Google/YouTube, Turner, Time Inc.
YouTube’s extravagant NewFront event, dubbed ‘Brandcast’, was held at Manhattan’s Javits Center. To lead off the presentation, CEO Susan Wojcicki acknowledged the company’s recent brand safety crisis, which has seen a slew of advertisers suspend YouTube advertising upon learning that their ads were appearing on extremist videos. “We apologize for letting some of you down,” she said. “We can and we will do better.” Left unsaid was what, exactly, Google and YouTube plan on doing to address the crisis. No precise plans or timelines were laid out. The presenters – which included not only Wojcicki, but stars like James Corden and Kevin Hart – chose instead to focus on YouTube’s upcoming content efforts. Most notably, the company is planning to launch a number of new original shows – not on the YouTube Red SVOD service, but on the traditional ad-supported side. The video giant announced six new shows in total – all unscripted – including content from Hart (hence his presentation duties), musician Demo Lovato, and Ellen DeGeneres. Singer Katy Perry also made an appearance, announcing that she’ll participate in Best.Cover.Ever, a new singing competition show from Endemol Shine North America and Ryan Seacrest. Perry will also star in a YouTube-exclusive Katy Perry Live Special, where she’ll host a live album listen-along for fans. “Why now, after all these years, do we feel the time is right for ad-supported originals?” asked YouTube Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl when he spoke. “Frankly, because they’re becoming more and more rare.” He’s not wrong – they’re increasingly rare. And YouTube is about to find out whether or not there’s still demand for them.
Turner showcased digital properties Great Big Story, Bleacher Report, and CNN. (Yes, CNN definitely counts as a digital property now.) The event was very light on news, but CNN chief Jeff Zucker did take the time to tease his network’s upcoming digital venture with YouTuber Casey Neistat. Zucker announced that the project will debut this summer. In a quick interview with Zucker, Neistat himself revealed some details about the project. For one, it’ll have a presence on both YouTube and Facebook. Neistat also said that the project will have more of a news focus than he’d originally planned. In other news, Zucker announced that Great Big Story – a CNN-backed video brand focused on unscripted, docu-style storytelling – has launched a new video experience that’s available on Apple News. And Great Big Story says that, within the coming months, it will launch Great Big Cuentos, a new brand aimed at Hispanic-Americans. “Turner is a legacy media company, but they’re a legacy media company with an incredible bevy of digital properties,” said David Spiegel, Great Big Story’s SVP of Sales & Brand Strategy, in an on-site conversation with Cynopsis Digital. “The three you’re looking at today already have the legs to stand on their own. Turner isn’t a company that’s only just now converting to digital.”
Time Inc. announced its slate of new programming and products. Perhaps the most significant of those is The Sports Illustrated Network, a new streaming channel set to launch this fall. The Sports Illustrated Network will feature original docs, analysis from well-known SI reporters, fantasy sports, swimsuit content, and live event programming. It’s only the company’s second major OTT platform, following the People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN), which launched last year. Speaking of which, the company announced that PEN will expand People Now, its daily digital talk show featuring celebrity guests, to run twice daily instead of just once. (A second half-hour installment will run in the afternoon, on top of the morning edition.) The company also announced EW Reunites, a new video series for PEN. The series will bring together cast-members from classic TV shows and movies like Back to the Futureand Buffy the Vampire Slayer. From the Time brand, the company announced Firsts, an interview series focusing on trailblazing women. Essence announced a number of unscripted shows as well, including Essence Now, a live talk show geared toward black women. Essence Now will stream on Twitter. Essence also announced The Boss Lady Project, a series in which successful women figure as mentors to young African-American girls. Time Inc. also announced three new female-oriented social video brands, all of which will debut later in the year: The Barrel, The Pretty, and ReMade. Unspoken at the presentation: The company spent the past several months considering acquisition proposals, most notably from Meredith. But Time Inc.’s board recently decided that the company should pursue its own strategic plan. And as the company’s NewFront event made clear, expanded digital business looks set to figure prominently in that plan.