DECA threw a party Wednesday at its Santa Monica headquarters to celebrate the one year anniversary of its relationship with Boing Boing TV. The 16-person entertainment studio has other reasons to celebrate, having survived its first year in business and signing a deal with YouTube channel Smosh.
DECA, which stands for Digital Entertainment Corporation of America, was formed to “bridge the gap between Hollywood, Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley.” It finds, funds, markets and distributes digital entertainment properties.
During its first year, the firm has supported the launch of new digital-only programming and negotiated ad deals with major brands, including Blizzard/Activision, FedEx, Lacoste and Visa, according to co-founder and CEO Michael Wayne.
One of DECA’s first endeavors was supporting technology blog Boing Boing’s expansion into video. Its latest, announced this week, is taking under its wing Smosh, a teen- and young adult-focused YouTube channel. Smosh’s videos attract between 1 and 10 million views each and draw an average of 20,000 comments, according to DECA.
Among its other properties are reality-style fashion program Closet Crashers; Project Lore, a personality and community driven show about World of Warcraft; and parenting comedy show Cool Mom.
While happy with the progress of the company, Wayne acknowledged the first year involved some mistakes. In particular, he cited Bushleague.tv, a site aimed at young men that — while still up and running — has not met DECA’s expectations. He said the property never managed to find a core of devoted users and had trouble attracting advertisers.
“The producers who pitched it were very talented, but the idea could have been more focused,” said Wayne. “After it launched, instead of standing out of the crowd it became one of a thousand sites targeted to young men.”
Wayne said the experience with Bushleague.tv taught him about the importance of being rigorous about keeping digital properties “narrowly focused.” Another lesson taught by DECA’s first year, according to Wayne, is the importance of talent. “Our properties really, rely on having someone who is very talented, someone who’s been online, has an audience they speak to and is very passionate about whatever the content is,” he said.
That was a big part of his attraction to Smosh, for which DECA will handle ad sales and business development. Wayne said he wasn’t interested at first when someone from a talent agency asked if he’d ever seen the site. However, a meeting in L.A. with Smosh’s enthusiastic young principals, Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, convinced him DECA should get involved.
“One of the reasons we looked at Smosh as a partner is that they had risen above the status of average amateur video,” said CEO Michael Wayne. “These are guys who have been producing content for the past three years and rose to the top of the YouTube community.”
Wayne, noting Smosh was making a profit from Google and YouTube ads as well as from merchandise sales, said DECA hopes to make the business and brand “more professional.”
It will also pitch Smosh to big-name advertisers. Wayne said Boing Boing, which created more than 250 shows during the year, attracted advertisers such as T-Mobile, Microsoft, and BMW. Ads were sold through Federated Media.
In a number of ways, Smosh is the perfect example of the type of online property for which DECA was formed. It has a big audience, there’s nothing in its videos that would scare away advertisers, the content is fairly well produced and it is not a child of the entertainment mega-machine.
“Smosh really resonates with teens and young adults, but [Padilla and Hecox] never went through the traditional media and ad channels,” said Wayne. “They’d never been in a pitch meeting on Madison Avenue.”
Those Madison Avenue types, it turns out, are on the squeamish side. Wayne said DECA continually finds that big brand advertisers shy away from overly edgy material and that properties targeted at younger people tend to walk a fine line. “Particularly now, advertisers are looking for safe places to advertise online,” said Wayne. “They don’t want to be near very edgy content or things that may be unseemly.”
He noted that, while Bushleague.tv doesn’t run user-generated video, which is Kryptonite to most advertisers, it does have content that “pushes the boundaries” enough to make monetization difficult. “I just think it’s a very competitive space online and advertisers are just a bit wary of it,” said Wayne, who added DECA will keep trying to find properties that offer highly-focused content for niche audiences and do so in an advertiser-safe manner.
YouTube is said to be preparing new non-video features that will allow content creators to interact with their viewers through photos, text posts, links and polls.
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