By Sahil Patel
At its second NewFronts presentation, Time Inc. touted the success of its video business, and announced plans to expand its footprint across new and emerging platforms.
A strategy that started in earnest last year, Time Inc.’s video output since last May has generated more than a billion streams, with viewers averaging 27 minutes per month on its video platforms, according to Time Inc. Its 2014 programming slate was successful on the advertising front, too, as the company said it sold 90% of its digital video inventory throughout the year.
Looking ahead to 2015, Time Inc. video will grow in terms of both production and distribution.
The company said it plans to produce more than 10,000 videos in 2015 across 22 of its brands. It introduced a fresh slate of programming that includes a new documentary initiative with its Sports Illustrated property called “Sports Illustrated Films.” Time Inc. and SI will produce six documentaries in the coming year, covering a broad range of sports topics and stories. Films produced by the venture will span all types of content lengths, from short-form to feature-length.
Other notable projects include “A Year in Space” with Time’s own Red Border Films, which will follow astronaut Scott Kelly who is currently aboard the International Space Station as part of a one-year experiment to determine if Mars travel can ever be achieved. The documentary will follow Scott as well as his family back home, which includes his twin brother Mark (a retired NASA astronaut). “A Year in Space” is a multi-part series, spanning online and print.
Part of Time Inc.’s video plans for 2015 and beyond is to expand into verticals other than entertainment, news, and sports. Specifically, the company also plans to focus on content dedicated to millennials, beauty and fashion, and lifestyle.
As such, Time Inc. announced a few series within those genres, including “Andi’s Apple,” which will follow former “The Bachelorette” star Andi Dorfman as she moves to and navigates New York City as a newly single woman. “Black Girl Magic” is a new docu-series for Essence magazine that will document the lives of six teenage girls from diverse backgrounds, with all episodes directed by emerging African-American female filmmakers.
Time Inc. is partnering with Jay-Z’s Life+Times to produce “40/40 Live,” a celebrity interview series hosted by WNBA star
Skylar Diggins. Each episode will be shot at Jay-Z’s The 40/40 Club in Manhattan.
In total, Time Inc. showcased 11 original series it plans to develop or release in the coming year. Others include the reality-competition series “The Next Style Star,” celebrity interview series “The Bullseye” for Entertainment Weekly, and another celebrity interview series called “Popography,” which will be hosted by People and EW editorial director Jess Cagle.
Supporting all this production will be a new studio at the company’s new headquarters in New York. “It will more than triple our production capabilities,” said JR McCabe, SVP of video, and particularly double the amount of live content that Time Inc. and its brands can do.
Outside of its own walls, Time Inc. has doubled the size of its distribution network. New distribution partners include Amazon (through the Amazon Video Shorts section), Vessel, Gannett (which operates USAToday.com and 120 other news sites), CBS Local Digital Media (which has a network of more than 120 websites), Cumulus (450 US station sites), and Nexstar Broadcasting.
“Our goal is to constantly expand the reach and scale of our video network, first through Time Inc. digital channels and then with organic and mutually beneficial partnerships,” said McCabe.
Photo credit: Taylor Ballantyne/Time Inc.
LIN Digital is not a digital company nor a TV company, it’s a “connected-screen media company,” said John McCarus, chief strategy officer of LIN Digital, at the company’s first ever NewFronts presentation for advertisers in New York.
Unlike most of the other presenters during the NewFronts, LIN Digital said it has a wide reach across both traditional and digital media. It owns 71 TV stations in 48 markets, currently reaching one in four US households. On the other side, its online properties have an audience of more than 182 million unique visitors per month, its mobile properties reach more than 135 million uniques, and its social channels have more than 111 million followers.
“We reach 50% of males 18–44, and 69% of females 18–44,” said Jamie Elden, CRO of LIN Digital. With that kind of scale, you’d imagine that LIN spent its presentation pushing its ability to broadcast media across platforms.
Not so fast.
