Presenters at this year’s digital content NewFronts talked up hundreds of new Web series, dozens of media partnerships and bold technical innovations. But a few announcements stood above the rest. Here are the four top headlines to emerge from the cluster:
Hulu lands “Seinfeld.”
Hulu landing exclusive streaming rights to all nine seasons of “Seinfeld” is a big deal, as evidenced by the hefty pricetag: reportedly $157.5 million for all 180 episodes, or $875,000 an episode. The license term is believed to be at least five years, according to Variety.
Jerry Seinfeld capped off Hulu’s presentation with the announcement: “You could have put the DVD in, but I guess nobody really wanted to do that. They want to do this!”
While Sony-owned Crackle already offered select “Seinfeld” episodes on its streaming service, Hulu is the first company to bring the whole catalog online. “Seinfeld” reruns have proven enormously popular on television, generating more than $3.1 billion since entering syndication in 1995.
The deal is a marketing move as well as a revenue play, said Adam Shlachter, chief investment officer at digital agency DigitasLBi. “They bring one of the most iconic shows of the modern era to the masses, on-demand, beyond TV syndication and DVDs, which gives them some bragging rights. And for the new audience they can attract, there’s likely some upside.”
AOL inks a deal with NBCUniversal.
To close out its NewFront presentation, AOL announced a major licensing and production agreement it had reached with NBCUniversal. The television giant will bring video from its broadcast and cable TV networks, such as clips from crime drama “The Blacklist,” to AOL platforms. Some of that content will be exclusive, though neither NBCU nor AOL referenced specific video exclusives.
The distribution pact will include material from NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, E!, Esquire, Oxygen, Syfy, Telemundo and USA Network. AOL and NBCU will also co-develop original digital series for distribution across both companies’ platforms, they said.
Despite all the talk of buying audiences, not content, NBC has a recognizable brand and that still matters for buyers. “It’s a lot easier to sell ‘The Blacklist’ than [daily morning show] ‘AOL Rise,’” said a media industry journalist who attended AOL’s Newfront presentation.
The New York Times embraced virtual reality.
The Times is bringing its video into the virtual realm. At the publisher’s NewFronts presentation, it debuted a VR film it produced in partnership with Chris Milk’s VRSE, a production company focused on the VR space. Attendees could explore the film, “Walking New York,” which spotlighted French artist JR and the 150-foot-tall portrait he made for Manhattan’s Flatiron Plaza — and also happened to appear on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Jake Silverstein, said he plans to work with VRSE on more VR projects soon.
Alan Smith, chief digital officer at media agency Assembly, said the Times’ VR offering was impressive and representative of the company’s recent uptick in innovative projects.
Maker Studios flexed its Disney muscles.
A year after Disney acquired Maker Studios, the leading multichannel network, Maker finally showed off what it’s doing with all those Disney brands. Through a partnership with ESPN-operated X Games, Maker will pair top extreme sports athletes with its creators beginning this summer. Maker will also begin to offer its talent access to Marvel intellectual property, such as Spider-Man and The Avengers. And the media company revealed “I Am Maker,” a docu-series about its emerging YouTube stars that will air on Disney-owned ABC Family.
“The biggest takeaway for me was that Maker has firmly established itself as being more than a multichannel network,” said Magda Alvarez, associate media director at Razorfish.
Lucia Moses contributed reporting to this article. Main image courtesy of Craig Barritt / Getty Images.
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