This week at JW Insights conference (hosted by JW Player), former Buzzfeed president and current founder of live stream news channel Cheddar, Jonathan Steinberg, proclaimed that a business created yesterday, can’t successfully be created tomorrow. Some might agree, but if any company is out to prove Steinberg wrong, it’s Playboy. From its Newfronts presentation today in New York City, the over 60-year-old brand showed that it’s been out-Vice’ing Vice for decades. And now, with the launch of a new branded content studio “Playboy Studios” and the forthcoming rollout of 14 original series, Playboy is out to prove the staying-power of its brand.
“We have an independence to our thought and to our spirit that’s as evident today as it was in 1953,” said Playboy’s Chief Digital Officer Phillip Morelock during the presentation.
But before looking forward, one must look slightly into the past. In 2014, Playboy made their site “safe for work.” And by December of 2015, Playboy announced it would no longer feature women nude — a promise that came to fruition in February of this year when the magazine debuted its first non-nude cover (pictured left). Now, two months later, Playboy reminded the audience of its influence over the years in both high and low brow editorial fare across categories like politics, pop culture, entertainment and more.
What better way to assuage potential client anxieties than to remind buyers that Playboy “has discovered and championed influential artists, has published works by the most highly regarded journalists, authors and thought leaders,” and has been the home of culture-driving interviews and features? “It’s where James Bond was first introduced to America, where “Fahrenheit 451” (Ray Bradbury) was published before it became required reading in the classroom; and where “A Christmas Story” was first told,” the opening sizzle reminded attendees. It was also the publisher of an article that inspired the multiple-award-winning film “The Hurt Locker,” which also propelled change among veteran benefits and treatment by the government and military.
As a female attendee largely unfamiliar with Playboy’s “editorial excellence” over the years, the history lesson proved well-played. The message: Playboy is at the forefront of culture, continuing to do what it set out to from the beginning — speak to and titillate the male mind, with or without naked women. In other words, Playboy has looked and acted a lot more like Vice than Vice, and its aspiring competitors, have been.
The slate Playboy announced today was no exception. Food. Culture. Gaming. Sex. Politics. Icons. Playboy is committed. And the shows, both scripted and unscripted, are edgy, controversial, thought-provoking, and fun. “Nothing has been more exciting than leading this content transformation at Playboy,” said Chief Content Officer Cory Jones, touting that the slate “reflects [their] authoritative voice, advising and entertaining men.” Among the formats announced are food gastronomy series “What the Food?”, scripted comedy series “Sprout,” and travel docu-series “Meccas,” in which the pilot episode explores Cuba. (See below for full slate and descriptions announced.)
“As a top 10 social media publisher, Playboy is one of the most digitally engaged media brands available to advertisers,” added Morelock. And to service those advertisers, the publisher has extended its business to include Playboy Studios, a branded entertainment division that is equipped to build integrated campaigns cross platform. Events, content, editorial and social activations were all promoted during the presentation. So was Playboy’s growth by over 400%, and expanded monthly video viewership from 13 million to 28 million, as well as the fact that 97% people on the planet recognize the Playboy brand.
Despite its hopeful, high energy presentation, Playboy, like other programmers, faces a deep competitive set of distributors for original and syndicated video programming. To stay ahead will require sizeable budgets to pick up content and a measured standard for what equates to success in video for them. As so many other recent entrants have learned, including go90 and the fallen Samsung Milk Video, getting and keeping audience without a “must-watch” program is beyond difficult. And whether the brand retains its edgy, “we’re back and ready for action” ‘tude will remain to be seen at this time next year. But for this year, and for its first Newfront, Playboy came out strong.
“For decades, Playboy has been a platform for expression and creativity — a catalyst for progress,” said Scott Flanders, CEO, Playboy Enterprises. “We have always pushed the boundaries of imagination, we’re an aspirational brand and have been a vanguard for exploration, all the while giving a voice to provocative opinions. Now, with the debut of our original video slate, we’re continuing to usher in a new era of Playboy. And we’re just getting started…”
*All photos Courtesy of Playboy Enterprises.
Below is a comprehensive list of Playboy’s new titles, announced at the 2016 Newfront (from a release):
House of Waris: Waris Ahluwalia hosts a regular dinner party with interesting luminaries. The first episode features Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black), Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), comedian Horatio Sanz and filmmaker Liz Goldwyn.
The Life by Playboy: Get an inside look at the process of editing the iconic lifestyle section of Playboy magazine.
Tech 360: Famed tech blogger, Jon Rettinger of TechnoBuffalo, and model / pro-gamer, Amy Willerton, take audiences on a full-fledged tour of the most hallowed tech destinations. Tech 360 is Playboy’s first series shot in virtual reality.
Meccas: Playboy explores the world’s most sought after destinations — from the one wave that every surfer dreams of riding, to the vineyard every sommelier dreams of visiting. The pilot episode is shot in Cuba’s rum haunts.
Coaching Trees (Chef Edition): In this documentary series, Playboy delves into the interconnections between the most respected chefs. The first episode shows how lauded chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller has spawned a movement of perfectionist cooking from French cuisine to hamburgers and fried chicken.
Journalista: In the hosted documentary series Journalista, Playboy correspondent, 25-year-old Yoonj Kim takes audiences into the fascinating worlds of sex, drugs, and alternative lifestyles through experiential and immersive journalism.
Food & Spirits
What The Food?!: Preeminent molecular gastronomist Wylie Dufresne (WD50) and molecular mixologist Dave Arnold (Booker & Dax) star in this food series that’s more MythBusters than traditional food show. Watch them deconstruct and reconstruct celebrities’ favorite food in each episode.
Dinner Date with Furious Pete: YouTube star Peter Czerwinski, better known by his stage name Furious Pete, has built a following of more than four million viewers by showcasing both his inspiring fitness regimen, as well as his competitive eating ability. How can a guy with washboard abs eat 12 pizzas? The world isn’t fair. That’s how. In Dinner Date, Pete teaches guys how to cook impressive yet easy meals for their dates, and his female friends give him feedback on both his food and dating skills.
The Booze Room “All the News That’s Fit to Drink”: In this weekly comedy news show, comedian Josh Wolf (Chelsea Lately) and world renowned mixologist Alex Day (Death & Co.), discuss the news of the week. One part news, two parts comedy and one stiff drink.
Sprout: Follow protagonist Chris Cooper, an overweight, foul mouthed, cigarette smoking Hollywood-type, through a hilarious satirical view of Los Angeles culture. Expect lots of fun cameos from actors and social media stars.
Fronting: Infused with high caliber actors from popular films and TV shows and featuring Facebook and Vine star Jon Paul Piques, Fronting is a raucous comedy series about a group of misfits running a sports agency together.
Robots Are Hard: Set three years into the future, this scripted comedy series follows the brilliant engineers at an artificial intelligence (AI) robotics company. Their only problem is that their robots, who are all played by social media stars, have more personality than they can handle and there is no way to destroy them. Robots Are Hard is created by Aaron Shore (The Office) and Jonathon Magnum (Whose Line Is It Anyway?).
Strangeplay with Mr. Sark: Hosted by the Grand Poobah of gaming and YouTube sensation Mr. Sark, this series explores the world of gaming. Through hilarious skits, reenactments and game play commentary, viewers are taken on a journey of the latest in gaming with appearances by the biggest names in the industry.
Gamer Next Door: Brought to you by hardcore gamer and Playmate Pamela Horton, Gamer Next Door is what every gamer wants: a chance to catch up with influencers in the gaming community; a way to check out previews, learn limited edition details and dispel game rumors; and an opportunity to play some video games.