NewFronts: Conde Nast Backs 3 Filmmaker Incubator Programs, Renews 98 Digital Series

Announces Comcast distribution deal, adds NBA and CNN's Great Big Story to The Scene video network


Conde Nast Entertainment is throwing its weight behind three incubator programs aimed at finding next-generation filmmakers, as the publishing firm’s video production arm continues to pump fuel into its content pipeline.

At its Digital Content NewFronts presentation in New York, CNE also said it’s bringing back 98 original short-form online series for the 2016-17 season — 62% of its current slate. And CNE announced a distribution partnership with Comcast to deliver content to Xfinity VOD customers and on Comcast’s Watchable online service, bringing its distribution footprint to more than 50 platforms.

In addition, the company released the second iteration of its digital-video platform, The Scene, relaunched as a mobile-first video network with a new mobile app and new social features. CNE announced deals with the NBA and CNN’s Great Big Story for The Scene, in addition to 17 existing partners. (Disclosure: Variety is a CNE partner for The Scene.) Under the pact with the NBA, the league will co-create multiple new lifestyle series for The Scene, including one providing an inside look at the lives of some of the NBA’s biggest stars.

“As digital video has grown up, we’ve been at the forefront of the revolution since the beginning, and are pleased to announce the expansion of our network with significant developments in content, distribution, data capabilities and measurement,” Dawn Ostroff, president of Condé Nast Entertainment, said in a prepared statement.

With the incubators, CNE hopes to discover and develop new storytelling talent, as well as generate compelling new video content and boost its data capabilities.

Conde Nast Entertainment is stepping in as a production and distribution partner for two incubators already launched by Indigenous Media, the studio formed by Jon Avnet, Rodrigo Garcia and Jake Avnet.

Under the deal with Indigenous, CNE will distribute content already being produced under the existing initiatives as well as jointly produce new programming. Those are the newly dubbed “Big Script” incubator, formed in partnership with “Hunger Games” star Josh Hutcherson to produce five short films from young filmmakers through scripts submitted to the Black List, and “Project: Her,” a mentoring program for female writers and directors

“Project: Her” focuses exclusively on female filmmakers and their mentors, including Lesli Linka Glatter (“Homeland”), Mimi Leder (“The Leftovers”), Betty Thomas (“Private Parts”), Sarah Treem (“The Leftovers”) and Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou”). The program will follow their journeys together through social videos and culminate in the finished project premiering on CNÉ’s digital video network. CNÉ also will distribute the shorts from the “Big Script” film incubator, one of which is being directed by Hutcherson. CNE’s third incubator is a “Creators in Residence” program aimed at millennial filmmakers.

“Our company has a tradition of working with the best and discovering the next, and we’re looking forward to finding and nurturing the next great storytelling talent,” Ostroff said.

Launched in 2013, CNE produces more than 4,000 videos per year. In the last year, its content has generated more than 2.8 billion video views, according to the company.

Returning series include: Vogue’s “73 Questions,” GQ’s “Most Expensivest Shit” hosted by rapper 2 Chainz, Bon Appetit’s “Eat, Stay, Love,” Teen Vogue’s “Fan Gifts,” Vanity Fair’s “Celebrity Readings” and “Secret Talent Theater,” W’s “The Screening Room,” Golf Digest’s “Golf Challenge” and Wired’s “Google Autocomplete.”

New shows and franchises from Conde Nast Entertainment, based on its stable of magazine brands, will have a “heavy emphasis” on social, influencers and commerce, according to Ostroff.

Also at the NewFronts presentation, CNÉ announced a partnership with content-measurement firm SimpleReach to create a new dashboard for analyzing performance of branded content video across all distribution platforms. That’s slated to launch in the early fall.

In addition to video produced for digital platforms, Condé Nast Entertainment currently has five television series in production or launched, including “Fashion Fund” and “The New Yorker Presents” on Amazon Prime Video, as well as a first-look deal at 20th Century Fox Television for scripted programming.

On the movie front, CNÉ’s first feature film — “The First Monday in May” a documentary about the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2015 China exhibition — opened the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival; its second film, “Army of One” starring Nicolas Cage and Russell Brand, is slated to be released later this year. CNÉ is in pre-production on two other feature films and has 20 additional film projects in development.