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Condé Nast’s Wired Pumps Up Original, Licensed Programming for OTT Channel

Tech and culture publication Wired is adding about 40 hours of licensed and original programming to its recently launched over-the-top video channel, as Condé Nast angles to drive up viewing time on big-screen TVs.

New content launching this week includes two original series, “[De]constructed” and “Wired Masterminds”; two seasons of the BBC World News tech/gadget series “Click,” acquired from BBC Studios; along with other programming including content from Wired25, the publication’s 25th anniversary celebration in San Francisco from Oct. 12-15.

Condé Nast wanted to build dedicated OTT destinations for Wired along with GQ and Bon Apetit to give it a bigger creative canvas and reach users on platforms like Roku and Apple TV — but it’s also eager to mine the opportunity to sell premium ad sponsorships. The Wired OTT Channel launched in July with initial sponsors Audi, Verizon, Quicken and HP; those deals have expired and a new batch of sponsors will be coming soon, per a Condé Nast rep.

Starting Tuesday (Oct. 9), all 64 episodes of “Click” — available for the first time in North America — along with the first episodes of the two new Wired original series, are available on the channel.

“The thing that attracted us about ‘Click’ is it’s very smart, and the BBC’s journalistic standards really click with ours,” said Sarah Lash, senior director of acquisitions for Condé Nast Entertainment. “We’re interested to see how viewers will respond to the binge-viewing opportunity.”

The Wired OTT Channel is available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Roku devices. The channel will continue to feature the most popular content from Wired’s YouTube channel and Wired.com, including episodes from “Autocomplete Interviews,” “Tech Support” and “Almost Impossible” hosted by Wired writer Robbie Gonzalez.

With the additional content, the Wired OTT Channel will have more than 125 hours of curated video. While the in-house originals are expected to eventually be windows on other platforms like YouTube, “Click” will be available exclusively on the OTT channel.

“I feel like with OTT, where people sit back, deliberately choose Wired, will develop into a platform where high-quality stuff wins,” said Nicholas Thompson, Wired’s editor-in-chief, who oversees the video department.

In “[De]constructed,” with episodes running about 30 minutes, Wired takes apart and explains the hardware used to build popular vehicles and gadgets, including a Harley Davidson motorcycle (pictured above). The shorter-form “Wired Masterminds” series shows experts demonstrating and explaining their craft, with subjects including a CIA disguise master, members of shadow-art dance troupe Pilobolus, and a New York Times crossword puzzle constructor.

“We looked at a lot of the things our audience likes, and we thought about what we like to watch when we sit on the couches,” said Wonbo Woo, executive producer of video for Wired, who oversaw the originals projects.

In addition, the OTT channel will include behind-the-scenes footage from the Wired25 event this weekend, as well as interviews with such tech notables as Bill Gates, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Google’s Sundar Pichai, and Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom (who recently left the Facebook-owned company).

The Wired and Condé Nast Entertainment teams will continually evaluate the performance of the programming on the OTT channel, making adjustments and launching new series down the road. Initially, Wired has produced three episodes each of “[De]constructed” and “Wired Masterminds,” but there could be more in the series, Woo said.

Thompson also noted that Wired is looking at the OTT programming as something of an experiment. “Every time you come to a new platform, you encounter different behaviors. It took us some time to figure out what people wanted on YouTube.”

In February 2018, Wired adopted a paywall for its website, limiting non-subscribers to five articles. “If you look at the magazine strategy we’re going toward publishing longer stuff, to drive subscriptions,” Thompson said. “Our video strategy is heading in a similar direction — although I have no idea if OTT will be subscription-based.”

Wired’s paywall strategy has paid off, he said: The publication has 850,000 now has subscribers total, and is on pace to add 150,000 subs in 2018 (versus 50,000 last year). In the U.S., the current annual rate for a Wired bundled subscription is $29.99; digital-only subscriptions are $19.99. Wired is offering new subscribers a print-plus-digital subscription at $10 for the first year.

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