The Digital Content NewFronts, held last week in New York City and presented by Digitas, brought several online content platforms to the podium to promote their upcoming slates and initiatives to advertisers. With the digital dust settling after the parties, announcements and multi-million dollar acquisitions (well, okay, there was only one of those), one thing is abundantly clear – unscripted content is playing an increasingly important role for the platforms venturing into online originals.
While unscripted has traditionally lent itself well to short-form, as seen in the number of YouTube channels built around it, this year’s second edition of the NewFronts saw online giants such as AOL bringing considerable star power to their slates (including Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker) and companies known for traditional media (Condé Nast, The Wall Street Journal) making concerted moves into online original programming, with the bulk of it residing firmly in the non-fiction camp.
Condé Nast, for example, announced 30 programs for its first NewFront presentation, delivered by Condé Nast Entertainment head (and former president of entertainment for The CW) Dawn Ostroff. The company’s roster of series features episodes running the gamut from one to 10 minutes each, spanning assorted publishing brands under the Condé Nast umbrella, including Wired, Glamour and GQ and “airing” on their respective websites. GQ.com will present Casualties of the Gridiron, a documentary about the rise of injuries in the NFL, while the Wired channel will feature such titles as Angry Nerd, in which columnist Chris Baker will issue rants on topics ranging from the Star Trek reboot to the failings of Peter Jackson’s first Hobbit film.
Fashion bible Vogue will begin rolling out web originals on May 8, including such titles as Vintage Bowles, following international editor-at-large Hamish Bowles as he travels the world in search of great fashion finds. Magical Elves, meanwhile, are partnering with Glamour to present stylist competition Style to Kill.
While drawing parallels between the production and proliferation of original web content with the early days of basic cable, Ostroff and Condé Nast also stated that the company will partner with other web portals such as Yahoo!, AOL and Dailymotion to get the content seen.
Speaking of Yahoo!, the online hub revealed at the start of NewFront week that it’s spicing up its online original and unscripted offerings with a comedic series exec produced by Morgan Spurlock (pictured) and actor/occasional Beach Boy John Stamos. Losing Your Virginity with John Stamos will feature the actor in conversation with various famous folks, discussing the celebs’ “first time” and embellishing the stories with “humorous recreations using crude animation, stop-motion techniques, and the occasional Barbie Doll and/or sock puppet to help underscore the story.”
Interestingly, Yahoo! also plans on delivering comedy content via a “binge viewing” model, in which viewsers can watch seasons in their entirety.
New lifestyle content making its way to Yahoo! includes Cinema & Spice, an interactive cooking show featuring Julianna Strickland and Natasha Feldman, and Grill Girls (w/t), hosted by chef Megan Mitchell and delving into the world of women who love to barbecue. Fashion Recipe, meanwhile, has celebrity stylist Brett Alan Nelson diving into the closet of a different woman each week to offer invaluable fashion tips. It’s produced by Full Picture.
While YouTube didn’t unveil several hundred new channels during the Google presentation, it did offer up a new buzzword – Gen C, meant to serve as a descriptor for the YouTube generation that indulges in “creation, curation, connection and community.” And the news of the acquisition of YouTube programming phenom Awesomeness TV by DreamWorks Animation for a reported US$33 million certainly helped underscore the content portal’s importance in the original online content sphere. Awesomeness TV, incidentally, announced a new reality series of its own during the week – How to Be a YouTube Star.
Hulu, which entered the online unscripted arena in 2011 with Spurlock’s A Day in the Life docuseries and followed that up last year with a travelog from Richard Linklater, Up to Speed, has a new docuseries on tap for the year ahead. Behind the Mask will delve into the shadowy world of sports mascots. The online video service says it has doubled its number of subscribers over the last year, to four million.
Disney Interactive unveiled several unscripted web series geared towards kids and parents at its mid-week NewFront presentation. Series include Celebrity Pet Psychic featuring animal communicator Sonya Fitzpatrick; Citizen Kid, a profile of ordinary kids who are doing extraordinary things; Unfiltered with Cole Plante, which follows 16-year-old electronic dance DJ Cole Plante as he prepares to take the stage at Lollapalooza; a weekly style show entitled D’Fied; the how-to series Making It Up; the mockumentary Stunt’d; and That’s Fresh with Helen Cavallo, a cooking show with chef and host of the Disney Junior show That’s Fresh: Recipes so Easy, You’re Laughing.
All of the original shows will premiere on Disney.com and across its digital networks.
And as the week closed, Sony Pictures Television’s Crackle came to the proceedings with news of a second season for Jerry Seinfeld’s unscripted comedy series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, to feature Sarah Silverman and David Letterman among others, and a new series, Play It Forward. The musical docuseries will feature several top performers giving impromptu street performances, and is produced by Robert Downey Jr., Tony Berg, Kevin Lake and Susan Downey.
(With files from Kidscreen’s Wendy Goldman Getzler)