You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fresno, Data-Driven Digital Studio Startup, Raises $8 Million in Seed Funding (EXCLUSIVE)

Fresno founder and CEO Rob Goldberg wants to take some heavy data science and put it to work in producing entertainment — and he’s banked $8 million in outside financing to get the digital studio rolling into higher gear.

Fresno, which Goldberg formed in 2015, this summer closed $8 million in seed funding led by investment firm Social Capital. The round includes participation from several angel investors, including Mike Murphy, Facebook’s former VP of global sales; Sky Dayton, founder of EarthLink and Boingo Wireless; and Arwen Elys Dayton, best-selling author of the “Seeker” trilogy of novels.

The company is actually based in Santa Monica, Calif. Goldberg named the venture after the California city farther north — he’s never been to Fresno — because it’s the geographic midpoint between Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

Fresno will use the capital to continue building out PCH (which stands for “Premium Content Highway”), its patent-pending content-analytics engine. The company uses insights it gleans about programming concepts, based on actual video consumption data, early in the content-development process alongside creative talent. The process, according to Goldberg, mitigates the risk inherent with the way projects have traditionally been greenlit.

“We don’t think an algorithm can create a hit show,” Goldberg said in an interview. “But we know when a show concept is going to resonate with an audience.”

The other piece of Fresno’s strategy is to work with big-name Hollywood names on its original shows. One of its first projects is “Cousin Sal’s Sure Thing,” executive produced by Jimmy Kimmel, which launched on Facebook a year ago. In the show, Sal Iacono — Kimmel’s actual cousin — presents his NFL picks for fantasy-football fans.

According to Goldberg, Fresno has additional scripted and unscripted projects in the works with recognizable talent partners. It’s developing those shows in two ways: by taking existing projects and using PCH to “develop and shape” the ideas, or by developing shows with premises derived from content science.

While Fresno is “platform-agnostic,” Goldberg said, its default platform for distributing content is Facebook. “What Facebook has really built is this massive, algorithmically driven method to reach people by word of mouth,” he said. The company expects to monetize the digital productions, as well as license programming to premium outlets.

Obviously, Fresno isn’t the first player on the block to try to use data science in a deep way to inform production decisions — it’s something Netflix has bragged about for years. But Goldberg has managed to persuade his early backers that Fresno taking a unique tack.

Fresno is building a next-generation content studio that “understands not only what type of video content can thrive on new platforms but, equally importantly, how to package that and distribute it in profitable ways,” Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and CEO of Social Capital, said in a statement. “The result is a very fast-growing company with large revenue scale and a growing library of intellectual property that will grow in value over time.”

Prior to starting Fresno, Goldberg was the GM of Topps Digital Services, a business unit that was created when he sold the digital currency-card redemption company he founded, GMG Entertainment, to sports-trading card company Topps in 2011. Before that, he headed his own independent entertainment marketing firm after leading partnership marketing at Launch Media, which was acquired by Yahoo and formed the basis of Yahoo Music. Launch Media was founded by Dave Goldberg, Rob’s brother and husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg; Dave went on to become CEO of SurveyMonkey before he died in 2015.

Fresno (fresnoinc.com) currently has about 20 full-time employees, and Goldberg said the company expects to grow headcount to 40 by the end of the year.

He’s hoping to start launching more shows on Facebook, and other platforms, in the near future. “The more content we distribute, the more data we get,” he said. “And that makes us smarter.”

More Digital

  • How Netflix Uses Technology: A Look

    How Netflix Wants to Take on Its Competition in 2019 and Beyond

    “They’re going to do some great shows. I’m going to be envious.” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings practiced humility when he was asked about new competitors like Disney’s and Apple’s upcoming streaming services this week. “These are amazing, large, well-funded companies with very significant efforts,” he said. “But you do your best job when you have [...]

  • AVOD streaming video OTT users -

    Comcast Unveils 'Flex,' a Streaming Service for Internet Customers

    Comcast said it would unveil “Flex,” a hub for its Internet-only customers that allows them to stream and purchase shows and movies, the latest effort by a traditional cable provider to latch on to customers who are migrating to broadband services, The Philadelphia cable giant will also make free, ad-supported services available via the service, [...]

  • splice

    Splice Raises $57.5 Million in Latest Funding Round

    Splice, a favorite of music creators that allows access to a library of three million rights-cleared sounds, announced today that the company closed a Series C funding round at $57.5 million. That brings Splice’s total amount raised to roughly $102 million since its launch in 2013. It raised a Series B in November of 2017. [...]

  • Facebook's 'Red Table Talk' Garners Daytime

    Facebook's 'Red Table Talk' Garners Daytime Emmy Nomination

    Facebook is now in the awards hunt: Its popular original series “Red Table Talk” hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith was nominated for a 2019 Daytime Emmy. It appears to be the first-ever Daytime Emmy Awards nomination for a Facebook-funded show, although a company rep was unable to confirm that. “Red Table Talk” is nominated in [...]

  • MLB-TV

    MLB.TV Joins Lineup on Amazon's Prime Video Channels

    Amazon has launched MLB.TV on Prime Video Channels for Prime members in the U.S., just in time for the start of Major League Baseball’s 2019 regular season start next week. The MLB.TV package provides regular-season out-of-market baseball games, both live and on-demand. Prime members in the U.S. can subscribe to MLB.TV for $24.99 per month, [...]

  • Tencent Music Shares Drop Despite Solid

    Tencent Music Shares Drop Despite Solid First Earnings Report

    Proving that good is not always good enough, Tencent Music Entertainment shares fell 9 percent after the Chinese company released its 2018 earnings, wiping out $2.7 billion in market capitalization of what is arguably the biggest audio music service in the world. Chalk it up to big expectations and a short track record: Wednesday’s earnings [...]

  • PewDiePie - YouTube

    PewDiePie vs. T-Series: YouTube Channels Keep Battling for No. 1 Spot

    UPDATED, 3/21: The back-and-forth battle for YouTube’s No. 1 spot continues. T-Series on Thursday again pulled ahead of YouTube’s PewDiePie as the No. 1 most-subscribed channel on the platform — coming a day after T-Series briefly topped the vlogger-gamer-comedian and renewing fans’ support him. In a months-long symbolic running battle for the title, PewDiePie and his [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content