PARIS — Flavored with U.S. flagship shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “Funny or Die,” Lorenzo Benedetti’s YouTube-born Studio Bagel has sourced a rich pool of French talents since its launch and is now getting ready to expand.
Acquired by pay TV giant Canal Plus in March 2014, Studio Bagel fully produces nine YouTube channels featuring 11 talents, along with short-format programs for Canal Plus and branded content. The Canal Plus acquisition has been key in driving the growth of Studio Bagel, giving the company the resources to expand its scope and move to a large studio with a post-production facility housed in the Canal Plus building in Boulogne, on the outskirts of Paris.
Its flagship Studio Bagel YouTube channel, created three years ago, recently reached the 2 million subscriber milestone, and its newly created Studio Movie account, which bowed in September — a few months after the Canal Plus’ pickup — has already attracted over 200,000 subscribers and is about to reach 9 million views.
With parody shows like MicroTroll, So Andy and Inspecteur Le Blanko, Studio Bagel’s 17 channels — including eight channels that it produces but doesn’t own — generate up to 40 million views per month.
Benedetti, Studio Bagel’s 34-year-old mastermind, is not a pure product of the so-called millennial culture, however. After graduating from the prestigious Science Po school, the Parisian exec earned his chops in the traditional media industry, notably at French pubcaster France Televisions.
“I’m very much involved in the editorial content we produce,” said Benedetti, who admitted he’s a fan of Judd Apatow and satirical comedy shows like “Funny or Die.” “My approach with Studio Bagel is much closer to that of a showrunner than a digital developer, because of my background in the traditional media.”
Making up for the dearth of film magazines on TV, Studio Movie creates exclusive Web content linked to hot new releases. Each video is hosted by one of Bagel Studio’s talents.
“Studio Movie allows us to talk about movies differently, in a non-mainstream way, because we’re targeting a niche. We’re not just providing info, we’re editorializing it with our own voice,” pointed out Benedetti.
Due to its potential to reach millennials, Studio Movie has proved attractive to film companies and brands.
As TV ads for films are banned in France, a growing number of distributors are turning to viral marketing and social media to spur positive word of mouth on their movies.
Warner Bros. France, for instance, enlisted Studio Movie to create an exclusive, original segment with Will Smith and Margot Robbie for the promotion of “Focus” in France.
Smith and Robbie were actually sent the script for the small sketch and performed a scene along with Bagel Studio talents Ludovik and Kemar. In 24 hours, the video pulled in over 300,000 views.
For “Annabelle,” another Warner Bros. movie, Bagel Studio created a video for Facebook that drew 3.4 million views and 250,000 loops on Vine.
Manuel Alduy, who became the boss of Canal Plus’ newlymcreated OTT division in March 2014, after spending over eight years as topper of the film department, opted to buy a 60% share in Studio Bagel. Since coming on board Canal Plus’ OTT biz, Alduy has gotten the pay TV group involved in about 30 YouTube channels, including replay channels of popular programs and original ones like the music-themed “Comité des Reprises” or “Bapt & Gael” (which is exec produced by Studio Bagel).
“We realized that the young generation was spending a lot of time on YouTube, and we couldn’t afford to let them lose touch with our Canal Plus universe,” said Alduy, adding that Canal Plus banked on Studio Bagel because it’s a “good brand with a pool of talents and an expertise in producing comedy content.”
“We found out that 85% of the Web users who watch our YouTube channels are under 35. Even if some of these young people will never subscribe to Canal Plus, we need to integrate their tastes and culture into our free-to-air programming,” added Alduy, who also noted that Canal Plus wasn’t interested in YouTube to diversify but rather to continue sourcing and developing new talents as it has always done.
Benedetti said Studio Bagel is now looking to produce more content and diversify into fiction with TV series and feature films. The shingle will also ramp up its side activity as branded content producer to generate recurrent revenues.
Bagel Studio’s client portfolio includes Ubisoft, Samsung, Activision and Orange.
“We’re creating very short and polished ads, averaging between six and 30 seconds; brands have understood that these kinds of nano ads are better adapted to social media apps like Twitter,” said the exec.
Next up, Benedetti is looking to generate new revenue streams for Studio Bagel. As Alduy pointed out, Canal Plus is eager to “improve the monetization of Web content because YouTube’s advertising model doesn’t yet cover the cost of production for the type of qualitative content (it) aims to produce.”
Studio Bagel is already developing a slate of programs for Canal Plus’ subscription-based platform CanalPlay. Its first commission is “Krazy,” a short-format series — comprising six episodes of eight minutes — featuring Studio Bagel talent Kevin Razy as an aspiring standup comic trying to make ends meet with small jobs at a call center and a bar.
“What we want is to follow our talent and support them if they want to step into a TV series and a movie project,” said Benedetti.
And being a part of the Canal Plus empire can only drive that trend: Since the paybox also operates free-to-air channels such as D8, Studio Bagel shows can easily bow on Canal Play and end up on TV.