05/16/16: Playboy announces new branded content studio; Analyst finds YouTube viewership concentrated on top channels; China’s Youku Tudou does VR



CYNOPSISDIGITAL
05.16.16

Good morning. It’s Monday May 16, 2016, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.

TODAY’S CODEBREAKER

 
Walled garden: A walled garden is a software system in which a carrier or service provider has control over applications, content, and media, and restricts convenient access to non-approved applications or content. On the Internet, a walled garden is an environment that controls a user’s access to Web content and services. The garden directs the user’s navigation within particular areas, in order to allow access to certain material or prevent access to other material. Although a walled garden doesn’t prevent users from navigating to other environments, it does make it more difficult to navigate away than to stay within the environment. Facebook Instant Articles and Snapchat Discover are sometimes cited as examples of walled garden environments, as they encourage users to consume third-party content in-app, instead of actually moving to third-party sites.
 
 

TOP NEWS

 
For a Barron’s blog post, analyst Carlos Kirjner took a look at YouTube’s viewership numbers. Some of his findings are startling: There are about 2 billion videos on YouTube, he determined; they’ve been watched 39 trillion times, accounting for 196 trillion viewing minutes. (That’s about 400 million years, for the record.) Notably, about 93% of viewing minutes were concentrated among the top 1% of channels. When it comes to YouTube, Google’s investments and marketing campaigns have been heavily focused on its top creators; now we know why.
 
 

NEWFRONT UPDATES
 

You may or may not know this, but Playboy.com has been safe for work since 2014. Go on, check it out: You’ll find a media site geared toward a younger male audience, filled with articles and videos touching on entertainment, celebrities, and other lifestyle content. And yes, you may find a sexy photo or two – but no nudity. Even the iconic print magazine ran its last nude photo shoot in December.
 
So what now? Interestingly enough, the company’s digital audience has grown considerably since NSFW became SFW. According to Playboy Enterprises CEO Scott Flanders, who spoke at the company’s NewFront event in NYC’s Chelsea district, Playboy’s audience has grown 400% in the past two years.
 
There are a few reasons for that. For one, trying to compete with the rest of the Internet in the erotica space had become a losing proposition. (“That battle has been fought and won,” Flanders told The New York Times last year. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passe at this juncture.”) Another factor: If publishers want to get their content onto Facebook and other social networks, clothes are required. And audiences – especially those vaunted younger demos – tend to find a huge portion of their daily content through social media.
 
So Playboy is now positioning itself as a lifestyle brand for young men, loaded with professional-grade reporting and digital content. The company is now covering everything “from media and culture to sex and politics,” said producer and correspondent Yoonj Kim, one of Playboy’s NewFront presenters. The presentation also heavily emphasized that Playboy has been known for serious-minded content since its inception, running interviews with the likes of Bernie Sanders and actor Don Cheadle, and publishing highly regarded works of journalism and fiction (Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 debuted within the pages of Playboy, for instance). The message was clear: Playboy is not in the midst of a wholesale rebrand – it’s merely emphasizing certain well-established aspects of its brand over others. 
 
And the company had some new announcements: For one, it’s unveiling a large new slate of original programming this summer, including scripted comedies and docu-series, as well as food-, gaming-, and tech-related content. Among the new shows: The Booze Room, a weekly comedy news show about drinking, starring comedian Josh Wolf and mixologist Alex Day; The Life by Playboy, an inside look at the process of editing the lifestyle section of Playboy magazine; Robots Are Hard, a scripted sci-fi comedy; and House of Waris, a series in which actor and jewelry designer Waris Ahluwalia holds a regular dinner party filled with notable celebs and luminaries.

The company also announced the launch of Playboy Studios, a new in-house branded content unit helmed by Hugh Garvey, the company’s Executive Editor.
 
“We’re not a magazine company. We’re an integrated media company,” Phillip Morelock, Playboy’s Chief Digital Officer, told Cynopsis Digital in an on-site interview. “And we provide a lot of value for marketers across the board.”

 

“We’ve been doing this for a long, long time,” he added. “Twelve pages a month of nude photography is not the entirety of Playboy. Playboy has a brand that stands for something separate and apart from nudity, especially online, and in social, where nudity’s never been allowed. There’s an old joke: ‘I read it for the articles.’ And there’s a reason that joke works; it’s because there are great articles. And we want to just remind everyone that people – especially younger folks – have certain brand associations with Playboy. We want to reintroduce them to the brand.”
 
