Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Short form is the next big thing

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast September 22, 2016

Broadcasters are realising the format’s potential, says Kate Bulkley

Short-form video is starting to play a key role in the strategies of broadcasters and producers.

What started with YouTube cats on skateboards has potentially evolved into the next big thing.

Movers and shakers such as Vevo chief executive Erik Huggers and Dominique Delport of Havas and Canal Plus-owner Vivendi are putting money into short-form content, while broadcasters such as Channel 4 are commissioning more shorts series.

Last week, Dom Joly revealed the reboot of prank series Trigger Happy TV, which will become All 4’s latest online series later this month. Meanwhile, the online-only BBC3 is ordering shorts and there is a special place on the new Sky Q set-top box for online content from YouTube, where the average video is three minutes or less.

At IBC, Vevo’s Huggers sketched out a roadmap for the music video service, including the commissioning of short-form, mobile-first content. Huggers believes this content will help transform Vevo from a “watermark on YouTube videos” to a cross-platform “entertainment brand for the next generation”.

Moving beyond YouTube is on a lot of content makers’ minds, hence the plethora of subscription VoD services. Vevo, too, plans to launch a premium subscription service to join its ad-funded one.

Vivendi’s Delport thinks that “premium mobile content” is the key to fighting back against the big digital players, including Google and Facebook.

Studio+, a new Vivendi unit, is making 10 x 10- minute series each costing £850,000, which will air in Latin America on Telefonica’s mobile services. “We have spent ¤35m [£30m] to create 35 series this year and it is a bet because no one has done it before,” admits Delport. “But we think there is a place for this.”

A recent Enders Analysis note suggested that the novelty of short form is less what it’s about, but that it is easy to find, share and digest. But Enders differs from Delport on the appeal of the 10-minute premium video series, saying there are “no compelling narrative forms that fi t with three, five or 10-minute slots”.

I worry when something new is dismissed out of hand. Maybe Vivendi’s Studio+ has cracked it and the 10 x 10 format will become the new sine qua non of short form.

Barcroft Media believes short form is the next big thing, and will launch a YouTube channel called Barcroft Animals later this month. It features a series of eight-minute episodes called Dog Dynasty, featuring YouTube sensation Hulk, a 175lb pit bull.

Boss Sam Barcroft says: “We are still desperate to get TV shows out of this because that’s the biggest return, but in the interim, we are thinking that if we can make premium short-form factual, it will reputationalise this format.”

In the US, James Corden has provided a blueprint for how short form can work next to a network TV show via Carpool Karaoke, an online phenomenon that began as a segment on his CBS TV show.

The lines are blurring and soon we may not know if the online short-form show drives the traditional TV programme, or whether it is the other way around.

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