"This is not about CNN. This is not about news," said CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker. "It's about the first company that we have launched in 35 years that does not boast those three little red letters."
Zucker took to the stage at Houston Hall in lower Manhattan this afternoon to tout the big news about Great Big Story, the six-month-old digital video startup built independently of CNN, but which uses the sales and marketing heft of the cable news network and its parent company Turner.
GBS stories are uplifting, beautifully shot and short. Three to five new videos are uploaded every day in what GBS calls an ad-block proof environment. There are no pre-rolls (unless you view on YouTube), only brand deals.
Zucker, who is no stranger to the UpFront, having run NBC's entertainment division in the early 2000s, called GBS "one of the most exciting new investments I've ever been a part of."
Zucker kept his remarks short—just 7 minutes—and event planners let the GBS videos do the talking, as stations, or campfires as they called them, were set up to show off some of GBS' 400 videos, 95 percent of which are produced in-house by a staff of 40 based not at CNN, but in its own office elsewhere in Manhattan.
"In just six months, Great Big Story has exceeded all expectations and topped every goal that we set for it," Zucker said. "We are attracting urban-dwelling, globally-curious 27 year olds who live on their phones. A notoriously difficult group to reach."
GBS, which draws 40 million video views a month on multiple platforms, announced six new filmmaking initiatives, including a second season of Aquatic World with Philippe Cousteau, a partnership with CNN Films and a deal with the Weather Channel that will see a series called That's Amazing air as an 8-part series on TV first, then in short-form on GBS.
"CNN has been telling stories for more than 35 years," Zucker concluded, "This is as excited as we have been about any business we have launched."