It’s been just under a month since Otter Media, the co-venture between AT&T and The Chernin Group, announced the formation of Gunpowder and Sky (G&S), a new digital studio headed by Viacom’s Van Toffler and Otter’s Floris Bauer. And now the subsidiary has made its first investment in short-form video production shingle “Cut”, the company’s Series A. Comcast Ventures has also invested in the round, which is said to help “Cut” scale production and expansion to other platforms.
G&S was formed with the goal of producing and funding digital-first and globally-forward productions for distribution across multiple platforms. “Cut,” which was founded in 2014, fits well with that mission given their expertise in creating and distributing short-form, highly shared videos at a low cost.
“With hundreds of millions of views across their multiple hit series such as ‘100 Years of Beauty,’ ‘One Word’ and ‘Grandmas Smoking Weed,’ Cut’s tapping into the zeitgeist, and we are very excited to be partnering with them,” said Bauer.
Cut’s viral video successes have racked up more than 340M views and 1.25M subscribers across Facebook and YouTube.* And its founders Mike Gaston, Jason Hakala, and Blaine Ludy aren’t the obvious Hollywood types one might expect to be driving that type of traction for short-form video. Based in Seattle, the crew got a modest start producing short-form, even for the likes of CBS Radio Seattle, before seeing success with video that “travels well” on the internet.
The team at Cut fundamentally believes that content that goes viral can be enriching and meaningful. For instance, their series “100 Years of Beauty” which was featured by TED, showcases time-lapse captures of various cultures and their timelines of fashion — essentially what was considered beautiful in the 1800s or 1900s — by decade.
When asked about the stigma surrounding the word viral, Gaston says he’s learned to embrace, rather than to reject, the concept.
“After doing this for awhile, I realized that we all live in custom made bubbles,” Gaston said. “Every site we go to, every bit of content we share, contributes to an overall profile of a person that is then marketed to constantly. I can live a lifetime online only seeing things that I like or work that validates what I think I believe in. And what’s awesome and exciting about ‘viral content’ is its ability to pierce these bubbles even for a moment. Viral content then becomes an invitation to empathize.”
So, with the new investment from Gunpowder & Sky and Comcast Ventures, Gaston, Hakala and Ludy will aim to become the kings of short-form viral content and to showcase how shareable content can educate and scintillate, not just titillate the masses thru impactful storytelling.
“We are really excited to work with Gunpowder & Sky,” said Mike Gaston, CEO of Cut. “It’s rare to walk into an investment meeting and spend the entire time talking about storytelling. Van and Floris have an incredible depth of experience and a prescient sense for what’s coming next. They’re putting together an awesome team of makers and we look forward to earning our spot on their roster.”
*Note this number is cumulative and likely represents duplication of audience on both platforms.