NewFronts West Day 2: Rainn Wilson, Walmart Original Video and Snapchat’s Scripted Shows

Vudu is reimagining the 1983 classic Mr. Mom

Vudu is reimagining the 1983 classic Mr. Mom Vudu
Headshot of T.L. Stanley

Rainn Wilson proved he knows his marketing jargon, busting out a string of “machine learning,” “bite-sized snackable content,” “premium experiences” and “brand safety” clichés during the second day of NewFronts West on Wednesday.

The Office actor and founder of SoulPancake, an entertainment company with positivity and uplift as part of its mission statement, led a few hundred gathered media buyers and advertisers in a moment of Zen.

“I know you all have ADD, but close your eyes and take a deep breath in and then release it,” he said during SoulPancake’s session at the IAB event in Hollywood. “Yes, this is a hippie dippy guided meditation.”

He won a bet, he said, if the audience went along with his mental exercise. And he seemed to get fairly broad cooperation during the second day of the digital content conference where brains were possibly in need of a cleansing and calming break.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s two-day event, which wrapped up Wednesday, is the West Coast counterpart to the annual New York NewFronts event in late April and early May. The first day included presentations from the Los Angeles Times, Vice and BBC News.

SoulPancake, meanwhile, rolled out several new projects, including Kid Congress, an update of the viral hit franchise Kid President, original series Send Help with Insecure actor Jean Elie and Beyond Bullied with 11-year-old CEO-activist Kheris Rogers featuring bullied kids who have “turned their dark clouds into rainbows.”

The company, owned by Participant Media, plans to extend its one-time L.A. pop-up event SoulPancake Live, which features comedy, music and spoken word performances, into a national tour, hitting 20 cities in 2019.

Under their banner of “make stuff that matters,” SoulPancake also announced during its first NewFronts appearance a series called Obsessed with Shift7 that follows “brilliant doers” battling global problems, a reimagined book club called Reading Allowed with Wattpad and Food Interrupted with Panera (its stars include Hannah Hart and Marcus Samuelsson) that tackles the food industrial complex head-on.

Best of the rest of NewFronts West

  • Vudu, Walmart’s streaming video arm, will break into original entertainment via a deal with MGM. The studio plans to create short-form family-friendly series based on its franchises, which includes The Hobbit, Pink Panther, James Bond, Rocky, Vikings and Fargo, starting in first quarter 2019 and licensed exclusively to Vudu’s free Movies on Us AVOD service. Its first project will be a reimagining of the classic 1983 Michael Keaton-Teri Garr comedy, Mr. Mom. Vudu also will roll out a shoppable video ad format, allow marketers to sponsor curated content like “action movie night” and buy category exclusivity.
  • Viacom Digital Studios will expand its relationship with Snap, planning 10 new original series like Clean Slate (a makeover show), Filthy Living (Hoarders meets Room Raiders) and De’Arra and Ken’s Prank Show (unsuspecting guests get punked), while syndicating 500 episodes of shows like Decoded and Spencer Pratt Will Heal You. The second season of MTV Cribs premieres this month, and MTV News Presents: Need to Know launches Nov. 15.
  • On YouTube, Viacom Digital Studio is dedicating a channel to Jersey Shore to cover all things Snooki and the rest of the dysfunctional gang, and another for stand-up performances under the Comedy Central banner.
  • Nickelodeon execs have signed a digital-to-linear deal with Annie LeBlanc, who’s been a YouTube star since she was 4. She said during the session that she “grew up watching Nickelodeon” and considers it “funny, creative and messy.” She’ll be acting and singing in Nick’s shows, while creating digital content.
  • Viacom’s recent acquisition, the fan-fed VidCon gathering, will launch in February in London, execs said, and the 10th U.S. event will be held July 10, 2019 in Anaheim, Calif.
  • Meredith’s People magazine plans to boost its live coverage of red carpets, British royals and celebrity news to four hours daily on its ad-supported OTT platform PeopleTV in 2019. And the publisher’s food franchises will launch 10 new IGTV series devoted to topics like vegan diets, famous moms, commuter beauty and sweet treats.
  • Snapchat, where the focus has largely been on news, sports, lifestyle and other reality programming, will dive into serialized, scripted shows—dramas, mystery, horror, comedy, docu-series and animation—for the launch of Snapchat Originals. More than a dozen scripted projects debut this fall, shot in vertical format “in a way that makes the small screen feel large,” said Sean Mills, Snap’s head of original content. Producers include the Duplass Brothers, Mark Boal and Bunim/Murray. The shows, like teen drama Endless Summer, coming-of-age doc Growing up is a Drag and supernatural soap Dead Girls Detective Agency, will have six-second unskippable ads and dedicated space on the app to make it easier for viewers to find and watch programming. Augmented reality experiences and “portal lenses” will let fans step into the series, snoop around and interact with characters.
  • Jukin Media announced Unseen Awesome, a travel-extreme sports series with Indy Jamma Jones and the second season return of sports-centric E/O. The company introduced UG:06, a service that funnels its user-generated content to brands for six-second ads. “Cats in sombreros, fabulous dogs and big guys in Speedos,” said Brendon Mulvihill, svp, head of licensing. “That’s what we do.”

@TLStanleyLA terry.stanley@adweek.com T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.
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