FilmRise’s Max Einhorn on Realizing the Potential of Creators for Longform Content

FilmRise’s Max Einhorn on Realizing the Potential of Creators for Longform Content

April 29, 2024 | With deals for Creator content to crossover to traditional media hitting the news with increasing frequency, DEG caught up with FilmRise’s Max Einhorn, SVP Acquisitions and Co-Productions, to talk about what motivated the company to start repackaging and bringing Creator content to OTT channels as early as 2020, and where the segment is going.

DEG: From Mr. Beast’s Beast Games being ordered to series on Prime Video, to Ryan’s World The Movie: Titan Universe Adventure being produced for direct distribution to theaters, creators are having a real moment of crossover to platforms built on longform media. What consumer trends are driving this evolution?

ME: The evolution of creators moving into longform media platforms is primarily driven by the deep resonance and connection these creators have with their audiences. At FilmRise, we pioneered the integration of YouTube content (outside of the kids-only space) into the long-form OTT space, recognizing early on the massive audience draw that creator-led brands like Cocomelon and Ryan’s World command—often rivaling or surpassing viewership numbers of major network television premieres. Despite the difference in production quality compared to traditional media, many creators have become household names, with younger demographics like millennials and Gen Z viewing them as the A-list celebrities in their lives. We hypothesized that by thoughtfully structuring and formatting this content into television episodes and seasons, streaming platforms would be receptive to including them in their offerings.

DEG: FilmRise became a leader in this category early on with your Creator Partner Program, which helps creators expand their global audiences by distributing content on TV and streaming platforms and growing their revenue streams. What potential did you see here that put you ahead of the curve?

ME: In 2020, amidst the unprecedented industry standstill caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we at FilmRise identified a unique opportunity to bridge a significant gap in the media landscape. With the industry grappling with slowed deal flows and market uncertainties, we recognized a disconnect between traditional film and TV studios’ perceptions of creator content’s viability and the burgeoning creator economy thriving on platforms like YouTube and social media. With no production in 2020 and slowing deals, pipelines for original content and newly licensed content were expected to go dry quickly. The table was set to do something innovative.

Many creators, while focused on building their own audiences and diversifying into ventures like consumer-packaged goods, had not prioritized expansion onto streaming platforms. Yet, the staggering viewership numbers of these creators underscored a significant cultural resonance. Recognizing YouTube’s position as the second most visited website globally and its contribution to a robust Creator Economy currently valued at $250 billion annually — a figure projected to more than double by 2030 — we saw an opportunity.

DEG: Can you share a success story based on a particular creator property?

ME: Our partnership with the YouTube sensation Unspeakable stands as a shining example of the transformative impact our Creator Partner Program can have. Distinct highlights from Unspeakable’s journey with us underscore his incredible success:

Broad Fanbase: Amassing over 20 million subscribers across his YouTube channels, Unspeakable has proven his wide-reaching appeal and powerful presence in the digital content sphere.

Eclectic Content Mix: Renowned for his immersive Minecraft sessions, Unspeakable’s channel is also a treasure trove of varied content, including engaging vlogs, thrilling challenges, and collaborative ventures, keeping his audience constantly engaged with new and diverse content.

Exceptional Engagement: Achieving over 1 billion views each year, Unspeakable’s content strikes a chord with viewers, particularly resonating with the youth market, demonstrating his unparalleled ability to captivate and entertain his audience.

Wholesome Entertainment: With a commitment to creating enjoyable yet clean content, Unspeakable has built a platform that is both beloved by kids and trusted by parents, ensuring a safe and fun environment for family viewing.

With the meteoric rise in Unspeakable’s popularity, we’ve not only adapted over a dozen seasons of his original YouTube content for multiple platforms, including a dedicated FAST channel and the spin-off series Unspeakable Plays, but also tapped into the audience’s insatiable demand for his content. This underscores the vast opportunities for creators within the digital streaming domain. As we forge ahead, we’re excited to explore novel approaches to maximize the visibility and reach of his current and upcoming work in our collaborative efforts.

DEG: What’s next in this arena of expanding creator content beyond their traditional platforms like YouTube and TikTok?

ME: As we move forward, our focus is on forging new partnerships directly with content creators and their management teams, such as Night and Viral Nation, to cultivate a more diverse and enriched content ecosystem. We are actively exploring and testing different niches within this arena, with a keen interest in “In Real Life Content” (IRL), true crime, mystery-history, and challenges, aiming to refine our focus on the niches that show the most promise and audience engagement. By experimenting with various content themes and formats, we’re not just following trends; we’re looking to set them. This strategy allows us to tap into unexplored areas of the creator content sphere, bringing fresh, engaging, and innovative content to our platform partners.

Moreover, the industry’s initial hesitance to integrate creator content into traditional film and TV media strategies has significantly shifted. There’s a growing recognition of the value and appeal of creator-driven content, marking a pivotal change in content strategy within the OTT industry. FilmRise intends to capitalize on this shift, leveraging our expertise and relationships to champion creator content as a key category in streaming media.

DEG: Why should TV streaming platforms carry creator content? What’s in it for the platforms, and for advertisers?

ME: Incorporating creator content into TV streaming platforms presents a multitude of benefits for both the platforms themselves and advertisers. Here’s why:

Diversification of Content: Creator content introduces a new dimension of diversity to streaming platforms. It’s fresh, authentic, and can cover niches that traditional TV shows and movies might not explore.

Engagement with Younger Audiences: Many creators have significant followings among millennials and Gen Z, demographics known for their elusive viewing habits and preference for digital media. By hosting creator content, streaming platforms can attract these younger viewers, increasing their user base and time spent on the platform.

Attractive to Advertisers: Brand deals are the single largest source of income for most Content Creators, as brands know Creators/Influencers drive purchasing decisions amongst younger demographics. While brand integrations directly in Creator Content is not possible in the same way as YouTube, high viewership rates and high completion rates for Creator Content contribute positively to a streaming platforms’ audience narrative, which directly influence’s the CPMs advertisers are willing to pay for the platform overall.

Cost-Effectiveness: Creator content can be more cost-effective to produce than traditional TV shows and movies, offering a potentially high ROI for streaming platforms. This affordability also makes it easier to experiment with different types of content, creators, and formats to see what resonates best with audiences.

Community and Loyalty Building: Creators often bring their own dedicated communities to streaming platforms. These communities can increase platform loyalty, as fans will return to watch new content from their favorite creators.