04/07/16: Facebook rolls out video hub and new live video features; Verizon buys stake in AwesomenessTV; Starz-backed Fandor makes key hire


Good morning. It’s Thursday April 7, 2016, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.


SVOD, TVOD, and AVOD: Abbreviations for “subscription video on demand,” “transactional video on demand,” and “advertising video on demand,” respectively. SVOD streaming services (think Netflix) require a subscription fee. TVOD (think of buying a movie on iTunes) entails a simple exchange of money for product. AVOD streaming services (think Hulu’s non-subscription tier) are ad-supported, and often free.


This should tell you just how heavily Facebook is betting on live video: The social media giant has begun rolling out a panoply of new live video features, including a dedicated video tab within the Facebook iOS and Android apps. Set to roll out in the coming weeks, the new Video hub includes a slew of new content, both live and recorded from previous live broadcasts, categorized by topic. That level of organization may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a key step forward, allowing Facebook to better compete with the likes of YouTube and Periscope, instead of forcing users to be beholden to the whims of their News Feed. Among other new features, Facebook’s new video upgrade will allow people to use Groups to designate live videos toward only select individuals. It will also users to see metrics about their live video audiences. You can learn more here.
A not-unrelated story: During a Facebook Live stream yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg suggested that Facebook aims to begin partnering with Facebook broadcasters to share revenue generated by live video streams. “Over time, we want to make it so that this can grow into a sustainable way that a lot of independent artists can make a living and can make money as well,” he said.
Awesome. Verizon has taken 24.5% equity stake in the teen- and pre-teen-oriented media company AwesomenessTV. DreamWorks Animation, AwesomenessTV’s majority shareholder, will retain a roughly 51% stake, while Hearst will retain a 24.5% stake. As part of the deal, AwesomenessTV and Verizon plan to launch a new mobile video service featuring premium transactional content. It will launch as part of Verizon’s Go90 mobile streaming service. For AwesomenessTV, it’s a logical next step: Its young target audience consumes mountains of mobile video. And since the launch of Go90 last year, Verizon has proven itself an able and aggressive navigator of the mobile video space.


Seeso, the recently-launched comedy streaming channel from NBCU, boasts untold hours of content from the NBC library. Still, the powers that be at Seeso are clearly banking on the importance of original content. The service has announced a May 5 premiere date for Flowers, a new original comedy-drama starring Olivia Coleman (Broadchurch) and Julian Barratt (The Mighty Boosh), and written and directed by Will Sharpe (Black Pond). While Seeso is still in its infancy, the new series (trailer here) is a somewhat surprising departure from the less dramatically heavy material that has comprised its original content to date. It seems that Seeso doesn’t just want to make you laugh – it wants to be taken seriously.



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You don’t need to be a Sinophile to recognize that this is a big deal. The Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba has completed its acquisition of Chinese streaming video giant Youku Tudou. Alibaba valued Youku Tudou at $5.4 billion. This deal has been in the works for months, and its successful completion doesn’t come as a surprise. Alibaba’s portfolio of media acquisitions and partnerships has grown significantly in recent months.  


Hulu has acquired the exclusive streaming rights to The Book of Negroes, the six-part miniseries that aired on BET last year. (In Canada, it aired on CBC). The acquisition comes via a licensing deal with the distributor Entertainment One.



MTV announced some live-streaming plans surrounding the 2016 MTV Movie Awards. On April 9, the network will live-stream red carpet events, and then offer an inside look at the Awards taping. Then on premiere night (April 10), MTV will host a pre-show looking at the making of three upcoming films. And, finally, the network will offer a co-viewing experience, launching at 7:30P ET, enabling fans to toggle between three live-streams capturing real-time celebrity "couch-commentary” about what’s happening on-stage.




True story: In the age of digital, you can unilaterally launch your own sprawling content network, and invite your friends to participate. Just ask Elizabeth Banks: The actress/comedian has begun rolling WhoHaha.com, a digital video service that will house several of her own web series, as well as work from other prominent digital creators, particularly women. The digital management company Digital Media Management helped Banks with the launch. You can learn more here.
Worrying about your health is no vice. Vice Media is getting ready to launch a new health-centric vertical, according to Variety. Kate Lowenstein, the former Health Director at Prevention magazine, is reportedly set to lead the vertical. Vice had no comment on Variety’s report.


The programmatic advertising platform Choozle announced a new partnership with the digital media company Digital First Media. Choozle connects marketers with real-time bidding across display, mobile, video, and social. According to a release, the new partnership will “enhance DFM’s ability to scale their digital advertising operations across the organization.”


In the not-too-distant past, eSports looked to many like a niche curiosity. Now it’s shaping up to be a hyper-competitive media business. The gaming-oriented live-streaming site Twitch has partnered with the competitive gaming platform FaceIt to form a new competitive eSports league. Crucially, the companies say that their league will be the first eSports venture to offer teams a competitive stake in the venture, just like the NFL and other established sports leagues. The venture’s flagship league, ECS – Counter-Strike, launched yesterday with a competition centering on the Valve game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.


Fandor has historically been a modest player in the streaming landscape, with a focus on indie films, docs, and international features and shorts. So why, you may ask, did the service need to raise $7 million last November, with investments from Starz and others? Because it’s looking to build. To that end, it’s hired former AOL and SiriusXM sales ex Scott Travis as its new Chief Revenue and Partnership Officer. The hiring comes amidst a raft of new initiatives, including a push to develop branded short-form content.
Viant, the ad tech company acquired by Time Inc. last month, has named Ryan McGurk as its Vice President of Enterprise Strategy. Viant says that McGurk, who’s slated to work out of the company’s San Francisco office, will work on “accelerating the adoption of Viant Advertising Cloud™ technology, which offers clients a comprehensive suite of advertising applications available on-demand, in the cloud.” He previously worked as Facebook’s Industry Manager, Retail, between 2010 and 2006.


This year, Fortune pegged Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth at north of $50 billion. Where, exactly, did that place the Facebook CEO on the list of the world’s richest individuals? You can find the answer here.


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As mentioned up top, Facebook has begun rolling out a major new video hub, accessible through the Facebook Android and iOS apps. It’s worth checking out a video overview of the features – which you can do here. (FYI, your speakers aren’t broken – the video has no sound.)

See you tomorrow,
David Teich

Roberta Caploe: Publisher @robertacaploe
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