Today I'm pleased to share a video interview I did with Generate's Founder and CEO Jordan Levin at the recent NATPE Market conference in Miami, FL. In January Generate was acquired by Alloy Digital, in a deal that created a multi-platform media company targeting the young adult market. In the following interview Jordan discusses the rationale for the deal, the combined companies' top 2-3 priorities, how to judge the success of branded entertainment project and much more.
The interview runs 12 1/2 minutes. (Note, I'm off camera and my audio isn't great, so the questions are overlaid in text.)
As the first "Broadband Olympics" begin to wind down, the American political conventions are next up to get the broadband video treatment. While certainly not Olympian in their popularity, the conventions still have a rabid following among many, and given the particular dynamics of this year's election cycle, they are attracting far broader interest than usual.
The conventions have evolved a lot over the years. Traditionally they were a high-stakes drama culminating in a roll call vote whose outcome was often uncertain. They have become a largely drama-free corporate-sponsored schmooze-fest punctuated by a few high-profile keynote and nominee acceptance speeches. Broadcasters have taken note, steadily reducing their coverage and opening the door to cable networks to do the primary convention coverage.
In '04 the Internet crashed the conventions, primarily in the form of bloggers reporting on every convention utterance made. The bloggers will be out in full force at the '08 conventions too, but this time around broadband coverage is going to be the big story. Here's a partial list of what's on tap:
The Democrats also plan a Spanish language simulcast produced by Comcast, to be available online and also on-demand for Comcast subscribers. The Dems are also producing a 15 minute daily show called "Countdown to America's Future" available through Comcast VOD and online.
CBS anchor Katie Couric is taking on broadband assignments, delivering web-only specials for the first time.
Politico.com and Yahoo have partnered with the Denver Post and St. Paul Pioneer Press to host a series of eight political forums which will be streamed live.
Corporate siblings WashingtonPost.com and Newsweek.com will deploy a team of journalists providing live streaming via their cell phones using an application from Comet Technologies.
For those that don't take their politics too seriously, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and many other comedians will no doubt have viral clips flying around the 'net. Going one comedic step further, Generate and MSN announced just this week the premiere of "Republicrats" a satirical broadband-only series with 24 episodes running though Election Day.
I'm sure there's more broadband convention coverage I've missed, so please post a comment regarding further coverage.
Last week I had a chance to sit down with Brent Weinstein, CEO/founder of 60Frames, which is among a new group of companies I refer to as "broadband studios." This is a category that has generated a healthy amount of funding and activity recently, including, among others, Next New Networks ($23 million to date), Generate ($6 million), Revision3 ($9 million), Stage 9 (Disney/ABC's in-house unit), Vuguru (Michael Eisner's shop) and a slew of comedy-focused initiatives. 60Frames itself has raised $3.5 million from Tudor, Pilot Group and others.
The impetus for 60Frames came when Brent was heading up digital entertainment at UTA and observed that many clients wanted to create digital/broadband fare but wanted a partner for the same roles they've come to expect studios to handle (e.g. financing, distribution, legal, creative, etc.). 60Frames aims to differentiate itself from the pack by being "artist-friendly" - allowing greater creative control and more significant ownership and by relying on strong relationships. With an existing staff of 11 and a goal of launching 50 programs by year end, the 60Frames team is no doubt going full tilt.
60Frames is following a traditional portfolio approach, working with great talent (Coen brothers, John August, Tom Fontana, others) but recognizing that results in this new medium will vary - there will be some winners and some losers. The goal is obviously to have the best ratio possible. Traditional studios improve their odds by using collective history and data about what types of projects succeed and which ones don't. But no such lengthy track record or data exists in broadband just yet, so it's a lot more speculative pursuit.
I asked Brent if there's any creative formula 60Frames is using to guide its decision-making. He was pretty emphatic that there's no "formula," but did concede 60Frames is focused on short-form (under 5 minutes), is biased toward comedy where episodes can stand alone more readily, and is mainly looking at niche audiences with a bulls-eye of 18-34 men, where consumption is highest.
Nurturing relationships and developing great content is only part of the equation for these budding studios' success. Distribution and monetization are also incredibly important, as broadband necessitates an entirely different model. Regarding distribution, I was encouraged to see 60Frames is solidly in the syndication camp to the point that it has not even set up destination sites for its 7 launched programs yet. 60Frames has a network of partners including Bebo, blip.tv, DailyMotion, iTunes, MySpace, YouTube and others. Gaining access to all the popular online destinations will accelerate success. Meanwhile advertising is being handled by partner SpotRunner, which has deep hooks in the space.
Broadband studios like 60Frames harken back to the original studio moguls in some ways - taking creative and financial risk to explore what works in a new medium. It's way too early to know if or to what extent they'll succeed, but if they do we can expect a gold rush of imitators.