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Roma Downey and Mark Burnett have launched a new website, the first digital venture from MGM under Burnett since he became president of the Television and Digital Group. The site is an extension of Downey’s social presence, building on her production company with Burnett, LightWorkers Media. Downey spoke to Cynopsis’ Miranda Shulman about, devoted to bringing positivity to people’s lives.

Cynopsis: What was the genesis of

NYSE-Roma-Downey-Photo-170926-13Roma Downey: We’ve been so saddened to see these storms unfold across the world and people are just bombarded with one thing after another. Many years ago we were watching the news – my husband and I – late at night, and I turned to him and I said, “Mark, let’s create the good news channel, let’s create a space where we can just go and unwind and be engaged in a different kind of conversation.”People are hungry for hope and is all about hope.

Cynopsis: What’s your guiding principle?

Downey: We’re launching with almost 500 pieces of original content, and if you were to find a thread that connects all of them it would be that it supports family, that it’s about kindness, compassion. It tries to bring people together and make a different kind of conversation, one that’s positive, that’s uplifting.

I wanted the site to feel open and invitational. That, regardless of the faith that you come from, you would visit the site and feel connected to each other. We really tried to tell stories in a personal way so that people will see themselves in others’ stories…. I wanted to create a space where you could come with your family, with your kids, and know that you can trust it for content – that’s important to anyone raising children out there.

Cynopsis: You’ve certainly had great success with long-form content, like The Bible miniseries. Why short-form?

Downey: I have young adult kids, and I see where they are: they’re watching their content on their mobile phones, iPads, and laptops – they’re looking for that shorter-form content. Two to five minutes is that sweet spot.

Cynopsis: The site is an extension of your considerable existing social presence. You’re a fan?

Downey: I have to tell you, I love social media. All of our attention spans have gotten a little shorter and instead of complaining about it and saying, “Oh, back in my day people used to watch longer shows,” – well, they’re still doing that – but now we’re looking for fun ways to engage.

I want to make sure we’re delivering positive, upbeat, encouraging content that you would want to share. Maybe you’d see something on today that touched your heart or brightened your day and you’d say, “I’m going to send that to my mom,” or “I’m going to send that to my boyfriend,” or “I’m going to send that to my kids.” I want to engage in that way.

Cynopsis: How will you monetize the site?

Downey: Well, first of all, I think that is going to attract a lot of wonderful traffic. We’ve already launched a series called “37 seconds,” featuring stories that are just extraordinary, about people shining light amidst other headlines, and we’ve had incredible success with this: over 21 million people have already viewed “37 seconds,” and I think that just speaks to people’s hunger for this kind of good news.

We’re now in early conversations with many brands. Everybody’s excited about it, they see the value in it, and they know that there will be good content. We’re in the entertainment business and my husband and I have a great track record of making quality content….Now that we actually have something tangible for people to see, I think you’ll be hearing more announcements about brands that we’ll be partnering with.

Cynopsis: Carnival Corporation has signed on as a launch partner. What role do they play in

Downey: We’re thrilled to have Carnival as an early adopter. We’re creating some branded content with Carnival, using the stories of the beautiful travelers from their [purpose-driven travel brand] Fathom Cruise Line; people whose interest was to shine a light. One of the focuses at is to celebrate good people everywhere doing good things, and these Carnival travelers are those good people. For example, a young man and his family were in Haiti when the disaster struck and so the Fathom travelers went down to help. It’s really about working together [with Carnival] to create content that will inspire and we’ve done that.

One of our mantras has been that it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness and so we’ve created this new digital content destination for uplifting and inspirational content to help break through the darkness and to bring hope, encouragement and to lighten your day.

The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words and in targeted Q&As, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at [email protected]. 

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