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Listen: Studio71’s Reza Izad Gets Real About Digital Video’s Challenges

In the wild and woolly world of short-form digital video, Studio71 would seem to be well-situated: a roster of well-known influencer talent from Lily Singh to the Fine Bros. generate 9.5 billion views via the 40,000 content pieces generated across platforms each month.

But in this week’s episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Studio71 CEO Reza Izad is candid about navigating an ecosystem that has been reeling from one challenge to the next, from the brand safety issues that left marketers skittish to the disappearance of content buyers his company counted on for licensing revenues.

“What we’ve seen in the last year is a shrinkage of that market,” said Izad. “When Go90 goes out of business and SeeSo and Watchable—and there’s a much longer list than that—you get contraction.”

Difficult market conditions has forced Studio71 to be nimble about exploring new business opportunities, from an innovative cross-platform ad-sales approach across overseas territories led by its primary owner, German broadcast giant ProSiebenSat.1, to the unexpected windfall that’s come in the collectibles world by leveraging the brand clout of influencers like Guava Juice and Cyanide Happiness.

But earlier hopes of migrating other influencer stars into long-form work, as it did years ago with the likes of the Annoying Orange and Fred Figglehorn, have dimmed as SVOD giants like Netflix look to more premium fare.

“What has happened when a lot of the market entrants folded their tents over the last year, the other buyers aren’t looking for that in the same volume,” said Izad, who co-founded Studio71 out of a pivot from the former talent-management business the Collective. “Instead of being unique player, we’re now in a long list of producers selling projects, which makes the world infinitely more difficult.”

Citing the example of Viacom snapping up AwesomenessTV, its former competitor in the multichannel network space, Izad sees more consolidation coming for digital-video companies hungry for scale. “That’s definitely the drum beating the  loudest in the market,” he said.

For more on Izad, check out his guest column on the chaos in the branded-content space.

“Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Listen to the podcast below for the full interview, or check out previous “Strictly Business” episodes featuring comedian/actor/producer Kevin Hart, ICM Partners agent Esther Newberg, and HBO chairman/CEO Richard Plepler. A new episode debuts each Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

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