AOL has revealed its 2014 slate of original programming at its Digital Content NewFront in Brooklyn, New York. Looking at the lineup, AOL appears to be reaffirming its commitment to creating premium shows with authentic storytelling. Featuring talent and producers such as James Franco, Steve Buscemi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zoe Saldana, and Ellen DeGeneres, the shows will span topics from family and comedy to business and technology, and will also include AOL’s first long-form series, Connected. AOL’s 16 original shows will premiere throughout the year on The AOL On Network, the leading video network for premium, curated content on the Web.
At the same time, AOL and Nielsen announced a deal that is the first of its kind. AOL has signed on to participate in a beta that will provide TV-comparable audience measurement across all of AOL’s new series. The Nielsen beta will deliver gross ratings points (GRPs) that reflect the audience reach by age and gender for AOL’s new programming as an extension of Nielsen Digital Program Ratings, which currently measures TV-originated content viewed online. In addition to measuring content, AOL will be tagging associated advertising using Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings. The combination of audience measurement across “digital-first” content and related advertising will make it possible for complete audience comparisons to TV for the first time.
The 2014 programming slate includes:
MAKING A SCENE WITH JAMES FRANCO – Born out of Franco’s love for movies, each episode will feature James and one or more fellow artists discussing their favorite, classic scenes from Hollywood cinema. Then they will put their own stamp on history by recreating these scenes with an irreverent twist.
KEVIN NEALON’S LAUGH LESSONS – Comedy is hard, but teaching comedy to children is hilariously difficult. Kevin Nealon is giving the challenge to some world-famous comedians in this new AOL series. As these young minds meet with comedy’s best, get ready to learn some valuable comedy lessons, and to laugh! If you thought kids say the darndest things, wait until you hear what these comedians have to say.
INSPIRED – This show features A-list celebrities, visionaries, and some of the biggest newsmakers of our generation recounting the stories behind their most life-changing moments of inspiration. Original photos and archival footage will bring these moments to life along with in-depth interviews.
MY HERO – Executive produced by Zoe Saldana (who will star in one of the episodes), this is an uplifting show featuring celebrities paying a surprise tribute to one person who changed their life by giving them an over-the-top, heart-felt surprise.
WIN/WIN – The biggest names in business join a famous athlete for a day of honest conversation, legitimate fun, and surprising insights. Win/Win will provide unprecedented access into the minds of the world’s most-celebrated entrepreneurs and athletes in a compelling, fly-on-the-wall style that will offer fans a fascinating view of what life is really like at the summit of these two increasingly intertwined worlds. With a mix of candid discussions and storytelling expertise, Win/Win will be the ultimate window on the personalities who define today’s sports and business landscapes.
THAT’S RACIST – Jews and money. Asian drivers. Polish IQ. CPT… that’s racist! But where do these stereotypes come from? Actor and comedian Mike Epps explores the back stories of this humor and how history and fact often distorts into a snide – but sometimes funny – shorthand. Then again, racist remarks can also get you a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine from the NBA.
SO MUCH MORE – Punk rock singer Tom Gabel of Against Me! made news in 2012 when she came out as a transgender woman – but what was more remarkable was the overwhelming support the music community gave her as she made her transition to Laura Jane Grace. This is her story – and the story of other members of the trans community whose experiences are woefully underrepresented and misunderstood in the media.
FOLLOW ME – This series documents the lives of modern day digital creators that are redefining the definition of celebrity. Each episode features a different star allowing us unprecedented access into their life to share their story. We’ll experience life when the vlogging, instagramming, and tweeting stops… if it ever does.
THE ROAD TO DISRUPT – A 12-episode documentary series following five start-up companies competing in the 2013 San Francisco TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield as they fine-tune their products and eventually present in front of a panel of judges in hopes of winning $50,000 in funding.
IN SHORT – Launched Monday on AOL, this five-episode series from Academy Award-winning producer Christine Vachon and Jiro Dreams of Sushi producer Kevin Iwashina features a talented group of actors including Katie Holmes (Miss Meadows), Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs), Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), James Purefoy (The Following), and Judy Greer (The Descendants) as they step behind the camera to create their own short-form documentaries. Each episode is seen through the eyes of a different actor as they take a seat in the director’s chair for an in-depth look at the cultural ideas, inspirations, and influences most important to them.
PARK BENCH – Steve Buscemi and AOL have teamed up to take over the streets of New York in this new original series – a local’s take on the special people, places, and spirit of The Big Apple. Through unscripted moments and conversations with average New Yorkers – as well as Steve’s celebrity friends – Buscemi takes viewers on a first-hand misadventure. Discussing everything from pop culture to current events, the show will convey Steve’s relationship with New York and its array of one-of-a-kind characters – taking viewers beyond mere interviews and involving them in his daily life.
CITY.BALLET. – Return to the intimate and exciting world of the New York City Ballet, where executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker takes a closer look at the compelling lives of the company members; their hopes, their dreams, their passion, and their hardships, both on stage and off.
Additionally, digital influencer Justine Ezarik (iJustine) is back. After covering the world of wearable tech last season, iJustine is expanding her coverage this year by profiling the hottest tech trends across the country. The show’s second season topics will range from gaming to beauty tech and will showcase iJustine’s trademark fun personality while featuring the latest trending topics. The series is sponsored by Verizon.
AOL’s 2014 original programming builds on the success of the 2013 slate, having garnered a total of 150 million views within the year. Of those, #CandidlyNicole, Hardwired, city.ballet., and The Future Starts Here amassed a combined 75 million views since launch, matching the success of top-tier cable programs. With VH1 set to release half-hour episodes of #CandidlyNicole in July, AOL has proven that the lines between traditional TV and digital have become increasingly blurred, and that great content can truly be found on every screen.