Time Inc. is joining the over-the-top video fray with the People and Entertainment Weekly Network, featuring long-form TV-style programming on connected televisions and other devices set to debut this fall.
The company also is announcing a video-only brand dedicated to covering digital stars on YouTube, Vine, Snapchat and other platforms, and “Life VR,” a new app that will serve as the hub for Time Inc.’s virtual-reality content. It unveiled the new initiatives, along with a slate of new shows, at its Digital Content NewFronts presentation to ad execs Thursday in NYC.
In addition, Time Inc. announced a pact with NBA legend Kobe Bryant for a short animated film based on his love poem to the game, “Dear Basketball,” to be distributed exclusive on Sports Illustrated digital properties.
The new People and Entertainment Weekly Network will be free to consumers and supported by advertising. PEWN will launch with about 100 hours of original programming, including daily programming around celebrities, pop culture, lifestyle and human-interest stories, rounded out by Time Inc.’s library of VOD assets. The service will have a TV-like linear stream.
“The delivery of over-the-top video is progressing rapidly,” said Rich Battista, president of Time Inc.’s sports and entertainment group and video. “Our company never participated in the TV ecosystem, and now we have the ability to do it.”
The PEWN programming will be largely unscripted shows, with some reality-style series as well as special features and live specials like red-carpet coverage. The OTT network will leverage Time Inc. brand franchises, such as People’s Sexiest Man Alive, Time’s 100 Most Influential People, the Essence Festival and Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition.
“This is the first well-known brand that is launching in the OTT space that is fully ad supported,” said Battista, who before joining Time Inc. last year was CEO of Mandalay Sports Media. “We are doing 30-minute and one-hour shows — this isn’t about putting up a one-minute clip.”
Time Inc. is hiring staff for the People and Entertainment Weekly Network, although it will tap into editorial resources already at the mags and corporate video-production capabilities. Battista said he’ll soon name a head of the network.
Another Time Inc. digital-video initiative will be a currently unnamed network devoted to digital and social-media superstars. It will be the company’s first all-video, all-mobile brand. “The ‘new famous’ digital stars and the content they create have become hugely successful,” Battista said.
Meanwhile, the Life VR app for Android and iOS will house all of Time Inc.’s virtual-reality projects. The app, adopting the name of the erstwhile magazine, will include dedicated channels to sports, news, entertainment and lifestyle, developed as a collaboration among Time Magazine, the Foundry and Time Inc. Studios. The company’s 20-plus VR projects include content tied to this year’s SI Swimsuit issue.
“Life is an iconic visual brand with a history of rich storytelling and VR is a natural new platform for it,” said Nancy Gibbs, editor of Time magazine, who oversees the Life brand. “With this technology, our audiences can now more deeply experience the stories all of our brands at Time Inc. tell.”
In addition, Time Inc. is rolling out several new original digital series, including:
- “EW Pop Docs,” a docu-series telling the stories of how actors, comedians and other entertainers made it big, produced in partnership with Morgan Spurlock and his production company Warrior Poets.
- “The Jess Cagle Interview”: Editorial director of People and EW will sit down with stars including Ryan Reynolds, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa McCarthy, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, Anderson Cooper (with his mom, Gloria Vanderbilt) and Chelsea Handler
- “Southern in the City,” with Jenna Bush Hager: Lifestyle series hosted by the daughter of George W. Bush (and Southern Living editor-at-large and NBC News correspondent ), in which she focuses on maintaining her Southern roots while raising a family in NYC.
- “Swimsuit Illustrated Swimsuit: Swim Unfiltered”: Up-close-and-personal looks at the world of a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model, developed for social media, to debut in bi-monthly installments.
- “The Essence of America”: Uplifting, multipart series addresses topics that have a direct impact on the African-American community, highlighting everyday people.
- “New Mom/New Style”: InStyle editor Kahlana Barfield Brown is six months pregnant and turns to celebrity moms including Kelly Rowland and Brandy for guidance.
- “Time Influencers”: New series is inspired by the Time100 franchise and event, which brings together for one night the world’s most influential people as selected by the mag.
- “Broke Gourmet with Gabi Moskowitz”: Original series from HelloGiggles features popular food blogger and chef Gabi Moskowitz of The Brokeass Gourmet cookbook, who takes over the kitchen with friends and celebs to show how to make gourmet meals on a budget.
- “American Lives”: From People and Time, the series will feature in-depth stories of overlooked Americans who are all around us, co-produced with Madica Productions, producers of Netflix’s “Chef’s Table,” and Boardwalk Pictures.
- “DRIVE/TRAIN”: Writer-photographer Chris Cantle gets behind the steering wheel, handlebars or helm, challenging professional racers on their own turf in this 12-episode series.