“We are betting on digital first, and amplifying it to linear,” said McCarus. “Why? Because we believe optimizing the distribution of bad content is an exercise in futility.”
Rather, LIN focused on its strategy of producing a lot of digital content, testing and iterating on digital, and then — if it’s right — pushing that content on traditional platforms.
To provide a successful example, the company brought out Ron Bloom, founder and CEO of LIN’s entertainment and lifestyle video network BiteSizeTV.
BiteSizeTV’s most popular series franchise, the celebrity-driven talk show “Hollywood Today Live,” started out as a collection of short-form videos. Eventually, BiteSizeTV built a full-hour format. In between this time, the company tested more than a 100 potential hosts and other elements of the show to see what its audience wanted and was responding to.
Today, “Hollywood Today Live” airs as a daily, hour-long entertainment show on Fox stations in nine major markets across the US.
“BiteSizeTV is not a digital company. We are an entertainment company that believes in the power of digital,” said Bloom. “TV is not one big, hairy dinosaur destined for extinction. TV will be influenced by digital in ways that we are just beginning to understand…I believe traditional media and digital are coming together to create a new promise for creators and brands.”
LIN Digital wants to help brands make those kinds of transitions — either through sponsorships and more traditional forms of advertising, or, increasingly, custom content creation.
On the latter, LIN Digital has Federated Media, which boasts a network of more than 6,000 creators collectively reaching
more than 111 million followers across social platforms. Not unlike what many of the MCNs do, Federated Media can partner brands with the right type of influencer to create custom content, which can then be distributed across the LIN portfolio.
Here, again, Federated Media and LIN Digital pitch their digital-first ethos, where brands can work with these influential people to create, test, and optimize the right type of content before turning on the broadcasting engine. “We can help brands go beyond 30-second spots,” said Elden. “They have a seat at the table with us from the very beginning.”
As for Federated Media itself, the company’s CEO Jordan Hoffner said it continues to look for new talent to partner with, especially in video. “There are filmmakers out there who are not on YouTube — yes, they exist — who we can help to express themselves creatively,” he said.
For all the strategy talk, LIN Digital made a few announcements, too.
Federated Media is partnering with BiteSizeTV on a new morning show called “FM in the AM.” According to Hoffner, the goal will be to create a lot of video content across different categories by tapping into Federated’s diverse creator network. The companies also hope to add new content partners in the future, especially from the world of news, as they test and iterate the ideal version of what the morning show can become.
Another Federated Media project is “Pintessentials,” which it’s producing in partnership with “Project Runway” executive producer Full Picture.
BiteSizeTV, meanwhile, has already spun-off three shows from “Hollywood Today Live” segments: “The Girl Spot,” “Our Green House,” and “Social Spin.” The latest of the three, “Social Spin,” will debut online later this summer.
The biggest story of the day, of course, was that Vevo has a new chief executive: Erik Huggers. But the music/video company also took some time out of its fourth NewFront presentation to talk about its plans for 2015.
In terms of original programming, Vevo announced that it had renewed 14 of its existing original series, including “Lift,” “Go Shows,” “Hot This Week,” and “Certified.” Each of these series have amassed more than 100 million views each, the company said. Other renewals include “AKA,” “Super Fan Showdown,” “Do It Yourselfie,” and “Tour Exposed.”
Vevo also unveiled a few new shows. “:60 With…” will feature interviews with various music artists, who will answer questions off-the-cuff in 60 seconds or less. The premiere episode will spotlight Kendrick Lamar, who will be followed by David Hasselhoff in the second episode. Another new Vevo original, “Rhyme and Reason,” will feature a hip-hop artist spitting 16 bars and then revealing the history and inspiration behind them. First two episodes will feature Joell Ortiz and Rapsody.
Beyond original programming, Vevo announced that it’s stepping into the branded content business. The company’s new Vevo BE (Branded Entertainment) division will team up with brands to co-create content for music fans. The division will be led by Dave Kalvert, who recently joined Vevo as VP of development and production, and Sophia Reichenbach, the company’s director of brand programs.
