ABC Stations Open Branded Content Studio

The ABC Owned Television Station Group, already a quiet powerhouse in social media, has moved into the growing branded content business.

Earlier this year, the station group launched the ABC Full Circle Content Studio, which will take advantage of the stations’ production know-how, stable of talent and network entertainment assets to create customized advertising content for clients.

The studio is spread across ABC’s eight TV stations, which sometimes collaborate on projects. It is coordinated under Debra OConnell, president of ABC national television sales, and Wendy McMahon, senior VP of digital media for the ABC Owned Television Station Group.

Television networks, digital companies and even newspapers have formed content units to create video for clients who don’t think enough people are paying attention to 30-second commercials that interrupt the viewers’ experience.

“The ABC Full Circle Content Studio is a really great way to take authentic local voices that we know resonate with our viewers and allow our advertisers to harness the power of our audiences so they can amplify their brands,” says OConnell. “We have the best storytellers and they are embedded in our communities.”

The studio doesn’t have a central location. “In fact, the breadth of it is what we think is a key differentiator, not to mention that local connection that we have that is so much more meaningful and we think more personal,” adds McMahon. “By having these content creators throughout the country, we believe we can capture a market’s essence for an advertiser quite easily.”

The studio works closely with national and local advertisers and their agencies to come up with content that fits its advertising message. New York Station WABC just released a digital original series called Hidden New York, which reveals little secrets about the city, such as a house that’s really a smokestack for the subway system. “Who knows New York better that WABC?” OConnell asks. The series is sponsored by Geico.

KABC Los Angles has its own entertainment it produces called “On the Red Carpet.” “We’ve used that type of platform for automotive partners who want to stand out inside of that entertainment community,” OConnell says.

For Toyota, which makes a number of clean-running vehicles, the content studio created an Earth Day series of videos about living a zero-waste lifestyle as well as a “Green Dreams” series. The videos were focused on the New York and Philadelphia markets. “We created specific content that touched upon featured voices inside of those communities,” OConnell says.

As ABC affiliates, they used a relation with the Country Music Association to create content built around a musician for a pharmaceutical company. And for a business-to-business client, a Shark Tank entrepreneur provided the right connection.

Right now, the studio is in production for back-to-school content on behalf of a new advertiser, an online company looking for parents that are interested in high-tech home schooling.

Many of these brands are already TV advertisers. Some are national advertisers looking to add some muscle in particular local markets.

Clients can take advantage of the ABC Stations’ strong digital and social media footprint to power distribution of this content. (In some cases, the client will have ownership of the content and distribute it on their own digital and social assets.) The group has the most followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with nearly 12 million. KABC in Los Angeles has the most followers of any single station.

McMahon also pointed to data from Shareablee, which measures activity on Facebook. As a group, the ABC stations generate more activity than some media properties with big web presences, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, The Washington Post, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed Video. In fact, in June, the ABC stations beat The New York Times, BuzzFeed and The Washington Post combined, with 13.8 million actions.

What makes the stations so big online? “We think it speaks to the value of our trusted premium brands, the authenticity of our talent and our local connections to the communities that we serve and finally, the relevance of the content that we are producing,” McMahon says.

In addition to being attractive to advertisers, that social strength can help the stations the old-fashioned way by boosting ratings and online traffic.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.