Who Will Be the Next Big Video Star?
ADWEEK|April 11, 2016

Ahead of this year's NewFronts, a look at how four top digital video networks are attracting millennials and the content creators they want to watch.

Tim Baysinger

By now, it’s a given that millennials—some of them having cut the cord, others never having had a cord to cut—are consuming an unprecedented crush of video content on a growing array of platforms and devices. And while appointment viewing is largely a thing of the past, it is also accepted that the bond that audiences, notably younger ones, have forged with content creators found on YouTube, Vine, Instagram and beyond is infinitely more unbreakable than their parents’ affinity for the likes of, say, Jerry Seinfeld or the cast of Melrose Place or any other TV star from the past you’d care to name.

Multichannel networks, built on the power and reach of YouTube and serving as a bridge between creators and brands craving to reach this base of young, hard-core fans, now constitute a 5-year-old ecosystem, one that finds itself all grown-up and yet as always remains in search of the latest, greatest ways to produce and distribute high-quality content—and of course, the next big video star.

And their appeal goes way beyond the screen. Take Twaimz, one of the creators for network Fullscreen. Not only do his videos log millions of views, but his recent tour of the U.S. sold out 22 dates, says Fullscreen founder and CEO George Strompolos. “Why is this happening?” he asks. “He has caught the hearts and minds of an audience.”

On the eve of the annual Digital Content New- Fronts where the freshest programming ideas will get pitched and some $3 billion in ad business will be up for grabs, Adweek caught up with Strompolos and top executives from Maker Studios, Defy Media and Studio71 (formerly Collective Digital Studio) to learn about the issues they face as they chase coveted millennial consumers and talent, and all those advertiser dollars.

What would you say is the biggest issue you face heading into the NewFronts?

STROMPOLOS: [Millennials] are watching less and less TV every year, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not consuming entertainment. If you’re an advertiser that’s used to spending all this money to reach customers and sell products, you’re kind of scratching your head and saying, “Where do I belong?” It’s our job to translate that and make it easier for a marketer to reach a customer in those new ways.

REZA IZAD, CEO, STUDIO71: There’s not a standard unit of measurement. We have clients that are measuring success on EMV [earned media value] formulas and those formulas, which are coming from third parties, literally differ party to party depending on what the client is using. Making sure there is a consistent, singular methodology is going to accelerate the business going forward.

COURTNEY HOLT, EVP, HEAD OF MAKER STUDIOS: The way that our influence typically is tracked doesn’t always align perfectly with the traditional metrics. That’s a little bit confusing to media planners and marketers who want all things to feel similar. We don’t have standardized forms of measurement against all the ways that we do business. We’re trying to make our business seem very rational.

KEITH RICHMAN, PRESIDENT, DEFY MEDIA: Every year, people go in and reinvent the wheel. They go in and talk about their new slate of programming and they introduce all this IP that may or may not get made, and it confuses the marketplace to some degree because TV has had for a long time a standard scorecard. We don’t have that here.

With so many new platforms and methods of distributing content, how important does YouTube remain to your overall business?

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