For some time now, multi-channel networks have been working to make their bottom lines less reliant on YouTube, where it’s all about mining Google AdSense micro-pennies on a massive scale from thousands of affiliated creators.
A year ago, the typical off-YouTube strategy involved launching an independent portal where the MCN could keep all the ad or subscription revenue, a la Maker Studios’ Maker.tv, as well as pursuing brand integrations. The latter proved viable. The former, not so much.
Today, the mainstream media world has caught the streaming video fever in a big way, and traditional producers and service providers are targeting cord cutters, cord nevers and mobile-mad millennials with their own digital platforms. At the same time, social media platforms such as Snapchat and Facebook are ramping up their video offerings.
For a well-established MCN like Machinima it represents a massive opportunity, and to take advantage of it, the company — which refers to itself as a “global many2many programming service focused on fandom and gamer culture” — has launched Machinima Studios, with ambitious plans to ramp up its production of original content from 250 hours a year to more than 600.
“Our mission is to be the most notorious purveyors of fandom and gaming culture, and our content can be in digital, it can be on TV, it could be SVOD, TVOD, AVOD,” Machinima chief content officer Daniel Tibbets told VideoInk.
To help facilitate the increased output, Machinima has opened up an 8,000-square-foot studio facility in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.
“It’s a place for these creators to come with their ideas, with their vision of what else they want to do beyond what they do today on YouTube, and it’s paired with great experts in the entertainment industry that are helping to help shape and grow that content,” Tibbets explained. “The idea is that our existing programming like ‘Inside Gaming’ and ‘Realm’ as well as all the new programming we’re creating can come together under one roof so that creatively everybody is working off each other and adding value and quality to what we do.”
Machinima will be directing 110 hours of its content, along with 40 hours of curated video from its network, to Go90, Verizon’s recently-announced mobile platform that will also feature content from AwesomenessTV, Comedy Central, Discovery Communications, ESPN, Maker Studios, MTV, New Form Digital, Nickelodeon, Scripps Networks Interactive, Tastemade and Vice Media. It also has a subscription channel launching imminently on PlayStation Vue, which will be available for $3.99 per month as a standalone, $1.99 per month for PlayStation Plus members, or as part of Vue’s “Elite” bundle. Content on its Vue channel will have a window of exclusivity on the platform — Machinima wouldn’t specify how long — similar to its arrangement with Vessel.
“What we see with these digital partners is them wanting to create consumer preference for their platforms, and content is one of the key ways to do that,” said James Glasscock, Machinima’s SVP of strategy and business development. “An example, maybe not an apples-to-apples comparison, is ‘House of Cards’ on Netflix. People subscribe for that one reason. In our universe, with fandom and gaming entertainment, the characters that we’re talking about, those are the ‘House of Cards’ for this audience.”
Six hundred hours is a lot of content for even an established studio entity. What kind of quality can viewers expect?
“I would say [it’s] economically reasonable high-quality content,” Tibbets said. “You’re going to see daily programming, live programming… scripted live action, animation and reality.”
The content will include the substantial collection new shows announced at Machinima’s NewFront presentation in May, including “Clive Barker’s Creepy Pasta,” “High School 51,” created and produced by Roberto Orci (“Transformers,” “Lost,” “Fringe,” “Star Trek”), and Bunim-Murray Productions’ animated adaptation of the online game “Happy Wheels.”
But, to meet their 600-plus hour goal, Tibbets and Glasscock are working with Machinima head of development Matty Kirsch to create new production opportunities wherever they can.
“We’re out there sourcing, developing, piloting, creating as much content as we can that we can then take out to market, whether it be for our network, someone else’s network, a platform, an advertiser,” Tibbets said.