PBS Digital Teams with Magnet Media on a Pair of YouTube Series (Exclusive)

/ Dec 11, 2013


PBS Digital Studios has partnered with Magnet Media’s original content arm, Magnet Media Originals, to develop and produce two new web series for the PBS’ video network on YouTube.

“Bongo Bongo,” which is titled after the linguistics term for imaginary languages, will take a closer look at the history of the English vocabulary. Each episode will focus on one unique word and dissect its origins. It will be written and hosted by Ethan Fixell.

“Food Buzz” will track the latest news and trends in the “food blogosphere,” including the latest food memes, and the history, science, and psychology behind the phenomenon. It will be written and hosted by Chris Hauselt.

These would add to PBS Digital’s current originals slate, which encompasses 30 shows including “Idea Channel” and “Blank on Blank.”

Both shows share some similarities: They will be hosted programs and will run once a week for an initial order of seven episodes each; and to fit the PBS brand, they will focus on providing a healthy mix of entertaining and educational content.

Each show was also developed based on the results from a YouTube audit performed by Magnet Media for PBS Digital. The analysis aimed to identify not only what’s currently working for PBS on YouTube, but also the holes in the programming calendar that Magnet and PBS could plug with the right type of content.

For instance, Magnet Media noticed that food channels were capable of bringing in high RPMs for PBS Digital on YouTube, according to Drea Bernardi, Magnet Media Originals’ director of content development. Trouble was, they weren’t generating a lot of views — a clear opportunity for PBS to address. This led to the creation of “Food Buzz,” which will tackle trending topics in the world of food. It’s a format that works remarkably well on YouTube, combining key ingredients like vlogging, strong personalities, direct user engagement, and topical content. The show’s host, Chris Hauselt, has experience in talking about food as a former producer and host for Martha Stewart’s satellite radio channel on SiriusXM.

Launching in early 2014, the shows’ relationship with data won’t end there, according to Matt Graham, senior director of PBS Digital Studios. “We iterate everything. When we launch a show, we assume we got at least half of it wrong,” he says. “Then we listen carefully to how the audience responds and analyze how it performs, and from there we evolve it pretty quickly. We plan on doing that with both of these shows.”

Graham says PBS plans to promote “Bongo Bongo” and “Food Buzz” across the company’s digital network on YouTube, as well as PBS and PBS Digital’s other social media channels. “We have enough reach at this point” — 750,000 subscribers — “that a good show that’s working has a fair shot at getting the traction it needs,” says Graham.

There is also the possibility of some of this content, as well as other shows produced by PBS Digital, showing up on PBS TV channels — maybe in the form of interstitials. Graham says the PBS Digital Studios team will be working with the broadcast side more in the future to do “strategic integrations” for the short-form digital content.

As for getting the right sponsors on board, PBS and Magnet refer to their existing relationships in the entertainment space — PBS is PBS, and Magnet has created content for brands like Google, NBC, DreamWorks Animation, Showtime, and Microsoft. But more so than even that, the teams will continue to use data to get the right advertisers on board. “We see this is as an iterative process,” says Bernardi. “We will create more data once the shows have launched, and we will bring that back and hone our sponsorship strategy to get those [brands] who are most interested in our audience.”

“Bongo Bongo” and “Food Buzz” are executive produced by Graham, Bernardi (who also directed), Jason Bral, and Magnet Media founder and CEO Megan Cunningham. Lauren Saks and Jerry Melichar share additional Producer credits, with Fernando Maldonado serving as Associate Producer.

The shows will be officially unveiled tonight at an event hosted by Magnet Media Originals and PBS Digital at the Magnet Media offices in New York City.

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