Jeffrey Katzenberg literally has a billion dollars to play with for his new video platform. The movie guru’s holding company WndrCo recently announced that it’s managed to raise $1bn in its initial investment period, including finance from 10 US media firms, along with Chinese tech giant Alibaba. The funds will be invested into Katzenberg’s dream of changing the industry through bite-size albeit high-quality content designed for mobile audiences. NewTV (a working title) will attempt to stand out from the competition by producing and distributing content just a few minutes long.
The one-time Walt Disney Studios chairman and DreamWorks founder hired ex eBay and Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman to run the operation. Due to his track record in the industry, which also includes a spell as Paramount Pictures’ head of production, any move he makes is taken seriously. Hollywood has watched with a sceptical eye, however, since the venture was announced. A number of executives have pointed to a lack of evidence to back up his assertion that viewers want short programming. The project now appears to be gaining traction, however, now that it’s gained support from such media giants as Warner Media, Viacom, NBC Universal, Lionsgate, ITV, and Entertainment One.
The $1bn enables NewTV to start licensing original programming, particularly programs produced from the media firms that have backed it. The company won’t own the content it streams. The firm will be one of many in a crowded marketplace. Each year we see a new record for the number of scripted shows, with this year expected to be around the 500 mark.
Not too shy to invest
Certainly, tech companies aren’t afraid to be aggressive with their programming plans. Apple has earmarked more than $1bn to develop its own original programs, which it plans to roll out in 2019. When it comes to raising finances, individuals such as Katzenberg and companies like Apple have their reputation to lean on. Smaller firms rely on key financial hires, which is why we’ve seen a lot of activity in this area of late. “Investoo Group Appoints James Beale as Chief Finance Officer” was a recent headline. James will be dealing with all aspects fo financial stewardship, as well as help shape the company’s strategic direction. With a man like Katzenberg, it’s really more about connections, and so far, it appears to be working.
All of this content, however, could create overload, according to cable channel FX chief executive John Landgraf, who recently spoke to Variety about viewers being inundated with programming.
Audience on the go
Despite Landgraf’s warning, Katzenberg insisted that NewTV will have room in the marketplace. Instead of going head-to-head with the likes of HBO and Netflix, it will attempt to lure those views who are looking for short content to help them while away the hours, when waiting in line or public transport, for example.
NewTV’s programming will be distinguished from most video shorts that gain ground on YouTube, according to Katzenberg. He believes that audiences will be switched on to the difference. Directors, writers, and producers have all shown an ability to please viewers, added the entrepreneur, but less so when it comes to shorter content.