A prominent cable news channel is ditching the cord for its latest initiative and taking a deep dive into mobile and social. CNN, owned by Turner Broadcasting System Inc., has launched a series called “Great Big Story” that will not air on television and instead be distributed first via CNN’s desktop site and mobile apps and also shared exclusively on Facebook, for now.
And it’s all in the name of unbridled positivity. “Great Big Story seeks out awesome, untold and inspirational stories about new frontiers, the human condition, planet earth, tastes and flavors,” a press release about the launch reads. “So enough with the cat videos and shouty lists. It’s time to feed your feed with great big stories.”
The initiative, described in the release as “not a news network” but rather a “socially distributed video network that covers real stories,” launches Tuesday. Great Big Story starts by sharing three to five videos each day. The team is a part of Facebook’s “Suggested Videos” program, which allows for full-screen videos, targeted to the Facebook user, and also has auto-play ads interspersed. That means CNN could pull from the ad split that is reportedly 55 percent to the publisher.
— Great Big Story (@greatbigstory) October 20, 2015
The videos are not set at a particular time length, unlike the traditional television spot. The first videos shared Tuesday include a three-minute video titled “We Found Lisa Frank!," a two-minute video titled “The Untold Story of the Kool-Aid Man” and a one-minute video titled “Perfect Is Hard, Featuring Misty Copeland.”
Despite the 1990s flair -- akin to some throwback quizzes or listicals you might find on BuzzFeed -- Great Big Story (GBS) is not necessarily targeted at millennials, the network says.
“We want everyone to share great big stories,” the press release reads. “But we’re pretty darn sure these ‘millennials’ of whom you speak are hungry for more than what’s out there these days.”
CNN has fallen short in capturing prime-time viewers, compared to Fox News, but it has been on the rise with the help of the presidential election. The network averaged 576,000 viewers during prime time for the second quarter, which was a 20 percent increase year over year, but Fox dominated at 1.64 million viewers, Politico reported. CNN was the only network that had double-digit growth.
Content from GBS will be brand sponsored. Some already-named partners include Kind Snacks and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, according to the release. “Great Big Story is attractive to a brand like Kind because the content that is produced has heart and comes from a place of thoughtfulness," Joshua Nafman, senior director of brand and digital marketing at Kind Snacks, told Advertising Age.
— Great Big Story (@greatbigstory) October 13, 2015
As a digital and mobile-first initiative, GBS also is targeting viewers that CNN may not traditionally hit with cable. And by relying on Facebook sharing, GBS is able to target content based on user demographics and interests. The content also will be shared on YouTube, Apple News, connected TVs and advertisers’ shiny object Snapchat in the near future.
CNN has been a part of the coveted real estate of Snapchat’s media network called Discover since it launched in January. While former launch partners Yahoo and Warner Music Group have been replaced by more millennial brands BuzzFeed and iHeartMedia, CNN’s channel has remained and will feature GBS content starting in November.
And GBS has remained partially separated from CNN. “Think of CNN like a sugar daddy we see on the weekends. We’re a startup with a head start. We have our own leadership team and office. We’re an independent LLC and we make our own decisions about what stories to tell and how to tell them,” the release reads.
GBS is currently supported by a team of 30, including some players poached from other digital networks. Courtney Coupe of ABC and Bloomberg is the executive producer, Ben Whitla of Yahoo is the creative director, Matthew Drake of Time and NowThis oversees content development, Rob Sands of Amazon heads partnerships, and David Spiegel of BuzzFeed leads sales.