McBeard execs had completed the agreement that morning via…Snapchat. Proof: a screenshot of the snapped document, and execs giving the thumbs up, appeared on the screens above the stage.

Fullscreen’s acquisition means that it will develop, produce and distribute social content at scale on behalf of its creator network, content production units and major brand partners Coca-Cola, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Mary Kay, NBC Universal, Warner Bros., Mattel and Netflix. Additionally, McBeard will collaborate with Fullscreen on AT+T’s @SummerBreak and SnapperHero.

The Afterparty
Two of Fullscreen’s celebrity Viners-turned-pop stars, Jack + Jack, performed at the conclusion of the showcase. After first introducing themselves as friends that “met in kindergarten,” they began crooning to fans (mostly preteen girls) that swarmed the stage.

Quote of the Day
“Brands can always chase relevance. But, storytellers and brands must create enduring and lasting content to succeed with audiences.” – Billy Parks.



Keep Watching & Reading,
Lynn Leahey, Editor
Roberta Caploe: Associate Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group 

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