Digital media companies are notorious for pitching ambitious video series during the NewFronts that never get made, but Defy Media is the exception. The multichannel network is investing in a heavy slate of programming that treats digital video like traditional TV, with a rotating set of channels.
Programming was front and center at Defy Media’s presentation on Tuesday afternoon at Sony’s Playstation Theater in midtown Manhattan. “Welcome to a real NewFront,” read the opening screen of the company’s presentation.
“We program to the under-served majority—those that can’t find relevant programming on television and are disappointed by what other digital media companies are offering,” said Keith Richman, president of Defy Media. “We’re about creating meaningful and endearing programming, then taking that programming and building powerful brands around it. [We then] create worlds around those brands, where our fans and our audiences can engage with us.”
During last year’s NewFronts, Defy Media pitched 30 new shows and ended up making 35. At the company’s presentation this year, it unveiled more than 12 new shows. Altogether, the company makes 75 weekly and bi-weekly series for its stable of popular creators and franchises, including Smosh, entertainment news program Clevver and ScreenJunkies. Those brands collectively have more than 110 million YouTube and social followers.
“We view ourselves as the most TV-like programmer in digital in the sense that we have channels,” Richman told Adweek ahead of the company’s presentation today. “These are weekly shows [and] a lot of them have extensions of programming on other platforms—we wouldn’t release the same video on YouTube as we would on Facebook because history has proven it’s better if we make some edits and changes.”
Richman also took a jab at TV networks and the annual upfront events in an effort to pitch its millennial-geared content. “A lot of people are going to be going in a few weeks to the television upfronts or maybe they’ve already started. They’re going to try and tell you a different story—they’re going to talk about how their audiences are getting younger,” he said. “I suppose that’s true if you define ‘younger’ as 45, which it is if the median age of your audience is 55.”
Defy Media also has an advertising process called ‘buy, badge and build’ that lets brands buy ads against specific shows and content. Unsurprisingly, execs played up its media-buying technology as an alternative to programmatic video buying and the backlash from marketers’ brand-safety concerns on YouTube.
“Over the last few months, it’s become more clear than ever that our partners need transparent and safe environments for their media and it’s one of the benefits of having built-in programming and reliable audiences,” said Andy Tu, Defy Media’s CMO.
The ‘buy’ portion of media buying lets brands run ads alongside certain categories of content. ‘Badging’ allows brands to sponsor content without doing full-blown custom work. T-Mobile, for example, sponsored 30 pieces of Grammy’s-themed content this year. The third advertising option is ‘build’ when brands work with Defy Media to create branded content.
Here’s a look at nine of Defy Media’s new shows.
- Not Quite Cancelled: A scripted series from the sketch comedy duo that tells the story behind making a TV series on the brink of being cancelled.
- Operation: Open World: Joshua Ovenshire and Mari Takahashi from Smosh Games travel around the world to give viewers a peek at events like the Tokyo Game Show and Oktoberfest. Ovenshire described the show as a twist on Anthony Bourdain’s popular No Reservations, but for gamers.
- One Hour Song Machine: A music video competition hosted by Keith Leak Jr. that challenges guests to make a music video using items in a box in one hour.
- Everyday Problems Solved … The Clevver Way: A how-to show aimed at women—think topics like how to change a tire or negotiate a car lease.
- It Got Real: A docuseries that focuses on the stories of the channel’s hosts. Season one will focus on Erin Robinson’s journey after being diagnosed with fibroid tumors.
- Witness the Fitness: A program that showcases a new workout in each episode.
- Galaxy Quest: A ScreenJunkies Documentary: The channel’s first full-length documentary explores the marking of the 1999 science fiction film Galaxy Quest starring Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver. ScreenJunkies talks to the cast and fans that made the movie into a cult favorite.
- Millennial Falcon: A talk show hosted by Jenny Nicholson that looks at the Star Wars franchise and Disney.
- FlickBait: A news round-up show hosted by Honest Trailers writers that specifically looks at the week’s clickbait headlines.