04/30/15: Instagram sings a new tune; Hulu says, ‘Hello, Newman’; AOL, Refinery29 Newfront news; Warner Bros. staffs up Blue Ribbon


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Good morning. It’s Thursday April 30, 2015, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.


Instagram is alive with the sound of music. The social media platform launched @music, a dedicated portal highlighting artists and their activities. It’s the first content vertical for the company, which counts 300 million active users. Founder/CEO Kevin Systrom announced the news on the company blog yesterday, noting @music will host 11 series and six posts per week, Tuesday-Sunday. He said the new portal will highlight “music photographers, album illustrators, instrument makers and, of course, fans. In the Instagram tradition, we will also welcome community participation with a new, music-themed Monthly Hashtag Project." Beyonce (30.9 million followers) Ariana Grande (30.1 million), Taylor Swift (28.3 million), Justin Bieber (26 million) and Miley Cyrus (18.3 million) are among the top accounts, according to Billboard.


Hulu is raising its profile. That was the message at yesterday’s Newfront, where the online video service announced two big new deals­exclusive SVOD rights to all 180 Seinfeld episodes (for a total value that may be as high as $180 million) and a multiyear agreement for all new and upcoming AMC Networks primetime scripted series on AMC, IFC, BBC America, SundanceTV and WE tv. Beginning in June, every episode of Seinfeld will be available for Hulu subscribers to stream via a deal with Sony Pictures Television. The AMC arrangement brings series including Walking Dead companion Fear The Walking Dead to Hulu. The company also touted its new pact with Cablevision, which we reported yesterday.
What you need to know:
* Within the first 90 days of 2015, total streams have increased by 77 percent and viewers have streamed more than 700 million hours of premium content on Hulu. On average, each Hulu viewer is watching at least 30 percent more content.
* For advertisers, Hulu introduced the custom integrated commercial: 30-second spots that assimilate the values of a marketer’s brand with the values of Hulu for a shared brand story. The company also will roll out programmatic ad buying during the next several years.
* The company is expanding its slate of originals for 2015-16, including: James Franco-starring 11/22/63, a J.J. Abrams nine-hour limited event series based on the 2011 Stephen King novel about a high school history teacher who travels back in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; NY comedy Difficult People, co-exec produced by Amy Poehler and starring Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner; dysfunctional family sendup Casual; The Way, about a family at the center of a controversial faith–based movement; and comedy RocketJump: The Show, where YT personality Freddie Wong chronicles the filmmaking behind RocketJump’s newest short.
AOL is declaring itself free of a Newfront season, noting instead at its presentation it has shifted to a “Content 365” strategy. The company showcased new video programming ranging from sharable short-form to long-form content primed for the industry’s future, “which we believe to be the very best of what TV does combined with the mobility, interactivity and openness of the Internet,” said Dermot McCormack, AOL President of Video and Studios. “Content is still king but it’s the kingdom that is changing.” AOL also highlighted continuing existing franchises, including Makers, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget and Cambio. Headlines include:
* AOL has seen a 45 percent increase in video content production 2014 to 2015, and now has 16 OTT partnerships.
* Several series will return for new seasons, including Park Bench with Steve Buscemi, Making A Scene with James Franco, and The HuffPost Show.
*  New original content includes sports-satire mashup 2 Point Lead, hosted by comic Yannis Pappas, which bowed April 6; NFL close-up Journey To The Draft, which launched this week; and Beyond the Horizon With Jared Leto, a documentary interview series in which Leto will engage in conversations about the future with visionaries in science, art, technology and politics.
*  The Huffington Post is in development for a host of new programming. Now What? features the former VICE correspondent Ryan Duffy telling the stories of people working around the world toward solutions to our many crises. The HuffPost 10 is 10 short films from 10 creative and diverse storytellers about 10 people, things or causes that together are making the world a better place. It’s timed to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of The Huffington Post. Other new shows include Fabulous Stay-at-Home Dads, Talk Nerdy To Me and cooking show You’re Doing it Wrong.
At its first Newfront yesterday, lifestyle media company Refinery29 committed to a suite of 29 video programs in scripted comedies, dramas, documentaries and tutorials for its target audience of millennial women. Among the creative partners to help fill the pipeline are Lisa Kudrow, Dan Bucatinsky, wifey.tv co-founders Jill Soloway and Rebecca Odes, Jessie Kahnweiler, Planned Parenthood with Lena Dunham, Mae Whitman, Jenni Konner and Jack Antonoff. The company introduced R29 Originals, its hub for storytelling around topics including style, politics, food, sex, health and wellness, travel, and beauty. The company plans to double its video offerings in 2015 and content will be distributed across platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat.
Here are the big stats from the event:
* 130 million women engage with Refinery29 each month; site traffic has doubled in audience year over year consecutively for the past five years.
* Refinery29’s 2015 programming slate includes scripted series Her Shorts, in partnership with Planned Parenthood, which focuses on a variety of women’s and men’s reproductive and sexual health issues through either a comedic or dramatic lens. The series features original work from Dunham, Emily Ratajkowski, Mamie Gummer, Mae Whitman, Antonoff, Konner and Richard Shepard. Also in scripted,
S*!tty Boyfriends, exec-produced by Web Therapy duo Kudrow and Bucatinsky, and The Skinny, a dark comedy co-production with wifey.tv.
* Numerous documentaries and tutorials are also in the works, including Fashionably Bound, Refinery29’s first foray into virtual reality with a series that takes viewers on a stylish journey across continents for a 360-degree adventure, and
Trendsetters of Tehran.


