Celebrities these days get roped into side projects, or really ‘joint ventures’, about as often as they get asked to do a Funny or Die video. Some transcend the noise and work out swimmingly—see: Will Ferrell and, well Funny or Die—while others make us all wonder who got fired over that brain fart—see: The Kardashian Kard.
So back in June of 2010 when teen-pop rockers The Jonas Brothers jumped head first into the original online content game, launching Cambio, there was reason to be skeptical. Licensing your name to a clothing line is one thing, but feeding the round-the-clock daily content beast against entrenched incumbents like Yahoo, MSN, Teen.com, MTV and, well YouTube, was a whole other league.
Luckily Jonas Group honcho Kevin Jonas Sr. (the father of the pop stars), had AOL jointly invested in the venture, and that brought a solid ad sales team and cross-network integration into teen-slanted network of sites like Just Jared Jr., JSYK and Celebuzz. But even AOL sites need to hold their own in terms of audience, and after a strong start, traffic dipped on Cambio to less than half of its first few months.
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To break out of the just-another-teen-site rut, Cambio needed to win in original entertainment content, not just eek out margins on SEO-friendly headlines. The move was to hire Nathan Coyle out of CAA, the digital agent behind many higher profile branded entertainment deals like Ford-Snickers-Sprint backed ControlTV, Mattel in Hulu’s Genuine Ken, and even the Neutrogena integration back in lonelygirl15.
Coyle, now five months into the GM post at Cambio, spearheaded its re-launch today with a complete facelift, deep social features, and, probably most important a major commitment from several new partners including Dolphin Digital Media to spend between $10 to 12 million on original series as Cambio 2.0 shifts into a full-on teen network. Dolphin Digital and Cambio will jointly develop 4-6 original series per year to produce, with Cambio getting exclusive rights to distribute the content in the United States.
The first two new original series that will live exclusively on Cambio are the much-anticipated Aim High from exec-producer McG and Warner Brothers, and CliffsNotes Films from Mark Burnett. The latter is a series of humorous animated shorts based on the popular CliffsNotes® Literature Guides—back when I was in school you actually had to READ CliffsNotes, welcome to the future, kids.
Aim High is set to bow October 18th on Cambio and Facebook, and stars Twilight’s Jackson Rathbone and Friday Night Lights’ Aimee Teegarden.
Aim High trailer:
The thrust of the re-launch is about building a community site around the new content slate, and user profiles come with deep integration into the requisite Facebook and Twitter. There is also a gamification at hand too, with points that can be earned and badges for activity like sharing and connecting with other users.
Part of the mission we’re setting out here is creating universe that really combines content with community,” Coyle told us on the phone. “That’s what makes the web unique—the value of a lean-in versus the lean-back experience of TV is that fans can connect with each other.”
In effect, they are not conceding social activity around video to the powerhouse that is YouTube, instead opting to craft its own experience. While there is a CambioConnect YouTube channel, it won’t be the primary video host, instead with a white-labeled Brightcove player serving video on site. In the case of Aim High, Coyle tells us, the series will be live on Facebook as well as Cambio with a co-exclusive ad-sharing partnership on AOL inventory.
That said, Cambio isn’t ruling out a broader YouTube move, especially as the new channels roll out early next year. “We do see an opportunity down the road to improve and enhance what we’re doing on the YouTube platform,” added Coyle.
Also as part of the re-launch news, is word that sponsor AT&T is back on board for another round, and plenty of the brand’s banners and pre-rolls are visible already.
And despite the site’s assuredly teen focus, there are some decent topical content gems in there that made me not regret clicking, like this one: “The New Facebook Timeline Presented by Mad Men’s Don Draper:”
CliffsNotes Films trailer: