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New Studios Dip Into Digital’s Talent Pool

Content for digital short-form and longform shows is increasingly coming from the gaming and social communities, with a growing list of content creators emerging from online sources like Instagram, Vine and similar sources, a panel of experts said on a Next TV Summit panel session.

While online video sites like YouTube are still a major source to find talent, Maker Studios vice president of distribution and strategic partnership Kendra Johnson said that her company is increasingly finding content creators trough other sources.

“Across our creative community we are active in discovering voices as they arise,” Johnson said during a discussion on “The New Studios” that was moderated by Broadcasting & Cable deputy editor Michael Malone.

She added that Maker, which was purchased by The Walt Disney Co. last year, also casts from traditional sources — Maker is working with actor James Franco’s production company on a project as well as with alumni from Saturday Night Live and ABC sitcom Modern Family.

“Consumers are not consuming one type of content,” Johnson said.

New Form Digital, which recently signed a deal to provide six short-form digital series to Verizon Communications’ go90 mobile-first OTT service, also taps talent from several different sources, including YouTube. Senior vice president of development JC Cangilla said that typically New Form signs talent that already has a following on social media.

“We tend to respond to things people have put up and that have been tested,” Cangilla said.

The types of content being produced runs the gamut from horror and drama to comedy and reality shows, but another emerging genre and one that lends itself well to the digital platform is interactive content. At Interlude, a company that specializes in interactive digital content, president and chief operating officer Jim Spare said distributors are learning a lot from the gaming community.

Interlude adds interactive capabilities to programming allowing viewers to directly engage with shows, whether by answering questions, choosing specific camera shots and angles or actually determining in which direction a particular story will go. Spare said the inclusion of interactivity drives deeper engagement with viewers – in one two-and-a-half minute short that allows the viewer to direct how the main character reacts to a potential home invasion, viewers spend an average of 7 minutes clicking on different outcomes.

“We’re finding that young audiences love the idea of being able to talk to a video and interact with a video,” Spare said. “It’s truly personal and it’s driving retention and engagement rates.”