Tony Valenzuela is trying to explain to me why I’m looking at online video the wrong way.
Valenzuela’s offbeat supernatural drama, “The Fourth Door,” was picked up by Verizon’s new streaming service Go90 as part of a six-series deal with New Form Digital, one of the powerhouse players in the new market for streaming video.
All I did was ask him how long each show was.
“The length varies based on the story. That’s the rule,” he says. “When the episode has told the story, it’s done.”
People keep telling Valenzuela different episode lengths that are supposedly perfect for digital, but they change from one day to the next.
“I don’t listen to them,” he continues.
This is what he knows for a fact: When you create a show for a streaming service like Verizon’s go90 or Google’s YouTube Red, the only length of time that matters is how quickly someone can turn it off.
“It has to be visceral and emotional, and grab you right away,” he finishes. Because otherwise, the audience will find something else.
How to sell a streaming show
New Form Digital’s head of business development, JC Cangilla, agrees.
But he also says there are certain types of shows that are in hot demand right now. And Cangilla should know. New Form has sold 18 shows (and counting) to 10 different streaming services in the last year.
These shows have been roughly 12-18 minutes per episode, a length that simply didn’t get distribution just a few years ago, Cangilla says.
There’s been a flood of new streaming services in the market, Cangilla says, and they are thirsty for content. New Form has sold shows to places ranging from Verizon to Vimeo to YouTube Red.
New Form was founded in 2014 by Hollywood heavyweights including Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. They saw that streaming video online was the future, and wanted to make sure they got a head start on the rest of Hollywood.
Their first hire was chief creative Kathleen Grace, a veteran who used to lead creative development for YouTube’s space in LA.
Cangilla says the initial plan was to sell to “traditional” streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, but that isn’t what ended up happening.
New Form, in early 2014, had funded an initial run of 14 pilots from creators who were mostly “YouTubers” (though Cangilla doesn’t like that word — he calls them “digital natives.”)
“It turned out the content we were creating was more attractive to this new class of platforms,” Cangilla says. Their shows found a natural fit in these new services, which were eager to appeal to a younger audience increasingly consuming video on their phones.
The Go90 effect
Verizon’s new Go90 app is a perfect example.
Business Insider’s Jason Guerrasio interviewed the man behind Go90 and explains Verizon’s strategy like this: “The company aims to create a one-stop destination for sports, news, and original entertainment series, all as fast-paced as the attention spans of a busy millennial.”
What sets Go90 apart is that it lives entirely on your phone.
“These services see a massive opportunity in the younger audiences, and the data is showing them that most of this audience [is watching video] on mobile devices,” Cangilla says.
Valenzuela, whose initial pilot was one of the six New Form sold to Verizon to be made into full shows, has found the entire process of creating for mobile liberating.
Before his current deal, he’d produced over 100 short-form videos since first pushing the yellow record button on YouTube in 2008. He’s used to having to grab people’s attention from the start, and maintain it. And on mobile video, this is the primary job requirement.
There is a hyper cycle of creating video for the web, Valenzuela explains. You learn what works and what doesn’t, quickly and harshly. “And that by the time someone gives you an opportunity, you’re ready. Let’s do this. You know exactly what it should look like.”
All someone had to do was give Valenzuela the money — and now Verizon has.