”It’s a great time to be an independent premium content provider,“ co-founder Van Toffler says
Van Toffler and Floris Bauer’s Gunpowder & Sky is seeing rapid growth as an independent studio with a focus on genre-oriented content — and a broad approach to both platforms and running times.
The 3-year-old company reports that its digital brands, which range from the sci-fi-focused Dust to the horror-centric Alter, currently reach more than 50 million unique viewers a month across multiple social channels, vMVPD services like Sling TV and Xumo as well as connected devices like Roku.
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In addition, Gunpowder & Sky also expects its year-old sci-fi-centric streaming channel, DUSTx, to be in more than 75 million homes by year’s end. “It’s a great time to be an independent premium content provider,” Toffler told TheWrap, crediting the explosion in streaming services for the company’s success.
Gunpowder & Sky reports that the average session time for a consumer visiting one of its brands ranges from four to 12 minutes on social channels, to more than 90 minutes on premium OTT platforms like Sling TV or Pluto TV. And that fits with the company’s wide-ranging approach to content.
“Our mission has always been to tell stories in 90 seconds or 90 minutes, and not tethered to a platform,” Toffler said. “There is a content renaissance happening right now, and there are new outlets coming and going. So, why not act like a true independent and make premium content catering to a direct demo?”
So far, the company has launched Alter and Dust-branded channels on Roku, SlingTV, YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, AT&T, DirecTV, Sinclair, Samsung, Facebook and Instagram with a number of upcoming launches to come later this year. The company expects DustX to reach as many as 100 million homes by the end of the year.
In addition to Dust and Alter (with a 650-title library and 2 million subscribers across social platforms), Gunpowder & Sky is also an investor in Cut, an unscripted viral content brand with 17 million followers across social media.
“We are seeing that our sci-fi Dust audience is global, and growing rapidly,” Bauer told TheWrap. “And, Alter, our new horror brand that we released a few months ago, is growing even faster than Dust did when it launched.”
Bauer and Toffler believe that in a post-cable era, niche brands like Alter and Dust are the new version of TV networks and are also key to continued growth and audience retention; they expect the company’s digital audience will grow by 10 million to 20 million viewers by the end of the year.
“We believe in horror, sci-fi and music — they are all huge and global genres,” Bauer said. “To attract, engage and keep audiences in your own ecosystem … is and will always be extremely valuable.”
Instead of relying solely on its own streaming destinations, Gunpowder & Sky has partnered with existing platforms that already have audiences and monetization capabilities. “Ultimately, we aren’t creating our own platform,” Bauer said. “We believe in creating programming brands that can live on large platforms and services — Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Comcast, Sling. Our channels and networks will live on all these premium services with scale and built-in monetization.”
Dust’s content library consists of more than 450 sci-fi stories, ranging from feature films to short films, series and podcasts. Recent projects include the SXSW 2018 feature film “Prospect,” the Facebook Watch series “Glimpse” and the short film “Bad Peter” starring Frankie Shaw. Dust has also screened the George Lucas 1967 short film, “Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB.”
In addition to pumping its own brands with content, G&S has worked on projects for a growing number of streaming services and cable networks, remaining untethered to any one platform. The company has worked on four micro-budgeted, full-length films with Jason Blum’s Blumhouse, including “CAM,” which landed on Netflix and garnered more than 12 million views in the week after it launched.
“Drawn & Recorded,” a three- to four-minute short-form animated music series created with T Bone Burnett, Drew Christie, and Bill Flanagan, was licensed to Spotify and was the music platform’s most viewed video series ever, according to the company.
Additionally, G&S is working on a show for Jeffery Katzenberg’s Quibi called “50 States of Fear” and has also licensed “You Look Like,” a 10-minute series with Craig Brewer (“Hustle and Flow”) to Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud platform.
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