AOL hosted its NewFronts presentation Tuesday night, with the key highlights including a new strategy dubbed "Content 365" structured around a screen-based content development approach, a new slate of 16 different programs, and a deal to obtain clips from NBCU's entertainment and news programs.
Content 365, the new mantra from AOL, describes an expansion from a NewFronts "season" to a NewFronts "year." AOL's content development strategy is to focus on 3 formats: short/snackable for smartphones, 5-7 minute mid-form "storytelling" for tablets and desktops and longer-form for connected TVs. In all, AOL plans to produce over 3,600 pieces of video in 2015.
AOL showcased "Rise" a morning show that debuted earlier this year as the marquee example of short-form content. Others include "2 Point Lead" (sports/comedy), "The Crunch Report" (top tech stories) and "What to Watch" (culture highlights, hosted by Ricky Camilleri).
Much of AOL's 2015 slate is in the mid-form format, including 2 shows renewed from 2014, "Park Bench with Steve Buscemi" and "Making a Scene with James Franco." New shows include "The HuffPost Show (live weekly talk show), "Journey to the Draft" (profile of 3 aspiring football players), "Rising Artists," (up and coming music artists), "Beyond the Horizon With Jared Leto" (interviews with innovators), "Act Like a Musician" (actors singing with bands), "Citizen Mars" (Mars 100 competition), "#BUILTBYGIRLS: Girls U" (empowering tech lessons for girls), "The Thursday Sports Show with Ben Lyons" and "How it Happened" (athlete interviews from The Players Tribune).
In the long-form category are shows like "Connected," the AOL series that launched on March 31st, the new Huffington Post show "Now What with Ryan Duffy" which explores how people around the world are working toward solutions, and "Makers," the documentary series about women's stories.
This was the third AOL NewFront presentation I've attended and they're always extremely impressive in their quality and attendance. But despite AOL saying the 2014 class has received over 200 million views, online originals remain a chancy proposition: the 2 renewals for 2015 represent a fraction of the 16 shows that were premiered at AOL's 2014 NewFronts. Like many others, AOL is still refining the formula for what works online. It announced that 5 shows in the 2015 class have received sponsorship from Verizon.
Separate from the originals slate, AOL also announced a big new syndication deal with NBCU that will bring to AOL On clips from a variety of entertainment and news programs across NBCU's broadcast and cable networks. This model harkens back to my early writing about the "syndicated video economy" which was pioneered by 5Min, which AOL acquired in 2010 and quickly became the engine of AOL's rapidly rising monthly viewership. It's a tried and true formula and NBCU's content will no doubt add further ad revenue and viewership.