Last September, Reader’s Digest Association changed its name to Trusted Media Brands. Less than a year later, the company – whose brands include Reader’s Digest, Taste of Home, and The Family Handyman – held its first NewFront event. The company highlighted six new shows. For Reader’s Digest, those include Live Better with Liz, an edu-health series hosted by author Liz Vaccariello, as well as a listicle video series called Everyday Genius. Taste of Home, meanwhile, will be launching the video recipe series America the Tasty, as well as the food-crafting series Fun with Food. And The Family Handyman will be launching Fix-It George, a home DIY series. A sixth project, which the company says is “under consideration,” is Healing Spaces, a six-episode series showcasing the work of Healing Spaces, an organization that specializes in renovating the rooms of children afflicted with cancer and other serious illnesses.
 
It’s safe to say that Trusted Media Brands aims to have a more robust digital presence than Reader’s Digest Association. “We’re happy that our publishing businesses have stabilized,” CRO Rich Sutton told Cynopsis Digital. (It might be noted that the company emerged from a bankruptcy in 2010.) “It doesn’t mean that there’s zero decline – there are couple of brands where there’s a little bit of downward movement,” Sutton continued. “But compared to where we were five or six years ago, it’s a solid picture in publishing – but there’s no real growth. So the entire growth engine for this company is ‘create once, publish many.’ We know how to create great content. We’ve got the largest-selling food magazine in America. Haven Home happens to be the number one home improvement website…And Reader’s Digest publishes more health content than anyone in the general interest category. We’re great storytellers, we’re great producers of content that audiences really engage with…So we’re taking that expertise and moving it into the digital space. And we love the data that we’re seeing. We have a huge number of social followers, especially for a publishing brand – over forty million. We love the engagement that we’re getting with our videos. So moving into the digital space is an absolute necessity if we want to be a company that grows. And I’m not aware of any companies that don’t want to grow.”
 
Over the last year or so, Mashable has gravitated toward a larger focus on digital video content. (The shift became abundantly clear when the company laid off a hefty portion of its writing staff earlier this year.) The company – the last NewFront-er to present – announced a new untitled project from astronaut Garrett Reisman, as well as the second season of the series Scamalot, in which the comedian James Veitch responds to spam emails. The company also announced a sequel to DARE, a short film about a gay couple facing adulthood in the age of Tinder. The company has also partnered with Telemundo on El Pulso Live, a tech review show that will run on Facebook Live. (The company says it will dedicate 35 total monthly hours to Facebook Live content.) Finally, Mashable noted that it would be partnering with Bravo on four new web series; that partnership was initially announced in March.
 
Mashable
also shed a little bit more light on its partnership with Turner, which invested $15 million into the company earlier this year. Mashable and Turner Broadcasting will be sharing platforms for both traditional and branded content. In a statement, Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore said that Turner’s partnership with Mashable will “offer our brand partners the opportunity to extend the reach of their multi-platform campaigns from digital all the way through to linear television.”
 


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MEASUREMENT
 

Cynopsis Digital Exclusive: The analytics company ListenFirst Media has partnered with longtime client AMC Networks to launch a new digital analytics tool. The Affinities Engine, powered by proprietary technology from ListenFirst, is designed to provide companies with insight into what their fans like and how the fans of different companies overlap. For instance, AMC Networks used the product to determine that fans of its popular show The Walking Dead had expressed affinities for Microsoft, sneaker brand Vans, Verizon, Kayak and KFC in their public social media activity. The product pulls insights from key digital and social platforms, analyzing and comparing the publicly expressed interests of 100 million consumers. ListenFirst says that, unlike other products that simply count the number of shared social media followers between brands, the Affinities Engine factors in insights such as consumer behavior, sentiment, lifestyle and cultural interests. “By understanding what else is popular with their fans and how those overlapping interests evolve, brands and media companies can make strategic decisions about how to best cross-sell product, optimize content, target ads and engage in partnerships,” said ListenFirst Chief Product Officer Jonathan Farb. “Our shows have demonstrated some of the highest levels of fan engagement on television and, for years, we have been working with our ad partners to leverage that engagement for their own products and brands,” added Tom Ziangas, AMC Networks’ SVP of Research & Insights. “The ListenFirst Affinities Engine is an enormously powerful tool, because it uses public social media expressions and advanced analytics to map connections between fans of specific shows and potential advertising partners, in an environment in which ad messages have to work harder than ever to connect and break through.”

