‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Made Available on Facebook Watch for Free

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Twentieth Century Fox Television is bringing “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “Firefly” back in the United States in a new deal with Facebook Watch.

Sarah Michelle Gellar announced the series’ return via a video “Premiere” — one of Facebook’s promotional features — on her Facebook page Friday. “Buffy” had its 20th anniversary last fall, and Netflix upset fans when it announced that it would remove the series from its service in April 2017.

As a “big fan” of “Buffy,” Facebook’s video lead Fidji Simo noted in a blog post how “thrilled” she is to air the series on Facebook Watch. “I remember going to friends’ houses to watch the newest episode of ‘Buffy’ together, or calling each other during commercials and after it ended to debrief,” she said.

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Earlier this week, the social media platform made Watch Party — a group viewing product —  available to users worldwide. As part of the re-release of “Buffy,” Facebook is hosting Watch Parties three weeks in a row starting today, Nov. 30.

“Our focus with Facebook Watch is on content and experiences that help people connect, ignite conversation and build community,” said Simo. “We think there is a range of content that can do this, and are excited to bring iconic pop culture favorites like these series for their avid fan communities to experience them in new ways, and for new fans to discover these awesome ’90s classics.”

Streaming leaders like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and now Apple have all built the foundations of those businesses on library content before investing in original IP. Tentpole titles like “Seinfeld,” which landed at Hulu, “Friends” on Netflix and “Sex and The City” on Amazon Prime, have been viewed as highly valuable library-building assets. Newer entrants, like Fullscreen, went after other ’90s classics like “Saved by the Bell.” Twitch binge-streamed classics like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and Julia Child’s “The French Chef.”

As history has shown, to compete with television, streaming businesses need television classics. With dozens of its own funded shows in the mix, fan-favorites like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” can support the Facebook as it aims to train its users to watch and engage with TV-style programming on its platform.

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Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global Names Shalini Sharma as First Head of Video (Exclusive)

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Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global announced its first head of video on Monday,

Shalini Sharma joins the company from fellow publisher Fast Company, where she led video and partnerships for five years.

Having spent a decade prior to that at major news networks like ABC News and NBC on the “Today” show, Sharma is what Huffington calls “a kind of triple threat.”

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“We are expanding our video business and we are very lucky to have Shalini, who is a kind of triple threat in video having worked in TV for networks and cable and now in digital-first. We feel she was the perfect person to come and lead video,” said Huffington, who has filled out her senior leadership team over the last few months with powerful women such as Cheryl Porro and Yardley Ip Pohl to chief tech and chief product officers, respectively.

For Huffington, Thrive Global’s “editorially aligned” formats like “The Long Game,” a series produced with Vice that shows the ways athletes feel performance is impacted when rest, sleep and regenerative therapies are neglected, and “Turning Points,” which shows how millennial women changed their lives after burnout, are one angle the company will continue to take with video. But, with Sharma leading the charge, Thrive Global  plans to also ramp up the company’s branded entertainment efforts.

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“On the revenue side, everything we’re going to be doing is branded content. We have no plans to do advertising-supported video. Our differentiation here is that brands want to be around thought-leadership,” Huffington said. “A lot of the brands that see the benefits of identifying with wellness really want to work with us, especially because the way we present wellness is always aligned with performance.”

As Thrive Global heads into 2019, branded content, episodic series and short-form social video will accelerate its production capacity supported by its most recent Series B funding of $30 million, as executives world-wide look to better balance work, life and technology. “The fact is we suddenly saw we needed to create a much more robust team to meet this demand,” Huffington said.

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BBC and ITV-Backed BritBox to Bring UK Holiday Content to the US Next Month

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A month of British cheer is coming to the U.S. market, thanks to BBC and ITV-backed subscription streaming service Britbox.

Starting Dec. 1, American viewers will have access to 31 days of British specials, live broadcasts and original shows about food, theater, lights, carols, family, literature, travel, gifts/shopping, Father Christmas, Christmas crackers, games and traditions.

In addition to a over a dozen formats being streamed as part of “Britmas”, BritBox today also announced two new originals — “Slow TV” special “The Lights Before Christmas: Luminous London” and “Click & Collect”, starring Emmy-nominated Stephen Merchant.

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Joining Merchant in headlining the month-long slate are Mary Berry, Kenneth Branagh, Hugh Bonneville, Patrick Stewart, Rowan Atkinson and John Cleese, among others.  Many of the series and specials will premiere exclusively in the US. Viewers in America can watch for $6.99 on BritBox’s own site, Roku, Apple and android and iOS devices.

