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Group Nine hosted a coming out party Thursday evening in New York to give Madison Avenue its first glimpse at what the combination of web properties NowThis, The Dodo, Thrillist and Seeker will mean for advertisers.
The company, formed last year through a $100 million investment from Discovery, has a combined four billion monthly video views across its four brands and prompted 96 million social actions on its content. That type of scale is becoming increasingly important for digital media companies, as advertising giants Google and Facebook continue to eat up much of brands’ digital marketing budgets.
Ben Lerer, the co-founder of Thrillist who became CEO of Group Nine with its creation, noted that while a website about animals (The Dodo) might not appear to have much in common with a site for millennial men (Thrillist), the company’s four brands are aligned in their focus on video, social distribution and tone. “There’s an inherent optimism that all the brands share,” he told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the company’s Thursday night NewFront presentation. “One of the reasons that these brands have flourished is this idea that, through all the crap, there is so much amazing, wonderful stuff happening.”
But while the similarities are important to Group Nine’s DNA, the company let each brand do the talking in its pitch to advertisers, during which it made multiple announcements about new programming projects including a partnership with TLC, several virtual reality series and a deal with EuroSport. “A traditional media company goes after advertiser categories but our brands are about consumer interests,” Lerer added. “It’s about what matters now to this audience, and because of that we’ve been able to build so much connectivity.”
NowThis, which is known for its news videos distributed on Facebook and Snapchat, announced Thursday that Vice News journalist Kaj Larsen has joined its staff as a senior correspondent who will create, produce and star in short- and long-form news and docuseries. One of his first projects will focus on the relationship between sports and politics. Sports will become an important genre for NowThis, which is planning to launch a vertical dedicated to athletics this fall. NowThis Sports will partner with EuroSport as an official content partner in Europe. In addition, the news network is developing 20 different projects including Her Stories, a 10-episode series that will profile women who are breaking boundaries.
The Dodo, a publisher devoted to feel-good animal stories and videos, plans to launch two new programs — Animal Heroes, which will have multiple formats that range from short videos to linear-length episodes, and Best (Dog) Day Ever, which will debut as a 12-episode weekly series this summer. Also in the works is virtual reality series Animal Eye View, giving viewers the chance to see what a day is like from the perspective of an animal. The Dodo is also prepping a new kid-focused brand called Little Dodo, which is designed for preschool aged children.
Science-focused Seeker, which joined the Group Nine portfolio from Discovery Digital Networks last fall, is also working on virtual reality projects including The Edge, which will send viewers to the farthest reaches of the Earth, and Ceremonies, which will give an inside look at the festivals and rituals of different cultures. Through a relationship with Solfar and RVX, Seeker will also debut a new VR experience called Seeker Mode, which will give viewers a close-up on what it is like to summit Everest.
Thrillist, meanwhile, will deliver food- and travel-themed videos in line with its existing editorial content. The brand has partnered with TLC on Best Meal Ever, short-form content that will air as interstitials during the cable network’s programming. It is also developing competition series War & Pizza with T Group Productions with an eye toward releasing it on both digital and linear platforms. In addition, Thrilist has a weekly YouTube series, Food/Groups, focused on how food brings communities together.
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