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.
Vice Media ’s NewFront, held at Spring Studios in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, was light on news and devoid of company execs. (In a pre-recorded video message, CEO Shane Smith said that an unspecified on-location shoot prevented him from attending.) Instead, the hosts of Viceland late-night talk show ‘Desus & Mero’ emceed the event. Speaking of Viceland, the company said that the cable net – which launched in February of 2016 – has grown by double digits each quarter since its debut. Of course, context matters here: Between November and December of last year, the channel averaged 25,000 primetime viewers in the 18-34 demo, and 58,000 in the 18-49 demo. In other words, that “double digital” quarterly growth is not necessarily as impressive as Vice would have you believe. Still, the company’s vast digital reach is not in question: Vice pointed out that it reaches 288 million people monthly across its global digital platforms. In programming news, Vice announced that rapper Tyler, the Creator will host a new Viceland show called ‘Nuts & Bolts,” which will explore how various things are made. The company also announced that it’s bringing digital channels – including Motherboard, Vice News, and Noisey – to Twitch, the Amazon-owned live-streaming platform. After the presentation, a boxing match ensued. No, really: There was an actual boxing ring set up in the middle of the event space. Viceland host Eddie Huang (‘Huang’s World’) fought Vice producer/chief of staff Niall Cooney, with Huang winning by decision after three rounds. Vice certainly wasn’t afraid to go for strange.
It seems that Procter & Gamble – AKA the biggest advertiser on the planet – is planning to break up duties for Hawkeye, its programmatic digital media buying unit. As detailed in a new story from Ad Age, P&G reportedly aims to save at least $1 billion annually on media spending, and $500 million (over the course of five years) on production and agency fees. The company’s new moves include parting ways with the ad tech provider AudienceScience, in favor of partnerships with vendors including The Trade Desk and Neustar.
VIRTUAL + AUGMENTED REALITY
Well that’s the end of that story. Oculus Story Studio, the internal content producer owned by Facebook’s Oculus, is being shuttered. “After careful consideration, we’ve decided to shift our focus away from internal content creation to support more external production,” Facebook said in its announcement. All of the unit’s ongoing projects are being canceled, effective immediately. Facebook is encouraging Oculus Story Studio’s 50 staffers to apply for new Oculus jobs.
Facebook is hardly done with VR, of course. According to Business Insider, the company has greenlit a new VR dating show from Conde Nast Entertainment, in which people go on virtual dates before meeting in person.
PROGRAMMING + CONTENT ACQUISITIONS
It doesn’t stop at VR: Facebook reportedly intends to release an entire slate of original programming in mid-June – about two dozen shows total. And the company has also reportedly greenlit a number of other projects for production, seeking longer, big-budget programming, as well as lower-tier short-form content. It seems the company sees original scripted video content as a key means of retaining users – especially younger ones – and driving up ad revenue.
Digital media company New Form Digital is unleashing a new wave of short-form pilots across platforms including Instagram and Snapchat. New programming includes shows like Campus Catwalk from Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky, as well as shows featuring digital stars like Manon Mathews and Eric Ochoa. There are seven new pilots total.
UPCOMING DIGITAL PROGRAMMING
… for the week of Monday, May 8, through Sunday, May 14
– People Now at People.com, Monday-Friday at 8:30a ET and 11:30a ET. Guests include fitness trainer Shaun T, actor Corey Hawkins (AMC’s The Walking Dead), and actresses Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn (20th Century Fox’s Snatched)
– Netflix: Norm Macdonald: Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery, a new comedy special, debuts Tuesday, May 9.
– Netflix: Anne with an E, a new eight-episode series adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, debuts Friday, May 12.
– Netflix: Season 2 of Master of None debuts Friday, May 12
– Netflix: Original comedy film Mindhorn debuts Friday, May 12
– Netflix: Animated movie Sahara debuts Friday, May 12.
– Amazon: I Love Dick, a new series from Transparent creator Jill Soloway, debuts Friday, May 12.
Our Last Trivia Question: Last month, Amazon greenlit a series about Manhattan housewife who discovers a talent for stand-up comedy. (The pilot debuted in March.) What’s the show called? Answer: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Kudos to Susan Nessanbaum-Goldberg-M and S Entertainment/CA, Louis Lewow-Lewow Media Group/GA, Mathew Tombers-Intermat, Inc./NY, David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/CA, Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/CA, and Andy Bellamy-Producers Guild of America/NY
Follow-up: Amy Sherman-Palladino, who created The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, is best known for creating a different series, which debuted on The WB in 2000. What’s the series?