“TV watching on Christmas Day is a huge event in the U.K., where families are encouraged by the shutdown of public transportation, businesses, and general indolence of a huge meal to crash on the couch and watch hours of holiday specials,” said BritBox president Soumya Sriraman. “By bringing many of those very same Christmas specials, the Queen’s Christmas day message, and other popular holiday programming to U.S. viewers as part of our Britmas celebration, we are inviting our subscribers to get cozy and share in the very same joys that viewers across the pond get to indulge in.”

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Is Video in the ‘Dark Ages’? Exec: ‘There Is Next to No Market for Short Form Video’

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What once was the “shiny new toy,” as one publisher put it, is now the problem child for publishers: video. Over the last few years, study after study has cited consumers’ climbing appetite for video — a trend that eager bandwag…

Facebook Video Viewership ‘Still Well Behind YouTube’ but ‘Growing Rapidly’

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If you ask publishers that have a series on Facebook Watch, things have not gone so well on the social network’s first year as a premium programmer. But, according to Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg on the company’s third-quarter earnings call, Facebook video viewership, including on Watch, has been grown three-fold in the United States over the last quarter alone. And unlike other calls, Zuckerberg was quite candid about the plans for Watch and Facebook’s continued interest in investing into video products and programming.

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During the call, Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg also shed light on the limitations Facebook has experienced thusfar with both audience response and monetizing video. He was also forthright about the company’s lesser position to its largest competitor — YouTube.

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How Conde Nast Entertainment Is Chasing Oscar Glory

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When most people think of Conde Nast, what likely comes to mind is a 100-year-old magazine publisher that houses some of the most prolific brands online and in print.
While that wouldn’t be far off, given that Conde Nast owns over 15 brands inclu…

Ellen Digital Network Renews 2 Series, Adds 2 to Slate

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Ellen Digital Network has renewed two series and added two new original series to its slate, the company announced at the inaugural Newfronts West on Tuesday.

During its presentation, the network announced renewals for two of its flagship series: “Momsplaining with Kristen Bell,” heading into a third season with over 154 million views to date, and a second season for “Witch, Please….Help Me Dance!” Ellen Digital Network added three new series to its slate: “Fearless,” with body-image activist “Ashley Graham,”  “The Build Up,” with home makeover experts Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri, and “OMKalen,” with internet-famous Kalen Allen.

Ellen Digital Network has also partnered with restauranteur and cookbook author Ayesha Curry, who will give advice to women on all things related to being a working mother and entrepreneur.

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The network took the stage to boast its explosive growth over the last two years and to offer buyers new formats.

“Ellen Digital network is a pop culture machine,” said Alana Calderone the company’s SVP, brand content and partnerships. “We aren’t just embedded in what’s happening today, we’re creating it. The speed at which fans consume and share this content is incredible.” Calderone showed examples of brand integrations with Buick and P&G. The company has also worked with Amazon, Johnson&Johnson and Walmart.

The Ellen Digital Network, which launched in 2016, grabs more than 1 billion views every month from 187 million followers globally across social media and its YouTube channel ellentube. It’s an impressive number and a driving factor for the network to continue investing in premium unscripted video programming.

“At our core, we are always focused on telling stories that are funny that are kind that are always authentic,” said Michael Riley GM of Ellen Digital Ventures, a collaboration between Warner Brothers Digital Networks and Ellen Digital Network.  “That’s why we’re thrilled to be here today to announce a new slate of amazing content.”

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Wired Adds 2 Original Series and Acquires Rights to BBC’s ‘Click’

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Wired was the first in the Condé Nast family to launch an over-the-top (OTT) channel earlier this summer. And now the gadget and tech-focused brand is bolstering its slate to include 40 hours of new programming.

Premiering this fall are two full seasons (64 episodes) of BBC Studios’ fan-favorite tech series “Click,” airing for the first time in North America.

Wired is also releasing two new original series — “[De]constructed” and “WIRED Masterminds.” Both series are produced by Condé Nast Entertainment, a division that services all of Condé Nast’s brands. Viewers can also watch exclusive interviews with Bill Gates, Satya Nadella, Susan Wojcicki, Jack Dorsey, Sundar Pichai, Fei-Fei Li and Kevin Systrom taken from the WIRED25 celebration in San Francisco earlier this year.

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This new slate of programming adds to the existing library of Wired’s top-viewed series and videos available for viewing on Wired’s OTT channel, which launched in July on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Roku. Since then, Wired has re-aired YouTube hits “Autocomplete Interviews” (330.7 million lifetime views), “Tech Support” (77.1 million lifetime views) and “Almost Impossible” (16.6 million lifetime views), as of August 2018.