Vevo also announced a partnership with Nielsen to have its content measured by the latter’s upcoming “digital content ratings” product, which aims to measure online video content in a fashion that’s comparable to linear TV.
In anticipation of this, Vevo said it commissioned Nielsen to run an analysis of how well its content does versus television. According the company, Nielsen found that Taylor Swift’s catalog of videos on Vevo drew 21 million views across its properties during the premiere week of her latest video for “Style.” Per Nielsen, that’s equivalent to reaching 8.6% of the 18–34 demo in the US. (Vevo says only one “regularly scheduled” linear TV show during this time period — whether it was watched live or via DVR within the first seven days of the initial broadcast — saw a higher reach with the same audience.)
That was all for video content from Vevo, though. Other major announcements included a couple of tentpole live events.
“Certified Live,” based on the company’s successful “Vevo Certified” series which celebrates musicians whose videos have amassed more than 100 million views, will return on August 17. The event will bring multiple “Certified” artists together for a one-time performance. The band 5 Seconds of Summer are confirmed to perform; other participating artists will be announced in “the weeks to come,” the company said.
Another major tentpole event is called “The Year in Vevo.” This live event, which will take place over several days in New York this December, will celebrate the most important and iconic videos on Vevo in 2015. Vevo will essentially recreate the music videos, allowing fans to participate via interactive set replicas. The “activations” will be paired with a new music performance each night.
PopSugar’s decidedly colorful (we’re talking drinks and décor) NewFront presentation revealed a slew of new, original programming from the female millennial-targeting entertainment company. The publisher also let it be known that it’s steadily growing. PopSugar announced that it’s doubled its online traffic from last year and tripled its video views (to over 2 billion).
New PopSugar series span several genres, from food to fashion to scripted comedies, and a novel platform, with one series showing up exclusively on Facebook. Let’s go through them, shall we?
In the style category, PopSugar’s new shows include “Hannahgram,” which follows popular Instagram creator Hannah Bronfman as she looks at fashion, fitness, and music trends popular amongst millennial women. “Upstaged” follows a different kind of influencer — Cheryl Eisen, a New York City “home stager,” which means she acts as interior designer with homes people are trying to sell. “PopSugar Beauty Junkie” will show up weekly on PopSugar’s digital platforms. Hosted by PopSugar’s Kirbie Johnson, it’s more or less a beauty tutorial show. Lastly, “Knock Knock with Rachel Antonoff” will take the fashion designer (Antonoff, that is) into the homes of “the people who inspire her” and showcasing their favorite possessions.
New lifestyle and fitness content includes “Find Your Happy,” which features life lessons from PopSugar editors, other influencers, and “real people” about achieving your goals and, you know, being happy. So far, Hilton and Chobani are sponsoring the series. “Choose Your Challenge, Change Your Life” will be PopSugar’s new fitness and general wellness offering. It provides various challenges aimed at getting viewers in shape.
Food series from PopSugar will star culinary expert Eden Grinshpan as she travels around the world and eats more than three meals a day. “Ingrid Dishes” focuses on YouTuber Ingrid Nilsen in her own cooking show.
Joining “Seriously Distracted,” a new scripted comedy, “All My Friends Are Getting Married,” will come to PopSugar from its partnership with Above Average. Starring and produced by Mae Witman (“The DUFF”), the show can pretty much be summed up by its title. “Seriously Distracted,” meanwhile, will see a new cast member in Nicole Richie, who will play the boss of the PR company this show’s about.
The PopSugar series set to appear on Facebook is called “PopSugar Rush.” New episodes will show up daily, featuring PopSugar editors as they talk about the day’s trending news stories.
As for the PopSugar franchise series already on the platform, they’re all coming back.
Lastly, the women’s lifestyle publisher made sure to emphasize its opportunities for brands. Echoing the current “brands as publishers” mantra, PopSugar showed a reel of its past branded content and encouraged brands to keep collaborating with them on videos that might actually appeal to millennial women.