10/12/15: Twitter updates Amplify and reportedly plans layoffs; Hulu announces VR app; Mattel and BBDO rebrand Barbie in new ad



CYNOPSISDIGITAL
10.12.15

Good morning. It’s Monday October 12, 2015, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.

Watcheroo Premieres and Tune-in Alerts for October 12-18:
People Now at People.com, Monday-Friday at 8:30a ET and 11:30a ET: Guests include TV personality NicoleSnookiPolizzi (Jersey Shore) actress Hayden Panettiere (Nashville), and actress Amy Brenneman (The Leftovers)
Vessel and YouTube: Season Four of Dance Showdown premieres on DanceOn’s YouTube channel October 13. The premiere is already available to Vessel subscribers. 
CNN and Samsung: CNN, in partnership with NextVR, will live stream the Democratic presidential primary debate in virtual reality.
Netflix: Thoughts and Prayers, comedian Anthony Jeselnik’s exclusive stand-up special, premieres October 16.
Netflix: The Netflix original feature film Beasts of No Nation premieres October 16

 

TOP NEWS

 
No one said Jack Dorsey was hired to make easy decisions. According to Re/Code, Twitter is planning company-wide layoffs this week. It isn’t known just how many employees will be cut, but Re/Code’s sources say the layoffs will touch most company departments, or perhaps even all of them. (Last quarter, Twitter reported about 4,100 employees.) In response to the report of upcoming layoffs, a Twitter spokesperson has said, “We’re not commenting on rumor and speculation.”
 
It’s not all cutbacks for Twitter. At in event in NYC last week, Jack Dorsey announced some significant changes to Amplify, Twitter’s tool allowing publishers to place in-tweet video ads. Under the new Amplify system, publishers will be able to upload their videos to video.twitter.com, and receive all revenue through automated rev-share payments. Advertisers will be able to select categories of video content they want to run pre-roll ads against, and also add additional audience-targeting info; then Twitter will strategically insert the pre-roll ads into the most relevant videos that the target audience is watching. The update also opens Amplify up to nearly any video publisher or creator, even if they don’t have a deal in place with an advertiser or agency. Reports have Twitter paying content partners 70% of all ad revenue. Twitter says that more than 50 companies have already joined the new program. The new version of Amplify is available only in the U.S.; Twitter has plans to roll it out globally in the future.
 
And now, apparently, Glenn Brown’s work is done. The video-ad architect, who helped launch Amplify in the first place, has left Twitter. Brown made the announcement – via tweet, of course – on Friday, just one day after Dorsey’s announcements in NYC. Brown will be assuming the role of Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Betaworks, a New York-based incubator investing in media businesses. Mike Park, the Director of Twitter Amplify, will now be heading up the Amplify team.
 
 

CONTENT PROGRAMMING

 
Digital brand CollegeHumor is continuing its push into linear programming.  First, its series Adam Ruins Everything debuted on TruTV late last month. Now it’s on to MTV, with the talk show Middle of the Night, which premiered last week. (In one hilarious segment from the premiere, two HBO stars get in bed together, literally.)  The show airs weekly each Thursday.
 
SuperMansion, the latest project from stop-motion animation studio Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, debuted its first three episodes on Crackle last week.  (In addition to its spelling prowess, Stoopid Buddy is best known for the Adult Swim series Robot Chicken.) The series is helmed by lead voice actor Bryan Cranston, who plays the leader of a team of deeply flawed superheroes. The series was created by Matthew Senreich and Zeb Wells. A new episode appears on Crackle each Thursday; the first season consists of 13 total.

 

NEW PROGRAMMING + DEALS

 
Lionsgate
has joined in an exclusive partnership with Chinese online video platform iQiyi. Under the terms of the deal, iQiyi will receive transactional and subscription VOD rights to numerous Lionsgate titles, including The Hunger Games: Mockingjay ­ Part 2, Allegiant (the next film in the Divergent franchise), and many others. iQiyi will have an exclusive SVOD and TVOD window for the films covered in the agreement, and will heavily promote them on its platform.
 
Last week, gaming-centric entertainment media company IGN announced that it has partnered with Coca-Cola on a 30-minute digital series. ESports Weekly with CocaCola, hosted by IGN’s Kevin Knocke, covers the latest happenings in the world of eSports. The show premiered Friday and is available on IGN.com and IGN’s mobile and TV apps, as well as Facebook and YouTube. Season one will consist of eight episodes, debuting Fridays at 7pm.
 
French broadcaster Canal Plus renewed its licensing deal with Disney, securing fresh content for both its SVOD and linear services. The deal gives Canal the rights to first run films including Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Jungle Book,  plus previous Star Wars titles, and allows Canal Plus to continue offering on-demand titles from Disney-owned ABC Studios.
 
All Def Digital has announced a new kid-friendly series. The media and entertainment company was launched in 2014 by Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons, in partnership with teen-centric entertainment company AwesomenessTV. The new series, Arts & Raps, matches kids with famous musicians. The kids will serve the musicians deceptively difficult questions such as “How Much Money Do You Have?” and “What is a Vegan?” Initial episodes will feature musicians including Zay Zay and JoJo Fredericks.

Editor’s Note: Please join the Cynopsis team and your industry peers for the half-day Programmatic TV Summit on Nov. 5. Register now.

 

OTT + SVOD
 

RocketJump: The Show has rocketed forward. Or at least, its release date has. The Hulu original documentary series about YouTube short filmmaker Freddie Wong will now debut Wednesday, December 2. It was originally set to premiere October 21.


