05/13/16: YouTube expands on partnership with NFL; Activision Blizzard to launch eSports content on Facebook; AwesomenessTV launches on Apple TV


Good morning. It’s Friday May 13, 2016, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.


Revenue Share Model
: A partnership between a publisher and an ad provider in which profits from ad-serving are split between the two. It used to be that such agreements tended to come in at about 50/50. Since the rise of programmatic buying, the split has tended to favor of the publisher.


The National Football League is ramping up its YouTube presence. Under an expanded pact with Google’s video platform, the NFL will post 96 full games to its official channel before the start of next season. (The 96 games will be comprised of three classic games for each of the league’s 32 teams.) The NFL will also post more in-game highlight clips to YouTube. Still, live games weren’t covered in the deal; as of yet, Twitter is the only social platform to hold live rights to NFL games.



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At AwesomenessTV’s first-ever NewFront, Founder and CEO Brian Robbins had a message for brands and advertisers: Gen Z is rich. They have no student loan debt, and they’ve got their parents’ money. “When you’re trying to engage them, they’re the most influential generation ever,” he said. “They’re the ones driving household decisions – purchase decisions.” It’s a solid argument, and one that any Gen Z-oriented media company must make. And judging by the hefty investments that companies like Hearst, Verizon, and majority stakeholder DreamWorks Animation have placed in AwesomenessTV, it’s an argument that major players are taking very seriously.
As Robbins, a long-time TV veteran, pointed out, AwesomenessTV started out as a single YouTube channel. Now it’s an MCN with thousands of partners; it’s also a sprawling multi-platform media company, complete with a production arm (Awesomeness Films) a talent manage unit (Big Frame), and other initiatives.  Some new announcements from the presentation: AwesomenessTV is now available via a new Apple TV app. Awesomeness TV has also debuted on Kik, a popular chat-bot app that Robbins said is used by 40% of teens in the U.S.  The AwesomenessTV bot on the app combines chat and native video. The company also plans to debut character bots corresponding to Awesomeness TV’s scripted content.
New content includes a multi-episode original scripted series made in partnership with Major League Baseball. The series will spotlight top ballplayers “through the voice of Gen Z.” (MLB, it would seem, would like to reach some younger fans.) In October, DreamWorksTV, a kid-oriented MCN owned by AwesomenessTV, will launch the Kids’ Game Awards, a digital show that will let audiences vote on their favorite video games. For Awestruck, AwesomnessTV’s network geared toward millennial moms, new deals have been reached with GloZell Green, Molly Sims, Leah Ashley, Nikki Baker and Tammin Sursok, all of whom will join the network’s talent roster. Another new series, a social media-themed thriller titled t@gged, will debut on Verizon’s Go90 service this summer. The company also renewed two of its series, Royal Crush (for two more seasons) and Guidance (which will return with new cast members for season 2).
In addition, the company discussed Signal, a new program launched in partnership with the video data firm Zefr. (The program maps 10,000 content types in order to better distribute branded content across multiple platforms.) The company also has a new deal with Brightline, designed to create and serve interactive branded experiences.
So why the emphasis on branded content? AwesomenessTV President Brett Bouttier explained the reasoning in a conversation with Cynopsis Digital. “Our audience tells us this in many, many research studies that we’ve done: Display ads and video pre-roll ads are really just interruptions,” he said. “And branded entertainment is many multiples more effective at influencing the audience than those other formats. So that’s what we’ve positioned our company to really hyper-serve with our brand marketing partners.”
And, while Robbins says that younger demos influence their elders’ purchase decisions, Bouttier would go even farther: They influence media consumption habits. “What’s happening now for really the first time in the 80-plus year development of the media landscape is that the younger demos – who have always been early adopters – are now influencing the way other demographics consume media,” he said. “They’re not growing into older demographics’ patterns – they’re actually influencing the older demographics to behave more like them. It means that more people are watching TV on devices, and on demand.”
One thing that went unmentioned during the presentation: Comcast’s NBCU recently acquired DreamWorks Animation, Awesomeness TV’s majority stakeholder. (Longtime DreamWorks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg is slated to chair a small new DreamWorks unit that will include AwesomenessTV.) Not directly involved in the acquisition – but no doubt affected by it – were Hearst, which owns a 24.5% of AwesomenessTV, and Verizon, which last month entered into an agreement to acquire another 24.5%.  The whole thing is just a little bit…complicated. One can understand why AwesomenessTV doesn’t want to talk about it just yet.
What does a famous game publisher talk about during a NewFront presentation? ESports, naturally. Activision Blizzard announced that it’s partnering with Facebook to launch live eSports tournament coverage. Activision Blizzard Media Mediaworks (which is headed by Steve Bornstein, formerly the CEO of ESPN) will launch a new eSports network and daily live programming this June, during the MLG Anaheim Open gaming tournament. The tournament, which begins, June 10, will be the inaugural event for MLG.tv’s new live Facebook broadcasts. MLG (short for Major League Gaming) is one of the biggest eSports leagues in the U.S; Activision Blizzard acquired the company’s assets on January 1. (Technically the deal concluded just before midnight, if you want to be a stickler about it).
“ESports is an exciting space and continues to be a growing priority for us,” said Dan Reed, Facebook’s Head of Global sports Partnerships. Facebook has been ramping up its push into live video for months, and it would appear that sports are a priority. (The company was in contention to acquire the live-streaming rights to Thursday Night Football NFL games earlier this year, before pulling out of talks; the rights ultimately went to Twitter.)
Facebook will also provide Activision Blizzard with data on viewership. Some of its new video content will be exclusive to Facebook, and sometimes will be featured on Facebook’s sports page. Activision has also announced that retired pro gamer Chris Puckett will serve as MLG.tv’s new host.