 

VIRTUAL + AUGMENTED REALITY
 

It isn’t just the Western hemisphere that’s diving into VR. The Chinese streaming giant Youku Tudou (which is owned by Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba) has reached a VR content deal with Digital Domain Holdings. DDH, an investment holding company working in the media entertainment space, will supply Youku Tudou with VR and CGI content for online distribution in China. Youku Tudou will also develop and produce 360-degree pre-recorded video and live-streams, as well as other VR and augmented reality content.
 
In a recent blog post, Facebook’s Oculus announced that 360-degree images are coming to Facebook and VR. “In the coming weeks, Facebook will add 360 photos to News Feed,” the post reads. “You’ll be able to take a panoramic photo from your phone or use a 360 camera, upload it to Facebook, and pan around by tilting your phone or dragging the image.” If you’re fortunate enough to own a Samsung Gear VR headset, you’ll also be able to view panoramic photos in full virtual reality, via the Oculus 360 Photos app.
 
 

PROGRAMMING + CONTENT ACQUISITIONS
 

Sonic the Hedgehog is coming to Hulu. The service has gained exclusive subscription-streaming rights to Sonic Boom, the computer-animated kids’ series that debuted on Cartoon Network in 2014. All 52 episodes from the first season will become available to Hulu subs later this month. The Sonic character is still owned by the video game publisher SEGA, which debuted the spiky blue speedster in 1991. Sonic Boom, co-produced by SEGA of America and Technicolor Animation Productions, has proven extremely popular among young audiences on Cartoon Network, according to Nielsen data. 

 

Bravo announced a slate of new original short-form series. To start, the network has launched Million Dollar Listing’s Ka-Ching, in which host Fredrik Eklund reveals stories behind luxury and wealth, on BravoTV.com. Four more series will launch later this year: The Folio, which centers on trends in beauty and fashion, Tipsy by Bravo, which centers on cocktail creation, Bravo After Hours, which takes viewers on a guided tour through the late-night hours of celebrity guests, and Throwback Bravo, in which – host Daryn Carp mines the Bravo vault to revisit memorable moments of the network’s past.
 
 

EXECUTIVE MOVES
 

Viacom‘s Bryson Gordon has been upped from SVP of Data and Strategy to EVP of Data and Strategy. Gordon was brought on last year to accelerate the capabilities of Viacom Vantage, the company’s targeting product. In his expanded role, he’ll also oversee Viacom’s Marketing and Partner Insights group, which leads audience insights and analytics for Viacom’s advertising partners.
 

TRIVIA
 

In March, Apple announced that it had greenlit its first original production, an unscripted series about app developers. What well-known musician helped to develop the series? You can find the answer in tomorrow’s newsletter.
 
Friday’s Trivia Question: Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul currently stars on Hulu’s drama The Path. He also currently co-stars on an animated Netflix series. Which series is it? Answer: BoJack Horseman
 


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DIGITAL SPOTLIGHT

 
Google’s self-driving cars can apparently still use a babysitter. In Arizona, the company is paying testers twenty bucks an hour to sit behind the wheel of the automated autos, taking notes and recording data. Courtesy of CNET, check it out here.

 

 
Watcheroo Premieres and Tune-in Alerts for May 2-8:
People Now at People.com, Monday-Friday at 8:30a ET and 11:30a ET: Guests include TV personality Kendra Wilkinson (WE tv’s Kendra on Top), model Chrissy Teigen, and actors Sam Heughan and Catriona Balfe (Starz’s Outlander)
Seeso: The workplace comedy Thingstarter debuts on NBCUniversal’s comedy streaming service May 19
Amazon Prime: Season one of Julian Fellowes Presents Doctor Thorne, a new costume drama, debuts May 20
Netflix: Lady Dynamite, a new comedy series starring comedian Maria Bamford debuts May 20
Watcheroo
is Cynopsis Digital’s tune-in guide, categorized alphabetically by platform or network. Programming includes digital premieres, ongoing shows, live-streamed events and linear TV digital integrated series.

See you tomorrow,
David Teich
05.16.16

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

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