NewFront News: A Four-Sided Slate from Group Nine Media

By Upfronts/NewFronts Archives
Cover image for  article: NewFront News: A Four-Sided Slate from Group Nine Media

Group Nine Media likes to consider itself a digital haven for superfans of four programming genres: News/Information (NowThis), Science (Seeker), Animals (The Dodo) and Unique Experiences (Thrillist).  With Discovery Inc. as a minority investor, GNM gave each genre and related brand equal time at its NewFront last Thursday.

Venue:  Skylight Modern at 537 W. 27th St., a favorite space of past Upfront/NewFront events from CNN to mun2 (now Universo).  Thirst-quenchers both alcoholic and non-alcoholic were served on the street level before showtime, while one flight below, a seven-piece brass band welcomed guests to the stage area playing such appropriate tunes as “Just My Imagination.”  Visitors had their choice of sitting or hanging out among tables and stools in the back of the room.  Grade: 3.5 Jacks for the space; 4 for the band.

Presentation:  Off the bat, Group Nine CEO Ben Lerer was out to position his organization among the upper class of top digital and social media attractions.  In just 18 months after formation, the company’s four brands attract 40 million people per day, including 73 percent of all Millennials and 80-plus percent of citizens under age 20 (according to Nielsen).  For last month alone, that audience spent 2.8 billion minutes watching GNM content on YouTube and various social media.  “We’re one of the most engaging media companies around,” Lerer said.  “Our audience obsesses over us.”  The goal over the next 12 months: develop each brand as a multi-platform storyteller.  Fast-paced highlight videos were used judiciously throughout. Grade: 3 Jacks

News: Facebook Watch, getting more distribution through smart TV sets and TV-connected devices, and various Discovery Inc.-owned cable channels will play roles in the multi-platform strategy at each brand.  At Seeker, several “Universe” programs dealing with outer space will get time on Facebook Watch, and elements of “Move Forward,” a campaign focused on cities and the technology innovations they utilize, will run on Discovery Channel and Science Channel.  NowThis will launch NowBreaking, a set of daily news and live event updates for Snapchat.  Dodo Heroes, The Dodo’s first made-for-TV series covering people who protect and save animals worldwide, debuts June 9 on Animal Planet.  Another near-term new Facebook Watch attraction will be America Takes the Wheel from Thrillist, in which viewers dictate where the on-camera road warriors go -- live.  The program will occupy a Saturday afternoon time period.  Grade: 3 Jacks

Hosts: Lerer was infectiously enthusiastic right from the start and never let the overall energy wane.  He received able assistance from GNM President Christa Carone.  Grade: 3.5 Jacks

Star Time: Each brand spotlighted an expert in the category or a superfan notable.  My favorite: NASA official Leland Melvin (pictured at top) on Seeker’s behalf.  You can see him hosting a series of his own down the road. Grade: 3.5 Jacks

Cuisine:  Served up by chefs from Henrietta’s, a popular eatery In Nashville.  Best eat: hot chicken sandwich bun with greens on top.  Worst eat: flavorless cheese grits.  Also loved the non-alcoholic lemonade.  Grade: 3.5 Jacks (Note: Cuisine ratings do not figure in the overall Jacks score.)

Data Insight: Group Nine content attracts 6.6 million YouTube viewers and 71 million Facebook likes. Grade: 3 Jacks

Innovative Opportunity:  Hotel Thrillist,where viewers can win weekend trips to cities around the nation.  Upon arrival, the winners go to a designated hotel temporarily customized for their stay (with help from participating advertisers).  Grade: 4 Jacks

Overall Grade: 3 Jacks  A nice, well-produced introduction to Group Nine’s family of brands.

Here’s a review of our Jacks scoring process:  5 Jacks -- Excellent, 4 Jacks -- Very Good, 3 Jacks -- Good, 2 Jacks -- Fair, 1 Jack -- Poor, 0 Jacks -- Don’t go there

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