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Mobile app Whipclip, which allows fans to legally create and share their own videoclips of TV shows and music videos, added Conan to the lineup via a new partnership with TBS and Team Coco. Using Whipclip, Conan lovers can now create short clips from the series and share them as the show airs to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and via email and SMS.


Secret, the anonymous social networking app, is reportedly shuttering a year after it debuted. According to BuzzFeed, CEO David Byttow notified employees earlier this week.
CBS Radio
and CBS Local Digital Media added new Podcasts to their Play.it podcast network, including podcasts from Showtime boxing commentator Paulie Malignaggi, Elle style correspondent Alia Ahmed-Yahia, and five-time TED.com speaker Julian Treasure. Launched in January, Play.it offers more than 400 premium content podcasts by bringing together digital-exclusive programming from major brands and publishers as well as content from CBS Radio shows on demand.


Adobe is extending its programmatic advertising capabilities with the acquisition of the Tumri (also known as Ensemble) ad technology from Collective. The addition of Tumri will bring dynamic creative functionality in Adobe Media Optimizer and help advertisers scale the impact of their display ads by providing the ability to serve the most effective creative content during the programmatic ad buying process, Adobe execs said.
Cross-platform tech firm PK4 Media is partnering with Are You a Human to ensure it shows ads only to verified humans. Are You A Human’s patented technology analyzes natural interaction across millions of websites to find real humans, and add them to their Verified Human Whitelist. The Human Whitelist allows PK4 Media to proactively target ads to only verified people, eliminating bot traffic and improving campaign performance, said PK4 CEO Tom Alexander, noting, “Bot traffic and ad fraud are concerns for many of our brand and agency partners.”
Twitter is working with Google to develop a new attribution model for its advertisers that would enable Twitter advertisers that use DoubleClick to measure actions that occur on Twitter. The companies reportedly also aim to make Twitter ad inventory available via the DoubleClick Bid Manager platform. 


Warner Bros.
named four execs to help lead its Blue Ribbon Content digital studio. Peter Girardi joins as SVP, Creative Affairs; Zoe Friedman joins as SVP, Development; Lance Sloane as VP and Alexandra Davis as director. Girardi will also continue to lead the creative team at Warner Bros.’ animation division, where he’s worked since 2009. Friedman previously was VP, Development at Comedy Central, and is a co-founder and exec producer of philanthropic organization Comedy Gives Back.


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Last year David Letterman expressed his undying love for synth-popsters Future Islands when they gigged on his show, and the video went viral. This week the band returned to help Letterman count down his last days, and debut single “The Chase,” which they dedicated to the people of Baltimore. Will this one go viral, too? You be the judge. www.cynopsis.com/#video.

See you tomorrow,
Jessica Reese  @JMarieReese

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