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Upfront and Personal: A look at Great Big Story's great big newfront

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Upfront and Personal: A look at Great Big Story's great big newfront

GreatBig Story had many tales to tell on the data, distribution and content frontsat its newfront presentation.

Fundedby CNN (US) andits parent, Time WarnerInc.'s TurnerBroadcasting System Inc., the digital video channel, targetingsocial and mobile millennials, is taking a discriminate, high-quality approachto its product offerings.

Whileothers crank up the content volume, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker toldmedia buyers that Great Big Story focuses "on delivering a specialfew," publishing nearly 400 stories from 28 different countries around theworld since its launchlast October.

Ithas tallied 6.2 million fans, many of whom Zucker described as "urbandwelling, globally curious 27-year-olds who live on their phones, a notoriouslydifficult group to reach." Mobile is the entry point for 80% of the visitsto the video channel, which leverages CNN and Turner's sales and marketingresources.

Zuckersaid "in just six months, Great Big Story has exceeded all expectationsand topped every goal that we set for it. … CNN has been telling stories formore than 35 years. This is as excited as we have been about any business wehave launched."

Alreadydrawing 40 million video views a month on multiple platforms, Great Big Storyplans to grow its reach significantly, as Zucker pointed to upcomingdistribution deals with FacebookInc.'s Messenger Platform, Apple Inc.'s Apple TV and devices.

Thoselooking for compelling stories in the months to come will find a second seasonof "The Aquatic World with Philippe Cousteau," as the next generationof the famous sea family takes users on tours of the deep.

MusicianWillie Nelson will light up Great Big Story with "Hey Willie," acollection of "life advice" shorts, while Chris Funk of TheDecemberists will take the channel's cameras on tour with the indie rock bandto spotlight travel treasures.

Further,the channel will dip into virtual reality with "Take Me There," atravel and adventure series presenting untold stories about some of Earth'smost beautiful places, including Hawaii's "Stairway to Heaven" andthe underwater pyramids off the coast of Japan.

GreatBig Story will also work with filmmakers from the Toronto International FilmFestival on short projects.

Startingin November, Great Big Story, in partnership with CNN Films, will roll out asix-part series of shorts called "Really Great Big Stories," whichwill debut across digital, social, TV and live-event experiences through theend of 2017.

GivenTurner and CNN's pedigree, Great Big Story already has TV projects in theworks. "That's Amazing" will air as an eight-part weekly primetimeseries on The Weather Channel(US) this fall. The one-hour shows will look at the surprisingthings people do with nature and the elements. Cut-downs will appear on GreatBig Story platforms.

"TheGreat Big Show" is a long-form, weekly TV program showcasing the best ofGreat Big Story's global fare. Zucker did not disclose a network home for theshow, which will provide a promotional, linear lift for the video channel.

Great Big Story's 2016 newfront

Source: Great Big Story/Joe Ferrucci

Thosewho attended the upfront were invited to hear/view stories in a"campfire" setting at the beer hall. Four stations, where illuminatedrods served as substitutes for flames and TV screens housing videos were theraconteurs, provided attendees with a sense for Great Big Story's verticalofferings.

PlanetEarth featured Cousteau and a narwhal, "the unicorns of the sea,"while volcanist Ken Sims, adorned in a gas mask, showed what it's like to sleepin an active volcano.

Atthe Human Condition, Great Big Story unboxed Benjamin Kapelushnik, also knownas "The Sneaker Don," a high-schooler who supplies high-end athleticshoes to celebrities, including DJ Khaled and Chris Brown. His clients receivetheir footwear treasure in boxes bearing the proprietor's logo — think thepuppet strings of "The Godfather."

AtFlavors, visitors learned about four guys "Cookin' for Compton," andhow the closest the CIA ever came to successfully assassinating Cuban leaderFidel Castro was with a milkshake. Perhaps the most intriguing of the bunch," Really, Real Fake Food" served up a look at the art and commercefrom a Japanese factory that produces plastic displays — visual appetizers, ifyou will — of  sushi, ramen noodles,crabs eggs and other dishes throughout the nation.

Frontiers,meanwhile, provided a look at a man who uses snow shoes and skis to createvaried shapes reminiscent of a spirograph on snow fields; a woman who traipseson slack lines over mountains, rocks and rivers; and vistas of animals at LaSelva, Costa Rica, where with the help of equipment from sponsor Hewlett- PackardEnterprise, biological workers use photo-capture traps and other data to learnmore about monkeys, tapirs and the elusive puma.

Inan interview before the presentation, David Spiegel, senior vice president ofsales and brand strategy, said receptivity has been strong on Madison Avenue.

"It'sreally been incredible the response we're getting. We are focused purely on thecontent and these things take time," he said, adding that "every timewe show something it gets people excited. We're not playing the games to getthe algorithms."

Spiegelsaid advertiser integrations are transparent. "We clearly identify if it'sa contribution, sponsorship or a branded piece of content," he said.

GreatBig Story is not in the pre-roll or display business. "We would have torely on a huge home page and we can't do that. CNN does, and it's one of thelast ones left," he said.