I think they've let down audiences, I think they've let down advertisers, I think they've let down journalism. I think the stakes are too high. "And the reality is I don't think we should cede the ground in the news business to Facebook or Apple. And no matter how many task forces and how many reporters they hire, it doesn't change the fact that's not their core business." "It's pretty hard to look at them and not see a media company, and the same with Apple," he said of Facebook.
While he acknowledged that some of that development led to dead ends, Morse said CNN learned from mistakes in ways that some other digital content players in the digital space did not. Morse is mum for now on exactly what new offerings CNN has coming, but it's possible he'll make good on the subscription extensions to its business that the company signaled nearly two years ago were in development.
"A lot of our competitors that were quick at the time — the digital upstarts that were quick to criticize CNN, criticize old media — and took shots at us," said Morse. "They're not around anymore. We weathered the storm, we took the turns we needed to take, and now we're well positioned for the future."
While politics remains a big priority for CNN as next year's presidential election approaches, expansions in coverage areas ranging from business to travel will also help insulate the network from the advertisers who are increasingly skittish about associating their brands with polarizing, controversial content.
"The biggest drivers of traffic for CNN digital are stories that are not related to politics," he said on the latest episode of the Variety podcast "Strictly Business." "CNN's success in digital has not been driven by Donald Trump."
CNN is also proceeding cautiously in its partnerships with social media giants like Facebook, which Morse regards as competitors as much as they are collaborators.
Andrew Morse, executive VP and general manager of the AT&T-owned company's digital operations, pointed to recent coverage of natural disasters and international incidents as more potent audience draws than the president.
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No subject might get as much attention across CNN's digital properties as Donald Trump, but that doesn't mean the news network is dependent on him for web traffic.
Said Morse, "We went to WarnerMedia, we went to John Stankey, our CEO, some time ago now and to AT&T, and we said, 'We think the CNN digital business has extraordinary potential for growth in new products, platforms and experiences, taking this brand and building out. And we think you ought to invest in us.' Their only question was, 'How much do you need and how fast can you go?'"
Morse pledged that consumers in the coming months will see new digital products from CNN, efforts fueled by a new owner that was eager to help the news brand capitalize on its massive wireless customer base.
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Past episodes include conversations with Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Dana Walden, co-head of 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Television Group. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.” />

"The idea of trying to embrace diversity and create an equal-opportunity playing field for (diverse) voices to proliferate really runs in to a problem when it's the first step of a 100-step race," Khanna said. "The next 99 steps also need support."
Revolt still does not have full distribution even on Comcast's cable systems, she noted. The Comcast-NBCU deal provided a unique entry point for an entrepreneur such as Combs, but to seed a strong independent media company takes a lot more than carriage. On the latest episode of Variety podcast "Strictly Business," Khanna is candid about the challenges of running an independent outfit at a time when the pay TV marketplace is dominated by giants.
Comcast's 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal was approved by federal regulators with the condition that the cable giant offer valuable real estate on its cable systems to 10 new independently owned cable channels. Sean Combs' Revolt TV was birthed in 2013 as a part of a media mega-merger.
New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.” /> "Strictly Business" is Variety's weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment.
During the wide-ranging conversation, Khanna addresses the growth strategy that she describes as "super-serving a super-niche audience" to make Revolt's linear and digital content offerings a hub for all things hip-hop. She also reflects on getting the chance to work with a truly diverse management after years of "being the only woman or one of a small handful of women in the room, and almost exclusively the only woman of color."
Roma Khanna, the MGM and NBCUniversal alum who has headed Revolt as CEO since 2017, said the Comcast carriage deal offered an important leg up, but only to the first rung of the ladder. Without that initial launch pad, Revolt's linear TV and digital content business would not likely exist today. Khanna is focused now on expanding the scope of Revolt beyond hip-hop music videos to encompass comedy and lifestyle programming.

Walden's specialty is making movies in the modest $25-50 million budget range, far below what studios spend on the blockbusters crowding cineplexes these days. Once open to helping finance a $200 million-plus project like "The Chronicles of Narnia," Walden has lost its taste for mega-budget fare because the economics no longer make sense to Smith. But it's an increasingly untenable model considering that often requires a P&A spend exceeding the production budget.
Even the kind of content Walden is looking to invest in has changed a bit, as its backing of "Everest" in 2015 demonstrated interest in "soft PG-13" films that aren't just for kids but still deliver the inspiration central to the company's brand promise.
"The industry has changed so dramatically around us and so quickly, you realize to continue with your mandate, to be relevant, you have to change with the industry," he explained in the latest episode of the Variety podcast "Strictly Business."
While Walden still considers itself a producer for the theatrical market first and foremost, Smith has diversified the company into TV and streaming, including an upcoming series for Netflix based on "The Baby-Sitters Club" book series.
9). "Dora and the Lost City of Gold" is just the kind of family-friendly movie you'd expect to see from Walden Media, which teamed with Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon to bring the iconic kiddie character to theaters (premiering Aug.
"Studios are looking to hedge their bets, looking for partners," said Smith, "and I don't know how other partners are received, but studio chiefs call me.
Under Smith, Walden has transformed into a nimbler operation with more flexible approaches to either producing, developing or financing projects.
But while the company is as dedicated as ever to burnishing the inspirational fare-focused brand it has built over the past 16 years, the strategies CEO/president Frank Smith has employed to keep Walden in the game have evolved considerably in recent years.
No wonder a well-capitalized firm like Walden — part of Anschutz Entertainment Group — stays on the call sheet for studios looking for partners to help offset their risk. Smith revealed that Walden recently saw its decade-long first-look deal with Fox Filmed Entertainment expire but is currently in talks with a different major studio on a deal, though he declined to specify which company.
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Past episodes include conversations with Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Dana Walden, co-head of 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Television Group. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.” />
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"We got out of that business at the right time to focus on what Mass Appeal is really great at — premium storytelling," Bittenbender says.
A new episode debuts each Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.” /> “Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment.
Mass Appeal had put energy and resources into drawing visitors to a dedicated digital content hub. But Bittenbender switched gears to focusing on producing high-end fare for established buyers, a la the Showtime partnership on "Of Mics and Men."
As choppy waters continue to batter the similarly situated Vice Media and other digital content endeavors in recent months, Bittenbender is looking toward diversification as a solution for today's unstable digital environment.
Mass Appeal is riding the momentum at present from the success of its Showtime documentary series "Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men," which exemplifies the company's ability to produce high-end content all while handling marketing and branded content initiatives. Bittenbender details the company's operations and strategy on the latest episode of "Strictly Business," Variety's weekly podcasting featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment.
There's also a ventures arm that is working on everything from a cannabis-related opportunity to content geared toward children of hip-hop generation parents. It also has a film and TV production arm, a brand consulting business and a creative advertising arm, the latter of which is a reliable "cash cow" for the company with clients that include Google. Now the company operates a music label in partnership with Universal Music. Mass Appeal had been dormant for some time when Bittenbender teamed with rapper Nas and director Sacha Jenkins to relaunch the brand in 2013.
Mass Appeal is a hip-hop, culture-focused brand that was born in the 1990s as a New York-based fanzine-style magazine, but CEO Peter Bittenbender is adapting for the future.
"Whether you're a music artist, filmmaker, journalist, graphic designer — we are a place where you can come in, and we can help you realize your dreams." "We look at Mass Appeal as like an engine that creatives can plug into," Bittenbender says.

So what is important is that we maintain the relevance that we built." "What has changed is there a lot more brands out here who are following the same path," said Meier on the latest episode of the Variety podcast "Strictly Business." "What we're seeing now is we're not alone in a space that probably 20-30 years ago we still had a much much stronger voice in.
Listen to the podcast below for the full interview, or check out previous "Strictly Business" episodes featuring Discovery CEO David Zaslav, ICM Partners agent Esther Newberg, and HBO chairman/CEO Richard Plepler. "Strictly Business" is Variety's weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. A new episode debuts each Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.” />
The company is even venturing as far afield as mind-control games, which are intended to the help the hundreds of athletes with ties to Red Bull improve their mental acuity. Meier recounts the many ways the brand has evolved its media strategy in the action sports space and beyond.
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Red Bull isn't entirely focused on branded entertainment, however. After getting traction on the festival circuit in recent years with documentaries, Meier disclosed he is know exploring his options in scripted entertainment as well–a first for Red Bull. Asked to describe the kind of content he'd be looking to script, he said certain stories Red Bull has come across on the documentary side, where the company will continue to develop projects, have broader commercial potential.
"For us, anything that's aspirational, anything that lifts your heart, lifts yours spirits," said Meier. "I think there are stories that we can get ourselves behind that are extremely in the spirit of what we believe as Red Bull."
While known best for its line of energy drinks, the beverage maker has eschewed traditional marketing for content that blurred the boundaries between advertising and programming. But that didn't mean Gerrit Meier could simply keep doing business as Red Bull Media Network always had when he joined as CEO of the division two years ago.
With memorable moves like sponsoring Felix Baumgartner's jump from outer space in 2012 to achieve the world's farthest ever-parachute drop, Red Bull has been a pioneering force in branded entertainment.

"Part of the secret sauce of the Ellen Digital Network is tied to the show itself, that’s a real strength for us," said Riley in the latest episode of the Variety podcast "Strictly Business."
It's the place where the authenticity important to her persona truly shines, according to Riley. "Two-way communication brings the authenticity much closer to the consumer, and clearly social media has been a very successful tool in order to do that," he said. The linchpin of EDN is the social reach of DeGeneres-related brands, which totals over 200 million across platforms.


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A new episode debuts each Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. "Strictly Business" is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Listen to the podcast below for the full interview, or check out previous “Strictly Business” episodes featuring Discovery CEO David Zaslav, ICM Partners agent Esther Newberg, and HBO chairman/CEO Richard Plepler.
Discovering new talent has also been key, such as digital-native Kalen Allen, star of "OMKalen." A big part of DeGeneres' digital play has been bringing in other talent to topline content of their own, particularly with sponsorships attached, including Kristen Bell, who returns for a third season of "Momsplaining" along with marketer Johnson & Johnson.
When Ellen DeGeneres returns to primetime on Jan. 8 with another season of NBC's "Ellen's Game of Games," it won't be just in a TV-series format; a new companion app equipped with an augmented reality feature will allow users to play even when the show is off the air.
Since coming over from the top job at Disney's ABC Family (now known as Freeform) cable channel over a year ago, he's mastered the balance between DeGeneres' TV and digital footprints. It's a reflection of the dual mindset of Michael Riley, general manager of Ellen Digital Ventures, a vast array of online properties generating over 1 billion monthly views.