“This has been a great year for Wired, in no small part because of the way that Wired video has grown,” said Nicholas Thompson, the brand’s editor in chief. “And it’s grown for the same reasons that our magazine and web readership has grown — because of a focus on quality and storytelling. OTT is a great platform for this kind of video, and it’s going to be an exciting part of our future.”

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Condé Nast has plans to launch OTT channels for both Bon Appetite and GQ before the end of 2018.

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Cheddar to Skinny Bundle With YouTube Live and Hulu

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Cheddar CEO Jon Steinberg has announced a plan to disrupt broadcast cable by taking another slice of the TV-network-playbook: bundling its product with Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV.
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Facebook Watch Has a Big Consumer Awareness Problem

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As Verizon, Spotify, AwesomenessTV and many others have shown, building a premium video business is no easy task. Most fail. And on its first birthday, according to publishers who spoke with VideoInk (acquired by TheWrap in 2018), Facebook Watch is clo…

Taryn Southern on Being First to Use Artificial Intelligence to Make Album: ‘Sky Is the Limit’

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By 2012, global spend on artificial intelligence is anticipated to hit $57.6 billion, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). And one YouTube star — Taryn Southern — is already activating AI to pioneer a new methodology for producing music. Released today, Southern’s pop album “I Am AI” features eight tracks, each produced entirely with artificial intelligence. She’s also released a new music video “Welcome to the New World,” which integrated collaborators from all over the world.

Southern’s first single Break Free reached #48 on the Billboard Indicator Chart , #2 on the Euro Indie Chart and has more than 1.8 million views on the music video. Life Support, her second single, was nominated for a 2018 Streamy Award for Best Immersive Video.

Her  work on “I AM AI” is unprecedented. Until now, producing an album entirely with artificial intelligence had never been done. And, it’s a process Southern said will revolutionize the open-market for aspiring artists and musicians and disrupt an age-old model for the music industry.

“I definitely see it changing the future of the music. I imagine in 20 years, ‘coding’ songs will be commonplace,” Southern told VideoInk (a subsidiary of TheWrap) exclusively in an interview. “It’s still incredibly early for AI, but I could see artists using machine learning for all kinds of applications: to mix and master their songs, to help them identify unique chord progressions, alter instrumentation to change style, determine more interesting melody structures based on a musician’s given sound and style preferences, even gage their audience’s emotional response to a song. The sky is the limit.”

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So, how does producing music with artificial intelligence work exactly?

Southern collaborated with Amperan artificial intelligence music composition software — to develop a process that she says involved telling the computer the sounds, notes, or instruments she wanted. Amper’s software then delivered a “stem,” or audio fragment, to match that criteria. Then with feedback and multiple tweaks, Southern is able to stitch those “stems” together to create a track.

“This is what the future holds. For us it’s all about the collaboration between creator and the AI,” said Michael Hobe, a Hollywood film composer and co-founder of Amper. “That’s what we’re working towards — to have AI truly integrated into the workflow. And Taryn was really the first to use the tools in this way, which has been really exciting.”

Taryn Southern on YouTube, circa 2013.

For Southern, taking the reins on charting a career path in unconventional ways has been her M.O. She was early to YouTube, launching a channel based on slap-stick and musical comedy in 2006. “I’m not really focused on building an audience on another platform until I have at least 250,000 subscribers on YouTube,” she told VideoInk in 2013. She now has nearly 500K subscribers on YouTube, a platform where Southern isn’t as active outside of releasing music videos for “I AM AI”.

“When I was on YouTube, I felt owned by an algorithm,” Southern said. “It’s a really tough job to sustain, and we’ve seen a lot of creators experience burnout the past few years. I didn’t want to become a living breathing vlog machine, so I threw in the towel and started exploring other avenues of interest.”

Aside from the album, Southern is also directing a feature-length documentary on the future of man and machine. “It’s called I AM HUMAN. My album is ironically entitled I AM AI, so I’ve got both sides covered!” Southern joked.

And so Southern has reinvented herself as a technology innovator and AI-storyteller. A musician changing the game, Southern’s work on “I AM AI” is breaking down the old-way of making music and alchemizing the future into the present.

“I AM AI” is now available on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play and Apple Music.

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Cheddar to Bring Live Sports News to Amazon-Owned Twitch (Exclusive)

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Streaming broadcast news site Cheddar has locked a deal with Twitch for a new eSports news show called “Cheddar Sports” and a live stream special at TwitchCon on October 27.
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