At its NewFront presentation at the PlayStation Theater in New York’s Times Square, Millennial-oriented digital media company Defy Media announced its upcoming content slate. But first, it had some barbs for the traditional media industry. Defy President Keith Richman told the crowd that traditional media lacks the youth and diversity to know how to reach younger audiences. (To hammer home the point, the company even used a visual aid: a huge composite image of the white, male, and middle-aged-or-older CEOS of companies like CBS, Time Warner, and Fox.) Traditional media “perpetuates and rewards sameness,” Richman said. Still, Defy was happy to highlight its own most popular brands. The company’s 2017 content slate includes a ton of new content from the comedy team Smosh, including Operation: Open World, a travel-heavy series from Smosh Games’ Jovenshire and Mari Takahashi, and Not Quite Cancelled, a new scripted series (only the second in Smosh’s history) that features all of the comedy group’s members. Among other projects, ScreenJunkies is currently producing Galaxy Quest: A ScreenJunkies Documentary, an original doc about the making of the titular 1999 sci-fi comedy film. And the female-oriented news and lifestyle brand Clevver will be out with programs such as It Got Real, a new docu-series about the lives of Clevver’s hosts. (In the show’s premiere season, Erin Robinson documents her struggles after being diagnosed with fibroid tumors. Spoiler: She’s okay now.) Returning events include Prank It FWD, starring talent from SMOSH, Clevver, and Smosh’s AWE Me brand, and ScreenJunkies Central, a live event to be staged at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. One other notable element of the company’s pitch to advertisers: The company’s leadership announced plans to more heavily emphasize that Defy is a singular brand, not just a disconnected group of media properties. But that effort is more about the advertisers than the audience, according to Chief Marketing Officer Andy Tu. “Of foremost importance on the Defy branding project was to make sure that our partners, our advertisers, the B2B brand, felt as strong and as vibrant as the consumer brands,” he told Cynopsis Digital. “Our goal on day one is not to have Defy be a consumer-facing brand. Our plan today is not to cross-pollinate brands like Clevver, ScreenJunkies and Smosh. But those brands are special, and they mean something, and we knew we needed to invest in Defy having that same level of importance and uniqueness.”
bought Maker Studios back in 2014, but for a while there, the multi-channel network essentially operated as an independent company. Over the last six months or so, things have changed a lot. The unit has since been folded into Disney’s Consumer Products and Interactive Media division (DCPI), which also houses the rest of Disney’s digital-first content. And if Disney’s NewFront event made one thing clear, it’s that the Disney brand is now front and center. (Indeed, the Maker brand was scarcely mentioned.) According to Andrew Sugerman, DCPI’s EVP of Publishing and Digital Media, DCPI will now focus on bringing Maker’s content creators into Disney-branded content. “We’re going to infuse Maker into the Disney pieces, and Disney will be infused more into Maker,” he said. The Maker network of creators – which has been dramatically scaled back this year – will now be “curated,” with a focus on how well influencers fit into Disney’s brand identity. “We’ll be looking for opportunities to map those influencers to the broader Disney company,” said Sugerman. The company announced that Disney Co/Op, Disney’s in-house branded content unit, will let marketers pair Maker and Disney’s digital content creators with brands. New original digital shows that will come to the Disney Digital Network in 2017 include Science and Star Wars, a series that explores parallels between the Star Warsuniverse and real-world science, Club Mickey Mouse, a variety show that reboots the classic Mickey Mouse Club series with a cast of young creators, and Disney IRL, an animated action-comedy from Maker’s gaming-oriented Polaris network.
Twitter’s new live news partnership with Bloomberg Media wasn’t the only announcement to come out of its NewFront presentation. The social media company announced a total of 14 new, expanded, or renewed live content deals. In sports, Twitter announced that it will team with MLB Advanced Media on an exclusive once-per-week program focused on highlights, game look-ins, and analysis. (That it comes in addition to Twitter’s previously announced plans to stream weekly MLB games this season.) And though Twitter lost Thursday Night Football streaming rights to Amazon, the company will now offer live on-demand NFL highlights and pre-game video during select games. Other sports partnerships include pacts with the WNBA (live-streamed games), Stadium (a 24-hour video network devoted to college sports), Derek Jeter’s The Players Tribune (a live show in which athletes communicate with fans), and the PGA Tour (new 360-degree video content, on-top of Twitter’s existing tournament streaming). In addition to sports leagues, Twitter announced renewed, expanded, or new partnerships with entertainment brands including Viacom (live carpet coverage for MTV and BET award shows), Live Nation (concert coverage and other original content), IMG Fasion (a new fashion-oriented live program), and Propagate (a daily show covering entertainment and pop culture). Finally, Twitter announced streaming pacts with news brands including The Verge, Cheddar, BuzzFeed News, and, of course, Bloomberg. Flash back two years ago, and the idea of Twitter even holding a NewFront presentation would have seemed ridiculous. Now the company is trying to rule the live content space – and its ad dollars. Time will tell if they succeed.
Conde Nast Entertainment
Conde Nast Entertainment announced the launch of two new docu-series: Generation US from filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, which will highlight the views of U.S. residents of the same demographics and circumstances living in different geographic regions, and Through the Fire from director Rod Blackhurst, which will focus on the legacy of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, who died during a 2013 wildfire in Yarnell, AZ. (Produced by CNE, the latter documentary will be released by Sony in October). New Digital series include Pop Feminist, an entertainment news show from Teen Vogue, and …In 2 Minutes, a scripted, live-action series from Glamour. In addition to its new programming, CNE announced that it’s launching a new incubator program with VR tech company Jaunt, which will run at Jaunt’s Cinematic Virtual Reality Lab at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. CNE and Jaunt will mentor students on virtual reality production, as well as marketing and distribution.