In the ongoing race for viewers’ eyeballs online, Hollywood has just backed a new horse: NewTV, a streaming service designed for mobile video.
The venture is the brainchild of former DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP CEO Meg Whitman, who this week raised funding for its start-up, which will look to compete with other streaming services by focusing not on long-form original programming but short-form series to watch on the go. The service, which is aiming to launch in 2019, will have two options: an ad-free plan and an ad-supported option.
“We don’t consider this competitive with Hulu, or HBO, or Netflix, or the networks,” Katzenberg explained to Variety in an interview. “It’s a completely different use case.”
With billions of people now watching video on their phones in growing numbers, the market opportunity is clear to see. Indeed, Netflix already has its own short-form content, from a growing arsenal of short documentaries (including one Oscar winner) to 15-minute stand-up showcase The Comedy Lineup, and a partnership with BuzzFeed News for a series called Follow This, plus a similar non-fiction effort from Vox, called Explained.
Katzenberg has insisted that NewTV will be “fundamentally different”, notes Variety, built from the ground up to be tailored to mobile viewing.
“For all the different formats of television, there are ways to innovate and adapt them into content you can conveniently watch in chapters on the go,” said Katzenberg.
While that might differentiate the platform from Netflix, however, it places it much closer to YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram and Facebook, all of which have original or exclusive short-form content and user-uploaded content in varying ratios, with videos ranging from comedy and sketches to dramatic web series and reality shows. Unlike all of those, NewTV won’t have any live TV in its line-up. It also won’t produce shows itself, but will licence programming from others.
“If you look at the job here of wanting to create a unique quality of content, we also need quantity — and the only way to achieve that quantity is by being able to get the resources, support and access of the big studios,” he added. “From Day One, it was essential to have their support for this.”
With its blend of ad-free and ad-lite monetisation, the platform will follow in the footsteps of YouTube, which is currently attempting to get its own subscription offering, YouTube Premium, off the ground, with the existing target audience of YouTube fans already in place. Rather than rely on a community and its own productions, NewTV’s most unique aspect appears to be that aim to woo big studios to its doors, a focus that capitalises on Katzenberg and Whitman’s connections in both Hollywood and Silicon Valley – less a ground-up and more a top-down business strategy.
“We have built a licensed model that is highly, highly appealing to them,” noted Katzenberg.
With $1 billion in seed-funding raised by backers including Sony, Disney, NBCUniversal, MGM and ITV, that appeal has been backed up by the numbers this week. For NewTV to succeed, though, it will also need to produce a service and content that appeals to the most important people of all: the audience. First step? The name: NewTV is a placeholder working title, with the company expected to announce its actual brand later this year.