Machinima Updates Its Game Plan

Looking to strengthen its focus on gamers and continue an evolution that extends well beyond its YouTube roots, Machinima has kicked off a rebrand to go along with revisions to its content and distribution strategies.

The changes come a little more than two years after Warner Bros. acquired Machinima, a digital, ad-supported offering that has typically trained its sights on gamer and fandom culture.

At last check, Machinima’s service had about 140 million monthly unique visitors.

A major strategic priority out of the rebrand is to ensure Machinima is “laser-focused on the gamer audience,” said Russell Arons, who was named general manager of Machinima about a year ago and who previously served as senior vice president for Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

“Machinima over the past couple of years became a little more broad in how it was focusing,” she said. “I wanted to bring it back to gamers.”

To strengthen its connection with that audience (Machinima, now a unit of Warner Bros. Digital Networks, tends to skew to 18-to-34-yearold men), the service will lavish more attention on the white-hot eSports market (keeping tabs on online and physical tournaments and events), shoring up partnerships with major game publishers, creating digitally-driven stories about characters from popular gaming titles and working more closely with talent and influencers from the gaming community.

Bringing It Back to Gamers

“It’s really [about] keeping our eye on the gaming audience,” Arons said. “We wanted to re-establish our relationship with talent and connecting them into the core of Machinima more than ever.”

Under the revised approach, Machinima will continue to branch off from its roots as a multichannel network (MCN) and YouTube-focused offering.

Machinima’s talent network is being realigned to focus the development of content and new channels in four content areas: action/first-person shooters; role-playing games; fighting/sports games and “sandbox” games.

Changes in that direction include the combination of the head of Machinima’s talent network with the head of its owned-and-operated channels and programming.

“We’re connecting the dots between these two groups more than ever,” Arons said, adding that the talent based will start to appear at increasing frequencies in Machinima’s programming. “We’re doing that to give our talent new opportunities to reach different audiences and give our talent different opportunities to try something outside what their channels are defined as.”

The rebrand also comes as Machinima continues to diversify its distribution strategy well beyond YouTube using a blend of short-and long-form programming.

That includes a linear-style 24/7 offering on Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming service, which debuted last November, and working with internal partners like The CW.

On the shorter-form side, Machinima has also forged linkages with Facebook Watch in the form of three shows — Co-Op Connection (a gamer-focused dating show); Dank/Fire (a humor offering for that audience); and Action Figures Comics (a series dedicated to comics, superheroes and fandom). Machinima plans to launch two more Facebook series this spring: Gaming Rap Battles and Win, Mine or Die.

Arons said a delightful surprise has come by way of Machinima’s partnership with Amazon Video Direct, a service tailored for professional video creators.

That has complemented other distribution with properties such as go90, PlayStation Vue (Sony’s OTT TV service), Xumo and Watchable (Comcast’s ad-based short-form OTT offering on mobile devcies and X1 set-tops).

Happy With Ad-Supported Model

“We want to be anywhere the gamers are … and tap into audiences that maybe we necessarily haven’t found on YouTube,” Arons said. “I think we’re all just reading the tea leaves on where this is going.”

Though Machinima’s overall brand and strategy is being altered a bit, Arons said the service is happy with its ad-based business model, though there could be some “subtle changes” coming in now Machinima approaches its brands with advertisers. Machinima has also been earning some new business internally via the supply of data services and content creation services to Warner Bros.