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NewFronts: BuzzFeed Brags of Bigger Bite of Digital Pie as CEO Touts 7 Billion Monthly Views

Social-driven media player BuzzFeed now has 7 billion monthly views of its content — up 2.5 times a year ago — and CEO Jonah Peretti says that’s driven by a deep understanding of what its audience wants to see and share.

Peretti, at the company’s Digital Content NewFronts presentation Monday in New York, claimed that unlike old-fashioned media, BuzzFeed creates content rooted in an empathy with viewers to deliver what they really like. And the company wants to bring more advertisers into the picture, announcing a new program with investor NBCUniversal to co-produce branded video content for brands.

“The purpose of a lot of this content is to connect with an audience, and understand that audience… and help that audience connect with other people by sharing that content,” Peretti told the crowd of ad and media execs. The majority of BuzzFeed’s views are now video.

Of course, how many of those billions of views BuzzFeed actually makes money on is a different question. About 75% of those 7 billion views (up from 2.8 billion monthly content views a year ago) are on other platforms. BuzzFeed revealed that 27% of its monthly views come from Facebook native video, followed by 23% on its own properties and apps, which execs said have about 200 million unique monthly viewers. Another 21% are via Snapchat, and 14% are on YouTube.

“We don’t care where we publish that content” as long as BuzzFeed closes the feedback loop with data on how the viewers are engaging with the content, he said.

NBCUniversal, which invested $200 million in BuzzFeed last summer, is cooperatively working with the company to bring talent from both organizations into pitches with brand advertisers, said Frank Cooper, BuzzFeed’s CMO and chief creative officer. The partnership is “still in early stages, but we believe it’s a powerful addition to the spectrum of sponsorship, creation and integrating,” he said.

A big chunk of BuzzFeed’s surge in views has come from Tasty, its food and recipes video network that launched in August 2015. In March, Tasty generated 2.2 billion video views, according to research firm Tubular Labs.

“Tasty was not in business a year ago… and it’s now the largest food network in the world,” BuzzFeed president Greg Coleman said. Since launching, the network now includes Tasty Junior, with kid-friendly recipes; Tasty Happy Hour with drink recipes; and “Mom vs. Chef,” which in which kids vote on who whips up a secret ingredient best – mom or chef.

The company has a core competency in generating viral views, Peretti maintained. He cited BuzzFeed’s video of a watermelon that was exploded using rubber bands broadcast on Facebook Live in April, which pulled in over 800,000 concurrent viewers and has generated more than 10 million views overall. “It’s the first time we’ve had a number that’s comparable to TV,” he claimed. But as observers have pointed out, TV ratings are reported differently (on the basis of average audience per minute) so the audience for the bursting melon was not really in the same league as television.

At the event, BuzzFeed’s popular comedy quartet the Try Guys (pictured above) — Ned Fulmer, Keith Habersberger, Zach Kornfeld and Eugene Lee Yang — came onstage to unveil their latest project: The Try Kids, which will feature adorable tots in various settings trying things for the first time. The Try Guys, who have accumulated north of 500 million video views on YouTube and Facebook, arrived and exited to the strains of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.”

“They test short things and build them out, and that kind of culture permeates the entire organization,” said Ze Frank, president of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, the company’s video division. The Try Guys, he noted, not only star in their segments but also write and produce them: “We do our best to foster multihypenates to get the job done,” said Frank.

Other new projects from BuzzFeed Motion Pictures include “Broke,” a 12-episode sitcom created by and starring Quinta Brunson, based on her experience with her friends moving from Philadelphia to L.A. without much money in the bank. “We were broke but happy — and I’d never seen that in the media,” said Brunson, who also is leading development of an upcoming stand-up special for BuzzFeed with up-and-coming comedians.

BuzzFeed’s Ashly Perez announced plans to develop second and third seasons of “You Do You,” a comedic soap opera for millennial femmes, which debuted at No. 1 in the iTunes TV store last fall. “Women in media are not allowed to tell stories for themselves,” said Perez, who described herself as a Cuban-Korean-Filipino first-generation American.

In “You Do You,” Perez said, the focus is on female characters traditionally relegated to side roles. “The coolest part was… it was the result of us engaging with the audience — it was because for two years, we were engaging with 2.6 million women who wanted to see themselves represented,” she said.

Both “Broke” and “You Do You” are projects that germinated on BuzzFeed Violet
video team, which focuses on “short, relatable videos” that are “the good kind of awkward.” “We want to bring things out that brands will want to buy immediately in the (ad-supported VOD) space,” said Matthew Henick, head of development, BuzzFeed Motion Pictures. “We are a content production studio but we also have huge promotional and marketing capabilities as well.”

Last month, BuzzFeed adopted a new talent-relationship program, under which creators will receive a revenue share for all of the programming they produce for BuzzFeed, in exchange for remaining exclusively affiliated with the company. That came after Matt Bellassai, star of BuzzFeed’s “Whine About It” comedic video series, left the company to strike out on his own and signed a deal with CAA.

“We’ve cracked something that allows us to move between branded content, TV and movies (with talent),” Henick said. “It’s not Hollywood economics. No matter what the project with us, it’s predictable about where the money is going in a very transparent way.” He added, “We’re building basically individual production companies around each talent.”

BuzzFeed held the presentation — billed as a “feast,” in a nod to the fast-growing Tasty network — at Skylight at Moynihan Station in midtown Manhattan, serving up veggie sliders, pad thai, barbacoa beef tacos and other eats.

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