Machinima is not just a YouTube multichannel network.
That’s one of the key messages Machinima wants to get across with its rebranding initiative, centered on a new logo. The gamer-focused entertainment media group is sprucing up its brand identity nearly a year after Russell Arons, previously Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s SVP of marketing, took the helm as Machinima’s general manager. That came after Warner Bros. Digital Networks’ acquisition of full control of the company in November 2016.
According to Arons, the goal is to underscore Machinima’s evolution from its roots as a traditional YouTube multichannel network — founded in 2000 — to a content producer and distributor focused on “the intersection of gamer culture and entertainment” under the Warner Bros. Digital Networks wing.
“People tend to think of Machinima as a YouTube channel — but it’s much more than that,” she said. “We’re thinking of our talent network as our greatest asset, to not only help them monetize [content] but to help bring them opportunities with Warner Bros. and other partners.” Machinima maintains a network of several thousand creator partners and influencers, and overall its content reaches over 140 million unique viewers each month across platforms.
Machinima is realigning its talent network to develop and launch a new slate of content around four key content verticals: action/first-person shooters; role-playing games; fighting/sports games; and sandbox (aka “open world”) games. According to Arons, Machinima will work with creators to co-develop a new suite of channels that will provide a “deep-dive” into each genre segment.
Arons said she began kicking around the idea of a Machnima rebrand shortly after she started as GM in April 2017, taking over for former CEO Chad Gutstein. “It felt like it was time to give the company a bit of a re-do,” she said.
The rebranding does not mean Arons is fundamentally repositioning Machinima. “People thought I was going to throw away the name,” she said. “There was never an attempt to ‘Warner Bros.-ize’ the company.”
That said, Arons has killed off some projects that deviated from Machinima’s focus on gaming. For example, the company’s development team had been working on something called “Trout Cop,” a show about (yes) a fish police officer. Arons axed the project.
“The idea was, ‘Well, we can do things that are internet-weird, edgy,'” she said. “Over the years, Machinima lost a little of its focus, which was the gamer audience.”
To that end, Machinima has created new live-event programming devoted to major gaming events. “Game On” will feature exclusive gamer fan programs and tournaments at events like PAX South, PAX East, E3, PAX West, and TwitchCon which will be streamed globally. In addition, the company’s “Body Count Fighting” brings the best fighting-game players to go head-to-head in esports tournaments for “Injustice 2,” “Mortal Kombat,” “Street Fighter” and “Tekken.”
Arons said Machinima also will be doubling down on long-form programming, looking to strike partnerships with video-game publishers and other intellectual-property owners for animated or live-action adaptations of their most popular franchises. Machinima’s past original productions have included “Transformers: Combiner Wars” and “Titans Return”; “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”; “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist” and “Resurrection”; and reality esports series “Chasing the Cup.”
|Russell Arons, general manager of Machinima. COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. DIGITAL NETWORKS|
The new Machinima logo was designed by Clever Creative, an agency in Venice, Calif., that has done work for WB in the past. The logo expresses “leaning forward, a sense of motion,” and it also moves into a new color palette of neon-lime-green and charcoal. Previous Machinima logos used red and black, colors that felt a decade old, according to Arons.
Machnima now has about 100 full-time employees, down from its peak a few years ago when it had more than 200. “We are a lean, mean fighting machine,” said Arons. “The benefit for us is we also have the resources of Warner Bros.”
Arons reports to Craig Hunegs, president of Warner Bros. Digital Networks and president of business and strategy for Warner Bros. Television Group. With the rebranding, “Machinima is building on a solid foundation that is resonating with its growing audience while celebrating the best fandoms and gamer content,” Hunegs said in a statement.
Today, Machinima has branched out well beyond YouTube, a strategic initiative that began under Gutstein’s leadership. Most recently, Machinima launched a 24-hour gaming-entertainment channel on Twitch and premiered its first original series for Facebook Watch, the reality gamer dating series “Co-op Connection.” The company will be launching its next two Facebook series, “Gaming Rap Battles” and “Win, Mine or Die,” this spring.
Distribution partners in the U.S. include Verizon’s Go90, Amazon Prime Direct, Xumo, VRV, Comcast Watchable and Sony PlayStation Vue. Internationally, partners include AMC Networks Iberia in Spain, Portugal and Mexico; Studio+ in multiple international markets; and Sohuin the Chinese market.
Arons also called out Machinima’s ongoing integration with Warner Bros. In the past year, Machinima has launched influencer-driven content initiatives for multiple studio properties, including New Line Cinema’s “IT,” Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Kong: Skull Island,” DC Entertainment’s “Doomsday Clock,” and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s “Injustice 2,” “Middle-earth: Shadow of War,” and other titles.
In addition, Machinima has a nine-person data-analytics team, focused on providing data and insights on how Warner Bros. can drive awareness and engagement among its audiences and Machinima’s audience of gamer fans.