NewFronts 2015: BuzzFeed’s 3 Most Interesting Data Points About Video Content

BuzzFeed gave a presentation Monday to ad-industry execs dwelling on the data and process of creating and distributing video — the unsexy nuts-and-bolts side of the business — instead of announcing any major new video series or content.

The company creates about 50 hours per week of shortform video of 90 seconds or less, said BuzzFeed Motion Pictures president Ze Frank at the company’s Digital Content NewFronts event Monday in New York. And it’s the company’s fastest-growing business unit.

But while BuzzFeed had said the group, formed last August, planned to develop TV-length original series and potentially even movies, it had nothing new to offer on that front.

“We’re close to announcing something,” said producer Michael Shamberg (“Django Unchained,” “Erin Brockovich”), who’s been consulting with BuzzFeed for more than a year on longer-form video strategy. “But we want to be careful… ‘No’ is the Death Star of Hollywood — and the people we’re inviting in will get to make stuff.”

In the spirit of BuzzFeed’s list-driven articles, here are three of the more interesting aspects of its video business:

  • BuzzFeed now delivers more than 1 billion video views per month. That’s up from about 17 million two and a half years ago, according to the company. Last month, about 24 million hours of BuzzFeed video were consumed on multiple platforms.
  • BuzzFeed syndicates video to more than 20 platforms, with YouTube and Facebook the largest. Users on YouTube tend to watch more informational videos from the BuzzFeed network (e.g., “What does 2,000 calories look like?”), while Facebook users gravitate toward “identity” videos (“If guy best friends acted like girl best friends”).
  • More than 40% of BuzzFeed’s video views are generated outside the U.S. Frank said the company is looking at creating more “post-literate” video content that isn’t language-dependent, so it can travel across borders more easily.

“The video business really showed us a pathway to changing the way we think about media,” said BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti, who took to the stage wearing a gray sweatshirt and jeans. “As long as we have impact and scale, we don’t care where people view our media.”

As for why BuzzFeed hasn’t produced a TV show to date, Peretti said, “We’ve kind of resisted” because it’s hard to track what’s working in that medium. “We’re starting now to realize we can learn enough… to understand what we want to do on broadcast, and extend to things like television and movies.”

The company did preview an unscripted video project around “Brother Orange,” the nom-de-net of a Chinese man who somehow ended up with the iPhone of a BuzzFeed staffer – which was stolen in New York City.

Frank, who is based at the BuzzFeed Motion Pictures four-acre lot in L.A., emphasized the company’s test-and-learn approach to creating content.

“What I’m super-interested in is environments (where) you can test things out, and how that informs the way traditional writers approach the creative process,” Frank said.

BuzzFeed held the presentation at the B.B. King Blues Club and Grill on 42nd Street in Times Square.

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