Interactive One Launches Digital Studio to Produce Series for Women of Color

Interactive One, the digital arm of media conglomerate Radio One targeting African-American and urban audiences, has launched HB Studios with a 2015 slate of about a dozen original video series.

The HB Studios programming will be featured on iOne’s Women channel, which includes the HelloBeautiful.com online destination for women of color. The studio is based in Los Angeles, complementing the video iOne already produces at its New York headquarters.

The first project from HB Studios is a 14-minute documentary, “Women on Top,” featuring interviews with celebs and personalities such as Soledad O’Brien, Lisa Leslie, Tia Mowry, Chrisette Michele, Beverly Johnson, Jody Watley, Jurnee Smollett, Anika Noni Rose and Eve. “Women on Top” is scheduled to debut March 1 (timed for Women’s History Month).

“This is a manifesto of what we believe our brand is and represents,” said Leigh Davenport, editorial director of iOne’s Women channel and senior director of HB Studios. “We’re producing powerful original content that’s not trivial videos about just hair and makeup.”

According to Davenport, HB Studios will focus on creating content about real women and the diversity of their experiences. Content will include scripted and unscripted programming and will span news, entertainment, lifestyle, and beauty and fashion. The original productions will roll out through the first quarter of 2015 on the iOne Women Channel and HelloBeautiful.com, and other channels including YouTube and Facebook. Additionally, it will create some series specifically for the HelloBeautiful YouTube channel.

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To date, iOne has produced video content including music series “Interludes” and “HelloBeautiful Interludes Live,” a quarterly interview show that also airs on sister television network TV One. The HB Studios originals will expand the company into new genres and formats: “We’ve done organic content but we haven’t done serialized content,” said Davenport, who prior to joining iOne in October 2010 worked at VH1 and BET and produced a TV One series.

The business strategy for HB Studios is to sell sponsorships and product placements and develop branded content. That way, “no matter where the content goes, the revenue stream travels with it,” Davenport said. In addition, on its own sites, iOne can run pre- and postroll video ads.

New series currently in development by HB Studios include:

  • “Power on Point,” a reality series about The Dance Theater of Harlem and the world of ballet as the company prepares for its second year of touring, co-produced by HB Studios with Walk The Talk Prods.;
  • “#BeatCancer,” a short-form docu-series following two childhood friends who find their passion for music when one is diagnosed with a rare cancer and receives a very special gift from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.;
  • “A Dream Deferred,” a reality show that will give mothers an opportunity to relive a life dream they once had but stopped pursuing for their families; and
  • “Becoming Queen,” a look at the behind-the-scenes world of pageant season on historically black college and university campuses.

Original series HB Studios is creating exclusively for the YouTube HelloBeautiful channel include: “The Star Treatment,” highlighting celebrity style, trends, home décor and services; “Fix Your Face,” a how-to makeup series with tips from bloggers and celebs; and “Nailed It,” covering the world of nail art.

Interactive One had 29.4 million unique monthly visitors as of January 2015 (up 138% from the prior year), according to comScore. Its other branded destinations include GlobalGrind, News One, TheUrbanDaily and Zona de Sabor as well as social networking sites such as BlackPlanet, BlackPlanet Radio and MiGente. Radio One launched the division in 2008.

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