- REUTERS/Albert Gea
Ad buyers and TV network executives converged in New York City last week for a series of splashy, star-studded events. Jennifer Hudson sang. The cast of “Roseanne” reunited. There was lots of trash talking aimed at Facebook and Google. There was a new show about a magician who consults for the FBI.
But there was something missing among the round of TV upfront presentations, during which networks try and sell advertisers on their new crop of upcoming shows: lots of projects spun out of digital media companies.
Nearly every major digital media upstart wants to get into the TV business, whether that means licensing an idea, collaborating on a project, or acting like a studio and producing a TV series.
Consider all the recent alliances and investments between traditional media giants and digital upstarts:
- NBCUniversal has invested in both Vox Media and BuzzFeed Turner has pumped money into Mashable and Refinery29. Those deals were fostered in part because big TV companies were ostensibly hoping to borrow some of their supposed ability to connect with linear-TV-avoiding millennials.
Generally speaking, TV money is better than digital ad money, so it’s natural for web companies, particularly venture-backed firms looking to justify their valuations, to want to venture into TV. Getting on TV is also a great legitimizer in the media world.
Thus, it’s noteworthy that so few major networks have announced digital-publishing-born TV projects. To be fair, TV gestation periods are long, and some of these companies say they have many potential TV series waiting in the wings.
Still, traditional TV companies desperately need to figure out how to connect with younger audiences, and their affiliations with digital native publishers were enacted with the promise of borrowing some of these companies’ “we get millennials” magic.
For web publishers, they would seem to need TV’s to help accelerate their revenue growth. Being on TV should theoretically open them up to a much broader set of advertisers and let them sell content to a wider group of distributors.
Here’s what the various big web publishers are up to on TV:
Refinery29 – Headed to TNT with prestige documentaries
The female-focused publisher and Turner’s TNT have collaborated on a series of short films centered on female talent and themes. These films, dubbed the Shatterbox Anthology, have debuted at recent festivals and will eventually make it to TNT’s linear network. And TNT has also greenlit the documentary series “Who Run the World?” which is being executive-produced by Sarah Jessica Parker, Morgan Spurlock and Refinery29.
BuzzFeed – Moving cautiously, with little urgency to push brands like Tasty to TV
- Getty Images/Kimberly White
Back in 2015 founder Jonah Peretti said he wanted to push into TV, if he could figure out how to connect with audiences the same way the brand can on the web. BuzzFeed Motion Pictures just announced a deal to co-produce a documentary series that will land on NBCU’s Oxygen cable network, reports the Hollywood Reporter. There are other potential TV projects in development, but landing a ton of major TV deals is not a central priority at the company, said a person familiar with the matter.
Mashable – Its Turner partnership has yet to yield a TV project
There are no TV projects in the works for Mashable at the moment, though last year Kevin Reilly, chief creative officer for Turner Entertainment, said he hoped the collaboration between the two companies might lead to some content production, reported the Wall Street Journal.
Mic – The company just raised money to ramp up its video game, but there’s nothing imminent on the TV front
The news-for-millennials-centric publisher has also been vocal about breaking into TV,and just raised $21 million to ramp up its video production. But no TV projects to announce yet.
Vox Media – Two years into Vox Entertainment’s life, several TV projects have been greenlit, but there’s nothing firm yet
The company behind The Verge and SB Nation launched Vox Entertainment in 2015 as part of a partnership with the Hollywood talent agency WME, and has been reportedly working on developing a show with A+E Networks. Vox is looking to develop and produce content in house, much like a studio. While no TV projects have come to fruition yet,”Vox Entertainment has multiple TV series that have been greenlit on broadcast, cable and OTT platforms,” said Vox president Marty Moe. “We are committed to building out TV business with Vox Media as both developer and producer.”
Vice Media – They have the TV deal everybody would seem to want, though it’s not clear whether Viceland has been a hit
The company of course has taken the deepest plunge into the TV pool, launching the Viceland cable network last year as part of a partnership with joint venture with A+E Networks.