People, EW. Go For Ad-Supported VOD

You don’t want to be the last one to the party, especially a star-studded party. When Time Inc. today unveiled the People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN) that will be streamed online,  celebrity A-listers could comment, “Well, they’re the big names in that space!” and also exclaim, “They’re late! Where the heck have they been all this time?”

Online celeb news is not exactly a rare commodity. Everybody’s doing it, and have been for awhile, including Entertainment Weekly’s own site which includes hot lists and blooper reels and all that.  On People’s site today, there’s “explosive”  video from “Rob and Chyna” and the latest “DWTS” dish on Marilu Henner.

But there must be hundreds or thousands of outlets for celebrity news online, lots of apps, and instant updates from Twitter. If you’re not ahead of the game, I think you may be way behind this crowd.

So a digital channel like this is a little less than stop-the-presses news. Oddly, given how long People and Entertainment Weekly have been around that it didn’t get into the VOD space a lot earlier.

The very good news is PEN, which starts tomorrow is advertising supported while a substantial part of the crowd is going with paid subscriptions and an ad free environment. PEN starts with ad support from Alcon contact lenses, L’Oreal USA and MillerCoors. In a press release, Rich Battista, the president of Time brands, stresses, “We have a strong foundation of outstanding original programming and partnerships with leading multi-platform distributors and blue chip advertising partners from day one.”

The magazines also come to the party with online audiences of nearly 100 million, and with PEN distribution via Apple TV, Amazon, Roku, Chromecast, Comcast Xfinity, Xumo, Pluto TV and iOS and Android mobile devices, it will be hard to miss. PEN will offer 100 hours of original programming, a huge library and original programming. PEN will play like a TV channel in three hour loops; when you get there, a program likely will already by in progress.

But as Variety’s Todd Spangler notes, Time’s HR department isn’t processing a lot of new hires. He says PEN is only adding six new staffers, and it appears that everything shot for PEN will also be used for the publications.

Jess Cagle, editorial director for both brands, told Variety, “For the next year, I will not greenlight a story without there being a video component to that story. He adds later, “The cost (of launching PEN) would have been prohibitive if we created programming separate from what we are already doing,”

Programs to appear either when PEN premieres or in the first few days after include;

The Children of 9/11: 15 Years Later”  examining  the lives of five children who “not only lost their fathers but never got the chance to meet them because they were still in their mothers’ wombs”;  The Jess Cagle Interview,”  featuring the editorial chief talking to the “most fascinating stars and creative minds”  as they “open up about their childhoods, their inspirations, their finest moments and their greatest challenges.”; and “EW Reunites”, which brings together the stars and creative talent of past hits, like “Friday Night Lights.”

Other shows more or less defined by their titles, including “People Mom Talk”;  the Emmy “Red Carpet Live Special”; “Binge-Worthy”: and one-offs involving Time brands like the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and the "Food & Wine Classic."

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