The market for short-form digital series is booming, with a growing number of video-streaming and social platforms seeking entertainment content to attractÂ young viewersÂ thatÂ spend a lot of theirÂ time on mobile devices. Warner Bros., one of the most prolific TV producers in the world, wants a piece of that action.
Two years ago, Warner Bros. created Stage 13, a digital studio focused on making short-form shows for emerging platforms. In June, Stage 13 premiered its first digital series, âSnatchers,â on Verizonâs Go90 streaming platform. The show, which spans eight episodes, is a horror comedy about a âstatus-obsessedâ high schooler who loses her virginity only to discover sheâs pregnant with an alien baby.
âBesides super-serving a young, multicultural audience, weâre all in the same business: looking to reach audiences anywhere, at any time,â said Diana Mogollon, svp and gm of Stage 13. âWe saw an opportunity in short-form content, which meant episode lengths anywhere between five to 15 minutes, with the sweet spot being in the 10- to 12-minute episode range.â
This is far different from what Warner Bros. is primarily known for. ForÂ the coming 2017-18 TV season, Warner Bros. Television will be producing more than 35 prime-time shows — all with hour- orÂ half-hour-long episodes — ranging from âThe Big Bang Theoryâ for CBS to âWestworldâ for HBO.
But even in the era of peak TV, there are opportunities to sell shows to digital newcomers seeking short-form video series, including Verizonâs Go90, Comcastâs Watchable, Facebook and Snapchat. Top digital publishers, including BuzzFeed, Mashable and Bleacher Report, are feeding the demand byÂ building their own studio businesses.
âSnatchersâ is one of 11 scripted and unscripted shows that Stage 13 has completed. For the others, the studio is in discussions with a range of distributors, said Mogollon. âThis is a time when everyone wants great content — just look at Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, and how theyâre creating opportunities to showcase video,â said Mogollon.
Stage 13 sits under the Warner Bros. Digital Networks Group, which includes the cartoon subscription streaming service Boomerang, the Korean drama subscription service DramaFever, gaming-focused YouTube network and studio Machinima, LeBron Jamesâ Uninterrupted and Ellen DeGeneresâ Ellen Digital Ventures. Mogollon and Stage 13 canÂ work closely with other companies in this portfolio, which she said gives Stage 13 an advantage over other studios.
As is the case with any digital unit owned by a major media company, Stage 13 is described as a startup — its Los Angeles headquarters arenât even on the Warner Bros. lot. The studio has more than a dozen employees with backgrounds in independent film, cable TV, music and digital entertainment.
âThe way Kevin [Tsujihara, Warner Bros. CEO] and Craig [Hunegs, Warner Bros. Digital Networks president] framed it was: This is a startup, go off the lot; youâll get the funding and resources you need, but letâs make sure thereâs no red tape holding you back,â said Mogollon.
Image via Stage 13