02/19/16: Twitter enables video-sharing via direct message; Vevo considers launching subscription service; Amazon gains rights for The Night Manager


Good morning. It’s Friday February 19, 2016, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.


Cord-cutting threatens all cable nets, ESPN included. The sports giant even lost subscribers last year. That explains why, at the Re/code Code/Media conference this week, ESPN President John Skipper said that the network has been talking to Dish and other companies about launching new streaming services that will carry ESPN as part of their online TV bundle. (He declined to confirm whether ESPN has been in talks with Apple or Amazon.) Variety speculates that any ultimate deal might involve the launch of a premium version of Sling TV (Dish’s TV streaming service) that supports multiple streams at once. Still, ESPN isn’t going the à la carte route:  “We have no intention of changing [the traditional pay TV bundle] proposition,” Skipper said.


, Sony’s streaming service, announced that it has teamed up with Legendary Digital Media to launch production on Dead Rising: Endgame. The film (a sequel to the 2015 zombie flick Dead Rising: Watchtower) will premiere on Crackle in summer 2016. 2015 was something of a breakout year for Crackle’s original programming efforts, featuring two scripted series and three original films (including Watchtower). Crackle seems intent to walk farther down that road.
Frederator Networks, the media company founded by longtime animation exec Fred Seibert, will co-launch a Spanish-language YouTube animation network. The move comes as part of a joint venture with the Mexican animation studio Anima Estudios. The venture, called Atomo Network, will recruit Spanish-language animators, and provide them with audience-development and programming services. (The Channel Frederator Network on YouTube, which boasts about 2,500 channels, does much the same thing.) Together, Frederator and  Anima will be pooling $1 million into the launch. Anima Estudios executive Enrique Vazquez will serve as Atomo Network’s GM. So why was this the right move for Seibert? "Frederator sees the analytics on half a billion views a month,” he explained to Cynopsis Digital. “We see an increase in the number of animators making popular, Spanish language content on YouTube that target teens and young adults, people who haven’t given up loving cartoons as they are growing up. The interest is there. This is an underserved market and the Atomo Network will fill that void and work with creators to help them be more successful on and off of YouTube.”

Amazon appears to be gunning for a strong foothold in the German-speaking SVOD market. A week removed from greenlighting a German-language TV series (its first regional content), the company has gained the exclusive SVOD rights to the John Le Carre spy series The Night Manager, starring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. The series will debut on Amazon Prime in Germany and Austria on March 28, available in English and German. (It will be available via electronic sell-through on all digital platforms the same day.) Amazon acquired the rights from Tele Muenchen Group.
HBO has inked a major content deal with Hulu – but not the one you’re thinking of. Hulu Japan will now have exclusive and wide-ranging access to HBO series, comprising hundreds of hours of programming.  Hulu Japan, owned by HJ Holdings (a subsidiary of Nippon TV), is actually separate from the U.S.-based Hulu, which is owned by Disney, 21st Century Fox, and NBCUniversal.
The digital educational media company Speakaboos announced that it has added ten Sesame Street music videos to its platform. The videos hail from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street. The Speakaboos platform, designed to aid in childhood literacy, is available on the web, as well as via iOS and Android devices.


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Live-streaming has fast become an integral component of awards-show broadcasts. (Just ask CBS about the record-breaking size of their Grammy Awards streaming audience.) Next up: the 88th Annual Academy Awards. For the second straight year, ABC will feature The Oscars Backstage, a live red-carpet and behind-the-scenes webcast. The live Internet stream of the ceremony will be limited to pay-TV subs in eight markets. ABC has some new partners on The Oscars Backstage initiative: AOL, Comcast, and Yahoo. Facebook – last year’s Oscars Backstage partner – has been left off the red carpet.
It’s safe to say that at Amazon, no one has more goodwill than Transparent creator Jill Solloway. So it should come as no surprise that Amazon Studios just added her new sex-comedy to its latest slate of pilots. (It’s called I Love Dick. And there is indeed a character named Dick.) The half-hour pilot was produced by Topple Productions, the production company founded by Solloway and Andrea Sperling.
New Form Digital has wrapped production on Replay, a new series starring Lyndsy Fonseca and YouTube star Mamrie Hart. The series will be featured on Verizon’s Go90 streaming service sometime later this year. This isn’t the first time that New Form Digital has partnered with Go90: The New Form-produced sci-fi series The Fourth Door debuted on the service in October 2015.



MLB Advanced Media
, the technical infrastructure arm of Major League Baseball, will be looking to secure live-streaming rights at some point in the near future. The news came straight from MLBAM CEO Bob Bowman, during an appearance at the Re/code Co/Media conference.  As far as the breadth of MLBAM’s ambitions, Bowman clarified: “Are we gonna be ESPN? No.” Bowman also said that MLB is looking to spin MLBAM into a separate entity, and that he has been talking to potential investors about taking an equity stake in the unit, which he says makes about $1.2 to 1.3 billion per year.
The white-label video distribution platform VHX has launched a new API that makes its backend technology available to developers and media companies, allowing them to build their own streaming platforms. Developers can access the API through the company’s website, using it to build custom-designed OTT services.
Twitter has rolled out a flurry of updates ever since Jack Dorsey took the helm last year. The latest: Twitter users can now privately send videos via Direct Message. Twitter also unveiled a new GIF search library, making it significantly easier to create custom-accessorized tweets.
has made it very clear that it wants to be more than just a YouTube-bound music video service. Co-owned by Universal Music Group, Sony Music, Abu Dhabi Media Company, and Google, Vevo’s most recent apps offer curated playlists and recommendations tailored to users preferences. Now it looks like Vevo’s getting even more ambitious. “Today our business is all about ad-supported,” said Vevo CEO Erik Huggers at Re/code’s recent Code/Media conference. “So we think that one of the important things – we hear this throughout the industry – is the move toward subscription. That’s something we’re interested in.”
The Disney and Univision-owned Fusion announced that its app, Watch Fusion, has launched for the Amazon Fire TV and the Amazon TV Stick. The app features a mix of long and short-form video content, as well as an authenticated live-stream of Fusion Network programming. Fusion may have a TV network, but it has been making a major play for millennial audiences with a broad multi-platform effort, as the Amazon app launch only serves to demonstrate. Fusion also maintains a website loaded with news and video content, and launched a Snapchat Discover channel last year.
The movie and TV streaming service Popcornflix has launched for the Apple TV. The free, ad-supported platform, owned by Screen Media Ventures, features over 3,000 titles.
Snapchat, Periscope, and Blend are just a few of the apps we’ll be discussing at next month’s webinar, New Social Media Strategies to Reach the Young Demos. Will you be joining us? http://www.cynopsis.com/?p=53548


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 Register your team for the Programmatic TV Summit on March 24. Get your tickets before March 4 and save $100! 

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has launched On the Brink of Greatness, a new mockumentary-style web series covering tech and culture through a series of segments, both scripted and unscripted. Engadget just released an engaging preview video featuring series writer/performer Steve Goldbloom. You can check it out here.

See you Monday,
David Teich

Roberta Caploe: Associate Publisher @robertacaploe
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