The powers that be at WebMD don’t just want you to think of their site as a place to figure out what your aches and pains mean. That’s why the company was at the NewFronts this year: It’s evolving into a digital lifestyle brand with a medical theme, and wants to be thought of as such. New initiatives from the company include 15 new digital series, including content partnerships with Soledad O’Brien‘s Starfish Media and Robin RobertsRock’ n Robin Productions. (The Starfish media deal includes a recently-created series about teen stress.) "When people traditionally think of WebMD, they might think more about diseases and conditions, but the fact that we have such a strong, dedicated following in the healthy lifestyle space is something that we want to shine a light on," Editor-In-Chief Kristy Hammam told Adweek. "Whether it’s about what you want to eat for breakfast or the best workout routine, these are topics that are important to your health, important to everyone."

At its NewFront presentation, DanceOn announced a rebranding. The music- and dance-focused digital media company (which happened to be co-founded by Madonna) will launch izo, a new parent company.  “One of the things we really realized in 2015 was our ability to impact music pop culture,” company CEO Amanda Taylor told Cynopsis Digital. (As Taylor noted, DanceOn has helped push several new artists into Billboard’s top 40; it also backed the musician Silento, producing the video for his song Whip/Nae Nae, which wound up as YouTube’s top trending video of 2015.) “We realized,” Taylor added, “what we’re doing is very much related to music entertainment. It’s not just dance entertainment. And we need to have a brand that can encompass everything we do.”

The company announced that izo will take some of DanceOn’s successful music formats, including Artist Request and The Edge, and use them to create new music-related series. The company will also offer branded entertainment, and new lines of business such as live event. DanceOn will continue on as a dance programmer, operating under izo. And DanceOn’s leadership will remain in place at izo, including Taylor (who will remain CEO) and the company’s Board of Directors.


Cynopsis Digital Exclusive: The analytics company ListenFirst Media is launching its new Audience Insights offering. According to the company, the product provides marketers with previously unavailable insights on Twitter’s 310 million users. ListenFirst says that it will now be one of the first companies to build and release analytics using the new data stream provided by GNIP, Twitter’s Enterprise API Platform. ListenFirst says that its clients will be able to use the product to better understand subsets of Twitter’s users – for example, those who live in New York, or those who tweet about The Voice. "Twitter has always been an integral piece of how we provide value to our clients,” said Chief Product Officer Jonathan Farb. “And this new data set is allowing us to further develop our reporting and analytics so we can gain deeper insights around Twitter audiences and behaviors.”

Viacom announced a slate of projects and partnerships for the Viacom Lab, a new project designed to deliver products, platforms and businesses that inspire fan experience and engagement. Among the new Viacom Lab initiatives:  Giphy, a GIF-platform with a searchable database, will create and distribute GIFs from fan’s favorite shows across Viacom’s portfolio. The Lab will also be testing new live-streaming technologies, and expanding Viacom’s use of Citia, a mobile-first publishing system that enables content and advertising to be republished in multiple operating systems and social platforms.


