How Ellen Conquered Digital

For starters, lots of snackable, brand-safe content

Ellentube is the digital destination for DeGeneres’ brand’s content. Ellentube

The team behind Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show has short attention spans, jokes executive producer Ed Glavin. So, since the program debuted in 2003, they have produced it “in a way that was pretty snackable,” he says, with shorter bits that easily lend themselves to online viewing and sharing.

With that strategy, the Ellen Digital Network, also known as EDN, has capitalized and significantly grown the DeGeneres brand by sharing the human-interest stories that her audience is used to seeing on TV and searching for on ellentube, the digital destination for her brand’s content. EDN has released more than a dozen original digital series, including OMKalen, featuring Kalen Allen, who began working with EDN after his recaps of recipe videos went viral, and Momsplaining With Kristen Bell, whose 2012 sloth meltdown on Ellen racked up 27 million YouTube views.

“It’s not just about watching Ellen on TV in the daytime; it’s also Gen Xers [younger audiences] on these social media platforms,” says Michael Riley, gm, Ellen Digital Ventures. The team is constantly looking for stories that might resonate with its audience.

Take Mary Halsey, the self-proclaimed “funky white sister” to Missy Elliott. The DeGeneres team saw a viral video of Halsey singing Elliott’s “Work It” in a park, brought her on the show to be interviewed and perform, and surprised her with an enthusiastic Elliott, who duetted with her. That clip from the show now has more than 3 million views on ellentube. “That’s what we do,” Glavin says. “We want to get eyes on it, have it be fun and eventful, and have people monetize it.”

The Heads Up! game from DeGeneres

Recently, the Ellen Digital Network expanded into the podcasting space with Ellen on the Go, which takes listeners behind the scenes of the show. The company is also launching more mobile gaming apps—they’ve been downloaded 46 million times already—one based on DeGeneres’ prime-time NBC game show, Ellen’s Game of Games, and another that can be played with friends around the world. At last week’s inaugural NewFronts West in Los Angeles, Ellen Digital Network announced a new slate of shows, some featuring celebrities like Ashley Graham and Ayesha Curry.

DeGeneres’ brand, both on linear and digital, is “highly influential and deeply engaging,” says Alana Calderone Polcsa, svp, brand content and partnerships for Warner Bros. Entertainment. “It’s a powerful ecosystem for brands to take on.” That’s why her digital offerings are so attractive to marketers like Johnson & Johnson, which partnered on Momsplaining’s second season.

“In this world of content and brands wanting to attach to safe content, Ellen’s voice continues to get louder,” says Riley. “We’re one of the only places that can deliver scale with brand-safe content, and that is a huge advantage to advertisers.”

This story first appeared in the October 15, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.
@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.