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A version of this story first appeared in the March 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Vox Media is looking to video for its future.
The digital media company, which owns and operates a collection of seven editorial sites, is launching Vox Entertainment to build out its online video capabilities and talent partnerships. “Our approach is to become a programming company as much as an editorial company,” says creative director Chad Mumm, who will run Vox Entertainment out of Los Angeles.
Vox, which raised nearly $47 million in venture capital in November, has also signed with WME to develop TV and film projects. With a monthly audience of 160 million, Vox can cast a wide net in converting its editorial sites into video brands. “One of the powerful things about Vox is that they hit so many different verticals,” says Daniel Porter, head of digital at WME. “There’s a wealth of opportunities to tell stories that hit different audiences.”
Vox, which operates out of Washington, D.C., and New York, began in 2003 as SportsBlogs Inc. with sports network SB Nation and rebranded when it launched tech-focused The Verge in 2011. Since then the company has expanded quickly, adding gaming site Polygon, acquiring the Curbed Network — food site Eater, real estate site Curbed and fashion site Racked — in 2013, and launching news-focused Vox.com last year.
Vox began to emphasize video across its portfolio of sites with the 2011 launch of Vox Studios. The 35-person production group, founded by Mumm, has since begun partnering with a handful of online video creators behind and in front of the camera, working with them on everything from distribution to advertising to financing content. YouTube tech reviewer Marques Brownlee, for instance, produces videos for The Verge and his own channel. Although Vox might be playing a similar role as a YouTube network, Mumm says the approach is different. “It’s not about rolling up people for additional scale,” he says. “We found a handful of the most premium people who feel like they align with our brands. We want to be able to offer them true integration as though they were part of our brands.”
Vox Studios has also begun developing scripted content like Try Hards, a comedic web series that comes from the comedians behind Vimeo channel SRSLY and airs on Racked. Curbed also recently partnered with A&E to provide editorial integration for new unscripted series My City’s Just Not That Into Me.
Vox Entertainment will look to expand on such video projects and has already signed a deal with Top Chef production company Magical Elves to co-produce a digital series for its Eater food site.
And Vox Entertainment plans to announce more partnerships this April at the MIP Digital Fronts in Cannes and Digital Content NewFronts in New York.
The move into linear video production will likely draw comparisons to Vice Media, which expanded into TV with the premiere of an HBO news program in 2013, or BuzzFeed, which began exploring long-form content through the launch of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures last year.
Porter says these efforts have paved the way. “The Vice deal with HBO was the high-water mark for almost every publisher out there,” he adds. “It brings their audience over to TV and introduces their brand to people. Vox can find similar opportunities.”
Vox has been creative about its distribution, publishing videos to its portfolio of sites while also promoting them on YouTube and Facebook. Meanwhile, the company has embraced emerging technologies such as Snapchat. Mumm says Vox Entertainment will look to leverage the company’s distinct brands whether the platform is TV or digital. “I’m thinking platform-agnostic at this point,” he says. “It’s about creating compelling shows and programs, and then finding them distribution.”
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