If you’re not up-to-date on the latest in OOH, you should be. On 5/24, hear from Starz, Kinetic Worldwide, Boingo and Billups on how to craft attention-grabbing cross-platform marketing campaigns that combine OOH and digital to boost tune-in and social amplification at the latest Cynopsis Digital Webinar. http://www.cynopsis.com/?p=59401


Telemundo announced some new digital content. That includes two new feature films from its Fluency Productions, as well as partnerships with Tastemade, Mashable, and BuzzFeed. Tastemade will partner with Telemundo on food-centric content. Meanwhile, NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises is will be expanding El Pulso, its tech-oriented vertical, to partner with Mashable on a weekly Facebook Live show. As Cynopsis Digital noted yesterday, BuzzFeed will be partnering with Telemundo on Much Ado About Nada, a telenovela-inspired short-form series.
The indie animator Bill Plympton will release a 67-minute feature film for free via his website, plymptoons.com, on June 3. Called Hitler’s Folly, the film reimagines Adolf Hitler as a successful artist and animator. Plympton bills the film as a “merciless satire.”


The ad tech company Unruly has released a study on the ad-viewing habits of Millennials. Among the findings:
– Millennials are 112% more likely than other demographics to share video ads.
– 93% of Millennials would consider using ad blockers
– Happiness and inspiration are the emotions which resonate best with Millennials, who are 27% more likely to feel happy and 25% more likely to feel inspired when watching video ads than average
– Four fifths of Millennials mute video ads
– The key reasons Millennials give for considering using ad blockers is they feel they see too many ads (58.9%), they see the same ads over and over again (49.4%) and that they feel ‘creeped out’ by ads that follow them around the web (43.1%)
– 74% of Millennials say they lose trust in a brand if an ad feels fake
– Millennial men are the most emotional demo when watching video ads. They overindex against seven emotional responses, including happiness, arousal, pride and inspiration, exhilaration, amazement, knowledge and shock


Funny or Die has a new CEO. (And yes, even comedy brands need executives with big, serious titles.) Mike Farah, formerly the digital media company’s President of Production, will take over for interim CEO Mitch Galbraith. Galbraith assumed the role after former CEO Dick Clover left the company last September; Galbraith will return to the COO role.


Endemol Shine Beyond USA, the digital arm of Endemol Shine North America, tapped Todd Barrish to serve as EVP of Creative Partnerships. Barrish hails from Maker Studios, where he served as EVP of Programming. At Endemol Shine Beyond USA, he’ll be tasked with overseeing content licensing, branded entertainment initiatives, and commercial partnerships.


Tina Exarhos has been named as CMO of NowThis Media, a social news publisher specializing in short-form content. She’ll be the company’s first CMO. A veteran of Viacom’s MTV, Exarhos has served as the network’s CMO since 2001. 
The gaming-oriented digital media company Machinima has made a couple of new hires. Jason Dimberg will serve as SVP of Programming and Editor-In-Chief. Meanwhile, Machinima vet Dave Shikiar has been promoted to SVP of Production. Shikiar joined Machinima in October as SVP of Production for Development and Current Programs. Dimberg previously served as a Managing Member of Amoveo Consulting, before which he served as GM of the now-defunct Yahoo Screen.
Conde Nast Entertainment, Condé Nast’s digital media arm, has promoted Nathan Guetta to Vice President, Product and Technology. In the newly created role, Guetta will be tasked with overseeing all product and technology operations for CNÉ’s digital video division. He previously served as the company’s VP of Product.


Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul currently stars on Hulu’s drama The Path. What you may not know is that he also currently co-stars on a Netflix series. Which series is it? (Hint – it’s animated.) You can find the answer in tomorrow’s newsletter.
Yesterday’s Trivia Question: May 11 marked the 19th anniversary of chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov’s 1997 loss to a chess-playing computer. It was the first computer ever to beat a world champion player in a classic chess match format. What was its name? Answer: Deep Blue.


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Above, Cynopsis Digital mentioned that DanceOn, which recently held its NewFront event, produced the music video for Silento’s Whip/Nae Nae. The video’s now been viewed over 840 million times. But if you haven’t seen it (or even if you have) you can check it out here.

See you Monday,
David Teich

Roberta Caploe: Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group

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