Women's lifestyle media brand Refinery29 kicked off its second-ever NewFronts presentation by announcing a host of new initiatives, including two new YouTube channels, celebrity collaborations, brand partnerships, its foray into virtual reality, and, most notably, a new data mining program.
Following the launch of R29 Originals at last year's NewFronts presentation, the company now claims more than 100 million monthly video views, with its audience consuming 4.2 million hours of Refinery29 videos across Facebook and YouTube in the last year. Hoping to keep that momentum alive, the new programming lineup is heavy on brand sponsorships and celebrity partnerships.
ShatterBox Anthology, sponsored by Comcast and in partnership with Women at Sundance, is a series of 12 short films directed by actresses including Kristen Stewart and Gabourey Sidibe. Kitty, Chloe Sevigny's directorial debut, will premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. New films launch each month.
R29 is rolling out Brawlers, a YouTube channel focusing on women in sports. Smartwater is attached to the series.
By now Facebook Live is ubiquitous at media companies, giving fans an inside look at the inner workings of their favorite brands. R29 has been getting in on the action for a while, with DIY beauty channel Short Cuts. The channel features personalities from its influencer network, Here and Now, as well as R29 staffers. Tonight, it announced that beauty brand Clinique will come on as the channel's sponsor. Other original programming:
- A second collaboration with Planned Parenthood for the series Sex Ed.
- Morgan Spurlock-produced What We Teach Girls.
- RIOT, a comedy YouTube channel with eight original series that include guest appearances from, among others, Lena Dunham, Jessica Williams and Julie Klausner.
- Long-form scripted comedy, Strangers, with Girls director Jesse Peretz serving as executive producer.
In June, R29 will stake its claim in the virtual reality space with VR29 Studios. Each week through the end of the year a new immersive experience will be available for viewers to explore topics like music, sports and travel.
In a nod to the new world of social media journalism, Style Stalking, based on R29 founders' New York Times best-selling book of the same name, is an Instagram-based video series that showcases street fashion and trends across different cities.
While celebrities and big brand names are garnering the most attention, it's easy to miss what is perhaps the most important announcement: The Empathy Lab. R29 has partnered with the Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab to run focus groups (dubbed "think, do, learn" sessions by R29) to gather better intel and data that will inform future programming and creative choices meant to attract more of those celebs and brands.