We follow and write a lot about the MCN digital video world. We do this because the rise of MCNs—and the massive M&A and investments in those companies—are key data points for the overall digital “movement.” Of the fundamental transformation of Hollywood. And, of the fundamental transformation of the overall media business. MCNs represent the new multiplatform media world that we had anticipated for years, but finally came into its own in a mainstream way just this past year.
It is here. It is now. Consumers get that. Especially Millennials.
But many traditional players in the overall media ecosystem (including many execs in major media companies and major brands) do not yet fully grasp this fundamental transformation which is transforming the underlying foundations of their businesses. MDM CEO Peter Csathy recently wrote about this after attending his first VidCon.
Core to this transformation is the mobile device—a device that is with most of us (even non-Millennials) virtually 24/7. Now high-quality video is available to consumers virtually anytime, anywhere—and we are voraciously eating it up. The bottom line is that different platforms are optimized for different forms of content. And the vast majority of video consumption on the small screen is of bite-sized short form video. That means that premium content development for that small screen is fundamentally different than it is for traditional longer-form video platforms like TV. That requires specialized expertise. Expertise that is not in the core DNA of most traditional media companies.
That’s where MCNs fit in. They don’t supplant traditional platforms. Rather, they expand them. They enable consumers to consume the full spectrum of entertaining, informative, and impactful video content. The mobile platform—that small screen—is finally ready for prime time. Scratch that. It isn’t just ready—it is here—it is now.
Our multiplatform media world—in which consumers demand these new forms of premium content (after all, they are “voting” by their sheer numbers)—also demands personalities who can speak most effectively to the massive young audience that has shifted much of its content consumption downstream. And that personality increasingly isn’t the mainstream celebrity. Rather, because these bite-sized videos ideal for mobile viewing are typically produced on very low (or, more usually, nonexistent) budgets, they are grassroots-driven (at least initially). And some of these grassroots videos and personalities take hold—for some reason—and rise to the top. Somehow some of them rise above the din. It is these YouTube personalities who are the new “celebrities” for Millennials.
A recently published study confirms that reality. YouTube celebrities are now more popular than mainstream celebrities to U.S. teens. Brands—take note! If you want to reach this key burgeoning demographic, then it is increasingly critical to commit significant marketing funds to the YouTube economy. To MCNs. To YouTube “celebrities.” To Viners. And, with these digital platforms, you have the added benefit of being able to reach and pinpoint the precise “right” audience for your messages. Then it is up to you to engage with them, effectively.
And that takes “authenticity”—a word that is foundational to this new world order. YouTube personalities rise—MCNs rise—and brands effectively rise—only with authentic voices.
Take some of the leading MCNs.
Csathy recently profiled #1 dance-focused MCN DanceOn and its founder/CEO Amanda Taylor. Why did she start DanceOn in the first place? Fundamentally, because of her love of dance. Because she already was helping professional dancers expand their opportunities because she was aware of their challenges. She felt their pain.
Csathy also recently profiled Larry Fitzgibbon, founder and CEO of #1 food-focused MCN Tastemade. Why did he start Tastemade after his successful IPO of Demand Media (which he also founded)? Because of his love of food. Of the beauty and creativity of food and cooking as an art form. And of the international bridging of cultures that food makes possible. That is authentic.
That same authenticity is pervasive by essentially all founders and CEOs in the MCN world, several of whom Csathy has come to know well (and some of whom we have the good fortune of closely working with).
Founder/CEO John West of #1 sports-focused MCN The Whistle? Absolutely—love of sports—believed that Millennials deserved their own new voice of sports. Roy Burstin, founder and CEO of Mitu Networks, the #1 Latino-focused MCN? Same story. Roy—from Colombia—“felt” a paucity of compelling video content for the Latino market (which he tells me has higher mobile consumption rates than other cultures). Stephanie Horbaczewski, founder/CEO of #1 fashion-focused MCN StyleHaul? Again, the same. You can feel it by the faux-furs she wears around her neck at events, even during the summer months.
And then there’s Allen DeBevoise, chairman of the #1 gamer-focused MCN. Allen is such an authentic believer in this new world order that he personally has invested in virtually all of these (and more).
THAT’S why MCNs matter. That’s why we follow them and the entire multiplatform media/video world so closely. And, that’s why we are excited about the massive opportunities in the media world that is now transforming in fundamental ways right before our eyes.
Let’s be clear. It’s not “out” with the old. But, it is absolutely about “in” with the new…