What to watch for at the Newfronts: Day two
Maker Studios, now owned by Disney, must reassure buyers
May 3, 2016
By the editors of Media Life
The Digital Content Newfronts has kicked off. and over two weeks there will be more than three dozen presentations. Media Life will present daily previews of these these presentations and the companies behind them to assist media people in gauging their importance, influence and popularity.
What it is: A multichannel network (MCN), which means it produces videos for YouTube. It’s owned by Disney.
Why it’s doing video: Maker’s focus has been video since its founding in 2009.
It’s targeted at Millennials, and it has more than 1,000 YouTube channels to reach them on. That drew the interest of both Disney and Relativity Media, which submitted an unsuccessful bid for the company in 2014 as well.
Reach/stats: Maker’s platforms draw more than 40 million users per month, according to comScore, putting it among the top five video draws on the web.
It also receives a lot of traffic from overseas, where its channels are hugely popular.
The studios employ more than 55,000 content creators like Pewdiepie.
What to expect today: Ever since Disney bought Maker for more than $700 million, it’s faced scrutiny. It hasn’t generated as much revenue as expected, in part because content creators have begun demanding a bigger split of their advertising—or they will jump to another MCN.
Since YouTube already takes a hefty chunk of ad dollars, more than 40 percent, that leaves Maker with small margins on video.
Expect the company today to focus on reassuring buyers that it is on target for growth, has new ideas in the pipeline, and is keeping its talent happy.
Influencer rank, on a scale of 1 to 10: 7.
MCNs have a less-than-stellar reputation among media buyers and planners, but Maker is arguably the most powerful and respected, thanks to its huge traffic and Disney backing.
What it is: An MCN.
Why it’s doing video: Defy Media emerged from a merger of Alloy Digital and Break Media three years ago. It has a number of well-established YouTube channels dating back a decade, such as Smosh and Clevver Media.
It targets teens and Millennials, which led Viacom to take a small stake in the company a couple years ago.
Sample channel: Smosh, which has more than 22 million subscribers, offers videos such as “Apple Watch Sucks” and “My Best Friend Is a Robot,” which consistently receive more than 2 million views.
Reach/stats: Defy averages more than 80 million monthly visitors and 750 million unique views.
SocialBlade estimates Smosh’s advertising alone totaled up to $4.1 million last year.
What to expect today: Earlier this year, rumors emerged that Defy was on the block for $500 million, with Viacom reportedly interested. Nothing ever came of it, so either the sale was well-disguised and will be announced at the Newfronts, or Defy will take pains to assure buyers it is stable and doesn’t need a bailout.
Influencer rank, on a scale of 1 to 10: 5
MCNs generally are not seen as influencers, and Defy ranks behind Maker in terms of prestige.
Condé Nast Entertainment
What it is: A magazine company.
Why it’s doing video: To diversify. The company launched its digital division three years ago amidst fears over falling print advertising.
Like all magazine companies, Condé Nast is intent on redefining itself as a brand rather than a print-centric dinosaur. Embracing video helps signal Condé Nast brands such as Vogue and Glamour can grow even as print stalls.
Sample videos: Most magazines now have their own channels that reflect their brand. Glamour, for instance, has videos such as “Are You a Kardashian Expert? Test Yourself With Glamour’s Definitive Kardashian Kwiz” and “Can You Tell the Difference Between a Sex Toy and a Beauty Tool?”
Reach/stats: Last year videos across Condé Nast’s 11 networks received more than 2.7 billion views.
The company says it makes more than 4,000 videos per year.
What to expect today: Condé Nast loves playing up the luxury/exclusivity angle on all of its brands, so expect a lot of talk about how upscale/smart/educated its viewers are, as well as a big push for The Scene, its recently redesigned premium video network available on Apple TV, Roku and Xbox.
Influencer rank, on a scale of 1 to 10: 5
Condé Nast’s influence is largely limited to magazines for now. Though it’s made an aggressive push into video, it targets niche audiences, making it too specialized to be a major influencer.
What it is: One of the oldest new media companies still in operation.
Why it’s doing video: To make money and find its identity under new owner Verizon.
AOL’s been struggling to find its new place for over a decade, since dial-up connections began going out of style. It has diversified, with ad programs and content and, yes, video all contributing to revenue.
Acquisitions of Huffington Post, Engagenet and Tech Crunch have given it other outlets for video, too, beyond its main site.
Sample show: AOL has channels set up for lifestyle topics, technology, top headlines, late-night video and more. One of its most popular programs is “Build,” a celebrity-focused afternoon talk show.
Reach/stats: AOL says traffic to its video sites doubled last year, and it has more than 2,000 partners distributing AOL videos. It’s also increasingly focused on mobile video, which it wants to grow to more than half of all video views.
“Build” drew more than 80 million views last year.
What to expect today: A focus on mobile video and more emphasis on live-streaming, which AOL sees as the future of video. Last year it redesigned its pages to include video links on nearly all of them, and it’s trying to monetize that while also expanding distribution onto other platforms, such as Sony’s PlayStation.
Influencer rank, on a scale of 1 to 10: 6
For all its troubles over the years, AOL is still a major online brand and has a huge reach. While other online companies may be hipper and cooler, AOL will always have some cachet from its legacy.
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