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PLATFORMS + TECH

 
According to 9to5Mac, the updated versions of the Apple TV and iPad Pro will be available in stores during the first week of November – not late October, as Apple has said. As of yet, 9to5Mac’s report is unconfirmed.

 
ADVERTISING
 

Gaming company Zynga, best known for FarmVille and Words with Friends, has developed a new ad tool allowing companies to insert branded levels into games. Whenever a gamer plays a brand’s sponsored level, the brand is charged. Brands can also offer players rewards for playing their levels. The ad format was created by Studio E, Zynga’s in-house ad agency. 
 
Last week, the New York Times released a memo outlining plans to vastly increase its mobile presence and digital distribution revenue. A push for increased digital video output figured prominently in the memo, titled Our Path Forward. “Video and live events are increasingly essential ways of connecting with new audiences,” the memo notes. The note also focuses on digital advertising. Perhaps the biggest news: T Brand Studio, the company’s native ad unit, is “expanding into an agency in its own right, providing a broader array of marketer products and services around content ideation, creation and distribution.”

 

TRENDS

 
10 digits ain’t what they used to be.  Early this month, the music video for Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s See You Again surpassed one billion views on YouTube. It’s the 10th YouTube video to have passed that mark. (Gangnam Style was the first, back in 2012; it has since passed two billion views.) As YouTube trends expert Kevin Alloca pointed out in a release, videos have been hitting the one billion view mark faster and faster recently: Eight of the 10 videos to pass the billion-view threshold have done so in the last six months.

 

RESEARCH

 
When it comes to Saturday Night Live, the “live” part is very much optional. According to data analytics company ListenFirst Media, the show’s October 3 season premiere, hosted by Miley Cyrus, cleaned up on YouTube. Within the 72 hours following the episode’s airing, SNL’s official channel was viewed 5.7 million times. That includes 1.5 million views for the cold open lampooning Donald Trump, and 1.3 million views for a sketch featuring the real-life Hillary Clinton.

VIRTUAL REALITY

Hulu won’t be left behind in the VR game. Samsung, in partnership with Oculus, is debuting the consumer-ready version of its GearVR headset this November, and Netflix has already announced that it will feature an app on the device. Now Hulu has announced an app as well: The streaming service will be available on the GearVR when it goes on sale next month, according to Tim Connolly, Hulu’s Head of Distribution. “We’re ready to go,” Connolly told CNET.
 
Tomorrow’s livestream of the Democratic debate on CNN will be available on the Samsung GearVR headset (though only the developer-oriented version has been released as of yet). For NextVR, the debate is no isolated foray into live events. In fact, that’s the company’s specialty. Cynopsis Digital spoke to Brad Allen, the company’s Executive Chairman. “In our opinion, the killer app for VR is live,” he said. “There are live events every single day that millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people are interested in, whether it’s sports, music, or the CNN debate…If the technology is good and you can live stream it, and you actually feel like you’re in the stadium, like you’re in that seat, that’s very, very compelling.”
 
Looks like China’s getting in on the VR game, too. Online video company LeTV is planning to release its own VR headset, which just passed the FCC, under the name LeVR Cool 1. Users will employ their own phones as displays, similar to Google Cardboard. But unlike Cardboad, the leVR Cool 1 is sold in combination with a Bluetooth input device. Also unlike Cardboard, it straps onto a user’s head, making for a hands-free experience.

 

EXECUTIVE MOVES

 
More on LeTV: Eric Mika has taken over as the company’s Senior VP of Open Ecosystems, Strategic Alliances and Partnerships, a newly created role. Mika will be in charge of expanding the company’s applications and devices, while overseeing the company’s planned push into the U.S. (In addition to its VR headset, The company is planning to bring its content offerings to the U.S. later this fall with the launch of a new digital storefront.) Most recently, Mika served as Managing Director and Partner of media consultancy Fidelis Global Enterprises.
 

2015 MODEL D AWARDS

 
Cynopsis Digital
’s Model D Awards, dedicated to innovators who have demonstrated continued excellence in engaging audiences and spurring online growth, are only a month away.
 
What does it mean to be singled out for the honor?
 
“Our content has been embraced by viewers and the industry alike. To see 4 of our original digital video series be recognized with Cynopsis Model D nominations, makes us very proud and motivates us to continue to make great digital video programming.”
 
Michael Klein, EVP, Programming and Content Strategy, Digital Channels, 2015 Model D finalist Conde Nast Entertainment
 
“Being a completely independent company, this award meant a lot to us.  This award shows that even against other companies with greater resources, great work can rise to the top.”
 
–  The Forge Apollo team, 2014 Model D Winners and 2015 Model D Finalists
 
Register for the November 13 Model D ceremony here.
 


A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE


Shine a light on your team’s work in the
CYNOPSIS Social Good Awards

Media professionals’ commitment to community is honored in the Cynopsis Social Good Awards, recognizing individuals and organizations who give back to the public through innovative linear TV, digital and marketing campaigns. We’ll be celebrating promotions for diversity, environmental initiatives, anti-bullying and much more.

CHECK OUT THIS YEAR’S CATEGORIES, AND START YOUR ENTRY TODAY!



 

DIGITAL SPOTLIGHT

 
Barbie
’s critics have oft asserted that the doll reinforces negative female stereotypes. So you pretty much have to marvel at Mattel and ad agency BBDO: Their latest Barbie ad is a masterwork of wholesale rebranding. It’s also ridiculously cute. Check it our here.

See you tomorrow,
David Teich
10.12.15

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

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