CBC partners with Fullscreen on new content venture

Deal with California-based MCN a game-changer says senior sales executive

Chris Powell September 23, 2015

Following in the footsteps of other traditional media companies, CBC has entered into a multi-year partnership with the California-based multi-channel network (MCN) Fullscreen.

The two organizations have partnered on a new venture called CBC | Fullscreen Creator Network, which the public broadcaster said would extend its reach among key millennial audiences while creating additional sales opportunities. CBC said it planned to utilize Fullscreen’s “extensive expertise” in developing and supporting digital content creators.

As part of the deal, CBC will provide content distribution platforms as well as production and marketing support, while supporting creators through community engagement and talent development. It will directly manage all sales within Canada.

Fullscreen, meanwhile, will create and manage a co-branded talent management system and creator platform for Canadian creators, while retaining responsibility for international ad sales.

Established in 2011, Fullscreen is one of the largest YouTube networks in the world, housing more than 70,000 creators – including more than 2,000 Canadian creators spanning multiple genres – and more than 600 million subscribers. It boasts more than 4 billion monthly video views, and counts Ford, Mattel and GE among its brand partners.

Last year, Otter Media, a joint video venture between AT&T and the Chernin Group, acquired a majority stake in Fullscreen in a deal that valued the company at a reported US$200-$300 million. Advertising giant WPP is also a strategic shareholder in the company.

The new partnership bolsters CBC’s digital presence as it embarks on its new mandate, A space for us all, which aims to promote the development of digital and mobile platforms and content.

Mary Kreuk, CBC’s executive director of multi-platform media sales, said Fullscreen’s massive creator network will enable advertisers to align with content genres and creators that complement their brand.

“It comes back to creators having that intimate peer-to-peer relationship with their fans,” she said, adding that this model allows advertising partners to co-create content with YouTube personalities that is aligned with specific brand objectives. “This model allows us to do it, and then the brand becomes part of the conversation creators have with their fans.”

YouTube stars are increasingly pushing aside mainstream celebrities when it comes to fan devotion among millennial audiences. A recent survey commissioned by the U.S. entertainment trade magazine Variety found the five most influential figures among U.S. teens 13-18 are all YouTube stars.

The top three stars included online comedy duos Smosh and the Fine Bros. and Swedish videogamer PewDiePie. The highest-ranking non-YouTube personality, placing sixth overall, was the late Paul Walker, star of the car racing film series The Fast and the Furious.

“These creators are celebrities in their own right, and have far more intimate relationships with their fans than they’ve previously experienced with traditional celebrities,” said Kreuk. “They’re communicating sometimes on a daily basis, and truly are stars to their fans.”

The Fullscreen partnerships will add 5.8 million unique visitors – and 2.2 million millennial viewers – to CBC.ca’s monthly reach, which Kreuk said is a “phenomenal” boost for its online offering.

“It makes a difference in terms of meeting advertiser needs,” she said. “Whereas before we might not have had the scope they were looking for, we will have that moving forward. In the past you would not have thought of millennials and the CBC first, but with this partnership you definitely will.”

Kreuk said the CBC has been “quietly” selling the network in advance of making a “big splash” this week, but has secured four launch partners: Toyota Scion, Wolf Blass wines, TD Kids Book Club and 20th Century Fox.

Toyota Scion, Wolf Blass and TD Kids Book Club are all expanding on existing partnerships with CBC, while 20th Century Fox is developing a program in support of its Oct. 2 release of the Matt Damon movie The Martian.

CBC expects to begin making formal agency presentations in early November, said Kreuk, adding that she is bullish on sales prospects for the new venture. “When you look at those numbers, it’s a game-changer for us,” she said.

Heather Gordon, who joined the CBC in April as director of digital sales for Toronto and western Canada, will oversee sales efforts for the venture, said Kreuk.

Several traditional media companies have partnered with MCNs in the past year as they grow in both power and popularity, particularly among the youth demographics advertisers are so keen to reach.

Last year, Toronto-based Corus Entertainment led a US$12 million Series C funding round for Santa Monica, CA-based Kin Community, while Blue Ant Media bolstered its music offering with an undisclosed investment in another California-based MCN, Omnia Media. Disney also purchased Maker Studios for US$500 million in a deal that was said to underscore the growing importance of MCNs as a talent incubator.

Kreuk said MCNs are destined to play an increasingly important role in the entertainment industry. “When you see that the lay of the land has changed so much, we need to be a part of that,” she said. “We have to evolve.”