06/25/15: Amazon lands first original feature film with Kevin Spacey, Michael Shannon; HBO offers ‘Ballers,’ ‘The Brink’ pilots on Facebook; Radio Disney and Sweety High developing web series


Good morning. It’s Thursday June 25, 2015, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.


Amazon is about to land its first major original feature film, starring Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey. The $4 million deal for the historical drama, titled Elvis + Nixon, will follow the meeting between the infamous artist and president. Amazon Studios will debut the film in theaters and then bring it to Amazon Prime Instant Video in an early window release. Elvis + Nixon is directed by Liza Johnson, produced by Cassian Elwes, Cary Elwes, and Holly Wiersma, and executive produced by Byron Wetzel, Tim Smith, Paul Brett, Johnny Mac, Dave Hansen, Laura Rister, Rob Barnum and Jason Micalef.
For the first time, HBO has chosen Facebook as the place for viewers to see pilot episodes of comedies Ballers and The Brink. Ballers star and executive producer Dwayne Johnson will introduce and host his show directly on his Facebook page; The Brink will live on the series page. In addition to FB, the episodes are available on HBO NOW and HBO GO.


Radio Disney
struck a deal with startup Sweety High to develop a music and entertainment video series for tween and teen girls. Under the 2-year agreement, the pair will produce and distribute the series across both platforms and integrate talent from Disney and Sweety High. The first two planned are Sweet Beat TV/Radio Disney Insider, which will bring Sweety High’s Sweet Beat TV show with Radio Disney celebrity interviews; Revealed/Next Big Thing will look behind the scenes at rising young stars. Sweety High plans to produce 100 episodes per year with Radio Disney.
Xbox One owners can now entertain their children with the PBS Kids video app that was just made available on the console. Full-length episodes and clips of PBS Kids’ programs, including Wild Kratts, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Odd Squad, Peg + CAT and Dinosaur Train, are available to view on-demand through Microsoft’s console. Users can also personalize their experience by identifying a local PBS station to view favorite programs and web-original series. The PBS Kids video app is available on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Chromecast.
Digital content aggregator Ownzones launched a partner program for nonprofit organizations to offer complimentary channels on the platform, with all proceeds from the subscription benefiting the org. Ownzones is currently accepting applications for the first 100 nonprofit channels; once a channel is live, organization members can subscribe to view videos, listen to audio or read important information, such as newsletters or calendar listings.


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BuzzFeed may leap into TV soon, CEO Jonah Peretti teased at a Cannes Lions discussion. "We want to do TV, but we want to do it in a different way…we resisted for a long time." said Peretti. The company is evaluating how to produce TV shows and movies and would first test those ideas on Facebook or YouTube, according to Adweek. BuzzFeed accounts for more than 1.1 billion lifetime views since it originally launched in 2012.
It’s not nothing: Seinfeld officially landed on Hulu yesterday. The 180-episode series cost Hulu a reported $180 million and is available only to paying Hulu subscribers, for $7.99 per month. To kick of the debut, Hulu created a real-world version of Jerry’s Upper West Side apartment, with a show memorabilia gallery and interactive fan experience. The installation, called “Seinfeld: The Apartment,” is open in New York City’s Milk Studios through June 28.


Facebook unveiled its mobile advertising plans at the Cannes Lions advertising awards, with FB’s Head of Product Chris Cox dishing the details. The product appears similar to the current ads, which consist of a post that opens into full screen images and videos that rotate as a user moves a finger across the screen. The ads would still live on FB’s site, but look as if they’re a miniature version of the products site within the News Feed. No release date is set yet. 


Steven Hein has joined Legendary Digital Networks as Senior Vice President of Production and Programming. He was formerly Vice President of Production for Fox Digital Studios. LDN is known for Nerdist, Felicia Day’s Geek + Sundry and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party.
DigiTour Media
appointed Linnea Stalberg as Senior Vice President of Marketing. Stalberg comes from SpinMedia, where she served as Vice President and Head of Marketing and Production.



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Former boy band O2L member Kian Lawley (2.7 million subscribers) got fans pumped for his first feature film, The Chosen, by releasing the official trailer on his YouTube channel yesterday. The horror film casts Lawley as a family member grappling with a niece who’s possessed by the devil. The Chosen is produced by Supergravity Pictures, from Max Benator and Marc Hustvedt, and created specifically to get more YouTubers on the silver screen. Lawley will also appear in AwesomnessTV’s film Shovel Buddies. Check out the trailer at www.cynopsis.com/#video.

See you tomorrow,
Jessica Reese  @JMarieReese

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