Condé Nast Creating Shows With Tan France, Joe Sugg Among Massive Pipeline of 175-Plus Digital Pilots

Condé Nast - Tan France, Joe
Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock (France); Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/Shutterstock (Sugg)

Condé Nast wants Madison Avenue to believe that its video programming represents a “new primetime” for reaching coveted audiences that are abandoning TV — and the media company has a gigantic development slate prepped in a bid to drive even more viewership in the coming year.

All told, Condé Nast said it has 50 returning digital video series and more than 175 pilots in production slated to hit over 2019-20, it announced at its Digital Content NewFronts marketing pitch in New York.

Among its new projects, the company is turning to two British influencers: Tan France, the fashion guru from Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” and Joe Sugg, a YouTube vlogger who has over 20 million social-media followers.

With France, Glamour is creating a new virtual-reality experience, dubbed “Closet Confidential,” in which he’ll explore (and enhance) people’s wardrobes. Sugg, in new series “Barely Skilled” for Condé Nast’s Epicurious, will be trying to recreate epic creations of specialty chefs. Meanwhile, the company recently teamed with actor-musician-producer Keke Palmer, who hosts Glamour’s “Queenpins,” a series on Facebook Watch about history’s most notorious female crime bosses.

Condé Nast’s newest digital-entertainment push comes amid a leadership shakeup. The company in early April named Roger Lynch, formerly chief exec of Pandora, as its global CEO. Last fall, it tapped Oren Katzeff as president of Condé Nast Entertainment, who joined the company from Tastemade.

In an interview, Katzeff said the upcoming content slate will feature both homegrown talent from the company’s stable of brands in addition to outside personalities. He acknowledged that CNE has a large number of projects but insisted the strategy is more about quality than quantity, with a mix of mostly unscripted lifestyle, culture, celeb-driven and service-journalism shows.

“We’re trying to be smart about what we bring into the shows we’re doing,” Katzeff told Variety. “For us in general the story from a bird’s-eye view has been, How do we evolve our brands for the next generation of audience?”

Katzeff also said Condé Nast has had success with longer-form content, with episodes 20 minutes or longer. In March alone, the company had 1.9 billion minutes watched across its YouTube channels. “That’s less about shoveling tons of quantity and more about being smart about episode length,” he said.

Meanwhile, Condé Nast has produced high-engagement content with celebs like Rihanna, Billie Eilish and Wiz Khalifa. According to Katzeff, “It’s not just about access to celebrities. It’s what you do with the celebrities… to find a unique way to get a great show in a short period of time.”

New initiatives at Condé Nast Entertainment include a new GQ-branded YouTube channel with original programming focused on sports and lifestyle and a new partnership with Twitter to live-stream Condé Nast’s events, including Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit, Wired25 and The New Yorker Festival.

To back up its case that Condé Nast’s content drives marketing results, the company announced findings of a study it commissioned from Nielsen. Per the study, CN’s digital viewers on average report a 15% lift in brand familiarity and 36% lift in purchase intent. Nielsen also found an average 60% increase in “lower-funnel metrics” (e.g. brand selection and intent to purchase) when advertisers are integrated across multiple series.

Also at the NewFronts presentation, the company said it has expanded the Condé Nast Prime offering — comprising inventory for top-performing videos — to encompass all new series on all platforms, including YouTube and over-the-top platforms. It’s calling the new product “Condé Nast Prime Time.”

In 2018, Condé Nast digital videos overall generated 14 billion digital video views, up 16% year-over-year. Across all of its YouTube channels, Condé Nast has more than 27 million followers. The company’s NewFronts presentation, held at Mercado Little Spain in the Hudson Yards development, was produced by the company’s in-house agency, CNX.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the pilots Condé Nast has in the pipeline:

  • Vanity Fair’s “The Great Pretender,” about how actors master technical skills to portray the iconic characters that viewers have come to love (launching in June).
  • GQ’s “Grails,” going to the ends of the Earth to discover the best of the best in men’s style (November).
  • Allure’s “Seeing Triple,” giving three makeup artists the same prompt to transform one face (May).
  • Condé Nast Traveler’s “Say I Sent You,” an interactive travel guide tailored to Instagram Stories (summer).
  • Wired’s “Mind Magic,” about optical illusions and the ways our brains trick us into seeing what’s not there (June).
  • Architectural Digest’s “Pop Culture Design Breakdown,” analyzing the evolution of different styles through the lens of popular media with help from a design expert.
  • Teen Vogue’s “Stan-ing,” featuring 10 super-fans rehashing their favorite TV show’s iconic moments.
  • Bon Appétit’s “The World’s Kitchen,” hosted by Andy Baraghani, who learns to prepare culinary staples from around the world by visiting the restaurants that have perfected their region’s most iconic dish.
  • For Bon Appétit’s recently launched streaming channel, the company announced renewals and spinoff shows, including “It’s Alive: Goin’ Places” with Brad Leone; “Bon Appétit’s Baking School,” a new series with pastry chef Claire Saffitz; and “Making Perfect,” a new, ensemble-led series focused on creating the perfect version of iconic dishes.