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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Univision Builds a “Billennial” MCN to Make the Most of Social Stars’ Influence

July 31, 2015 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

U.S. teens are bigger fans of YouTube stars than they are the best-known celebrities in film, TV and music so it is no surprise that media companies and brands are experimenting with ways to bridge the gap and incorporate these new media phenomena into the mainstream mix. Disney took the acquisition route when it purchased Maker Studios last year, however Univision decided to build its own multi-channel network (MCN) of content creators from platforms such as YouTube and Vine. The new Univision Creator Network is also an effort to build Univision Communications’ connection with bilingual millennials or “billennials.”

There are many roads you can take to reach this demographic, according to Steven Benanav, VP of Content Partnerships and GM of Flama at Univision Communications (UCI). “But working with the digital talent is a very direct path,” he says. “They’ve already got their audience and fan base and they know what these fans love.” Benanav says that he can see why younger audiences are so enamored with digital stars, “Because of the medium they are able to form relationships and connections with their fans that celebrities haven’t been able to do in the past; there are no walls between them.”

The creators that Univision will be working with boast a significant audience: 118 million video views per month for the dozen or so creators signed at launch. And while those numbers say a lot, Benanav got a first-hand view of the passion their audiences feel for them at VidCon, when they announced the launch of the Creator Network. “I can only say that it was what I imagine Beatlemania to have been like. Their fans go crazy for them.”

And even though they all already have great audience reach and connection, Benanav says these successful digital stars are excited about the possibilities offered by partnering with Univision. “For a lot of them, the Univision brand is really powerful; it is a brand they’ve grown up with and they have a sense of pride in being part of the Univision network.”

That brand affinity isn’t the only appeal—there are also the additional resources Univision offers including access to Univision studios in Los Angeles and New York City; access to a massive music library; an ecosystem that will extend the creators’ brand across TV, digital, radio and live events; and, of course, revenue opportunities that will benefit UCI, the creators, and brands alike.

Benanav notes that they see the network as a “sharable backbone” and that any group within Univision—including Flama, Fusion and El Rey now has access to this digital talent to develop new and different products that are authentic for them and their audiences. It also “quickly expands the reach we’re able to deliver to sponsors,” Benanav points out.

UCI advertising partners will have access to the Univision Creator Network to expand their marketing efforts through branded content integrations across the creators’ networks and applicable Univision properties. While there has been a learning curve as UCI’s sales approach increasingly focuses on developing larger packages that leverage the breadth of its network. To that end, The Univision Creator Network has a point person dedicated to supporting the sales and marketing side to educate, inform, and foster growth of the opportunities it presents.

Given that millennials now outnumber baby boomers in the population and that Latinos will account for more than 80% of the growth in the population of 18- to 29-year-olds over the next few years, UCI’s “billennial” focus makes sense. Benanav says that he loves seeing the company go in this new direction. “It is a really exciting, smart and bold move that extends our reach and helps us find a new and bigger audience.”

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