05/18/18: Samantha Bee game-ifies the mid-term elections

Good morning. It’s Friday, May 18 2018 and this is your first Cynopsis Short Form briefing.

Full Frontal host Samantha Bee is game-ifying the mid-term elections. At the Turner Upfront Wednesday she announced This Is Not a Game: The Game, aimed at revving up awareness and getting 18-24-year-olds to the polls. The game will consist of trivia questions, and meet-ups on social and digital platforms, integrated with Bee’s late-night Turner show. Bee emphasized the game is non-partisan, noting: “I don’t care what your political fetish is. Demo-crap, Republi-can’t, Cuck-servative. We all need to vote before a Russian hacker does it for us.”
Social media comedy series Blark & Son, created by Ben Bayouth, is headed to Verizon’s Go90 and Tumblr platforms. The live-action puppet series from Seth Green’s Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, about an out-of-touch father who tries to relate to his awkward adolescent son, launched in 2016 with weekly 30-second installments on Instagram. It will expand to seven-minute eps on the Verizon platforms on June 4.
Jeffrey Katzenberg banked about $800 million to back his short-form video startup NewTV from a group of media and institutional investors. Warner Bros. and 21st Century Fox are among a group of entertainment companies that reportedly have pitched in $200 million of the funding. NewTV’s focus is content less than 15 minutes in duration, designed to be viewed on mobile devices. Meg Whitman, former of Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO, is heading the shop.
Former YouTube exec Benjamin Grubbs is launching Next 10 Ventures, a company that seeks to invest in emerging creators and help them develop businesses including ecommerce and community-based products and services. Grubbs thus far has raised $50 million for the company, which was incorporated in March 2018 and has offices in LA and Singapore. Paul Condolora, who formerly led digital and consumer products at Cartoon Network, is COO.
Phone Swap is the first Snapchat series to migrate from mobile to television. In a deal with Vertical Networks, Fox Television Stations will bring a TV version of the company’s Snapchat reality dating show to air for a limited run this summer. For the show, strangers trade phones to discover things about each other before they decide whether they want to go on a date. Each ep will feature three pairs of contestants who agree to go on a blind date, but don’t yet know their phones will be commandeered.

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As the short-form universe continues to evolve, companies and creators are looking for ways to make their content resonate with viewers – in mere seconds. Data studio Limbik to date has identified more than 40,000 unique attributes in short-form video, and uses machine technology to analyze performance. Organizations have come to the realization that attention is the most important commodity for anybody in business today,” says Zach Schwitzky, Limbik CEO. “And video continues to be the most effective way to capture attention online.” Here’s more of our conversation:
Are there any general indicators for short-form content performance?
ZS: When you start to look at why certain short-form content is performing, it really is specific to the type of attributes – those could be contextual, visual or audible – that make up the content. What’s interesting about that is it becomes very predictable. With recipe videos specifically about dessert, for example, one of most impactful attributes is the color of nail polish the woman is wearing who’s making the recipe. Red performs really well and light pink performs the worst of the 13 nail polish colors we have data on. So when you start to look at categories and duration, the attributes are what’s driving whether or not the content performs.
So the drivers in short form are that granular?
ZS: What Netflix has proven for longer-form content is if you have analyzed enough content for TV shows and movies to identify actors, actresses, time periods, genres, etc., and you can pair that with enough viewing data, you can predict the likelihood of success for the content you haven’t created yet. It really works the same way for short form. The big difference is the attributes – a lot of 90-second content doesn’t have actors and directors and genres like TV shows and movies do. They look different, but the methodology of making informed decisions before you spend time and money on creatives is just as doable as Netflix is showing us it is for long-form content.
What are the top-line trends you’re noticing in short form?
ZS: Industry-wide, it seems like the attempt for quality content is starting to increase. Really moving from what has become traditional video advertising to much more of a branded story-telling focus. Really saying, We have to do more than intrusively stick a 15-second ad that’s skippable in front of something people want to watch and now saying, We are the content. We were created to be the destination. As a result of that transition is a desire for more quality of storytelling and content, which is interesting for anybody in the video space. The conversations are different, we’re talking about a story vs. an ad.
What’s the fundamental difference between an ad and a piece of short-form content?
ZS: That question is a topic in just about every conversation we’re having. I don’t have a great answer yet, but where I’ve settled on it is, an ad is not the destination vs. branded short-form content is what people are there to see. There’s definitely a crossover, and we’re squarely in this transition of different ways to monetize because of what the consumer expects now. If we start with the focus of being the destination – and I don’t think pre-roll or mid-roll is going away – as a result that content ends up improving. And I think the industry hope is that even If you serve up a 15-second pre-roll and give somebody the opportunity to skip it, they wouldn’t, because it’s compelling and relevant.
Any other big trends?
ZS: There’s a very strong negative correlation between attention and engagement. For example on Facebook if you’re using, let’s say, completion rate as a measure of attention, and likes, comments and shares as a measure of engagement… we haven’t seen anyone we’re working with where there’s not a negative correlation between the two. Which is really interesting to think about. If those two are competing interests, should the motivation be creating content that captures people’s attention and they watch as much as possible? Or do we want to get them to click play and take action as quickly as possible. It doesn’t have to be the same answer for everyone.
The NewFronts are heading to the West Coast. After wrapping its sixth NY-based NewFronts, the Interactive Advertising Bureau announced it will bring the showcase to LA at the NeueHouse Hollywood on October 9-10. Sixteen “digital video programming creators” have presentation slots, according to IAB.
YouTube emphasized the pressing issue of brand safety during its seventh New Fronts presentation at Radio City Music Hall, and CEO Susan Wojcicki also shared some numbers. Among them: 41 million-plus views of the Coachella music festival and the first video to hit 5 billion total views – Despacito, by Luis Fonsi. Also noteworthy, 150 million hours of YT content is viewed every day on televisions, with seven in 10 subscribers nowing watch on TV screens because of connected devices and gaming consoles.
Animated web series White Ninja, starring The League’s Paul Scheer (Fresh Off the Boat, The Disaster Artist, Veep), landed at snackable-centric mobile app Toonstar for its second season. Based on the original strip created by Scott Bevan and Kent Earle, White Ninja debuted in 2015 on Vine. Featured along with Scheer for season 2 are voice talents Kathleen Barr (Ed, Edd n’ Eddy, ReBoot), Brian Drummond (Inspector Gadget), Shannon Chan Kent (Littlest Pet Shop, My Little Pony), and David A. Kaye (Make Way for Noddy, X-Men Evolution). White Ninja premieres at 5p Wednesdays on Toonstar.
Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, a media company focused on telling female-driven stories, launched short-form series Meet My Mom on Facebook Watch. Five-episode series features celebs chatting candidly with their mothers. Guests featured with their leading ladies include Witherspoon; Lilly Singh, Adam Rippon, Ashley Graham and Westworld’s Leonardo Nam.
Bravo Media gave the green light to six new original digital series, building on Bravo Digital’s best-ever month in April. The new short-form series are: Imposters aftershow True Cons: The Tricky Business of Real Life Imposters; The Weekly Dish Happy Hour, which delves into the week’s buzziest headlines along with recipes for cocktails you need to cope with them; Beats and Bites, featuring jazz musicians, foodies, and Bravoholics, the “Potash Twins”; and The First Time I…, launching in June and co-produced by Mashable, where celebrities share stories of first times gone wrong, from first dates to first family vacations. Guests include Derek Hough, Russell Brand, Shaquille O’Neal and Simone Biles. Also, Adulting by Bravo, launching in July, which follows comedian Chelsea White on her journey to become an actual adult; Throwback Bravo, due in July and celebrating classic Bravo returns as Daryn Carp, Andy Cohen’s assistant, revisits unforgettable moments from Bravo shows; and Ghosted, launching in October, where dumped daters share tales of being ghosted, and find closure with the ones who ghosted them.
As part of a new partnership, Nelvana will exclusively broadcast Sesame Street and Sesame Studios’ content in Canada on Corus’ preschool net Treehouse and on nonlinear platforms. Deal includes more than 50 pieces of additional short-form broadcast content from Sesame Studios, the new YouTube destination from the makers of Sesame Street, including Scribble Tales, Nursery Rhyme Remixes and Tater & Tot.
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MTV and Viceland veteran Lauren Dolgen is the new chief at BuzzFeed Studios, replacing Matthew Henick, who left in March for a position at Facebook.
Digital studio Brat added Nick Millman, Kristen Lachtman and Asher Levin as partners. Launched in 2017, Brat uses social media stars to build teen-based programming for digital platforms including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. It counts 1.5 million-plus subscribers to its YouTube channel, which has more than 250 million views.
Gfycat has evolved the standard 2D GIF with the new 360Loop, and partnered with Paramount Pictures to launch an exclusive series of 360Loop GIFs for the forthcoming action pic Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
YouTube is immersing in the world of artificial intelligence in new, as yet untitled docuseries, from Team Downey’s Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey, Network Entertainment and Sonar Entertainment. Comprising eight hourlong eps, the series will premiere exclusively on YouTube Red in 2019, with Downey Jr. hosting and narrating.
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