LG Partners with Ficto on Shows Designed For Its New Dual-Screen Smartphone
Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake
Ficto, a cross between Quibi, Netflix and a video game that is set to launch next month, got a big boost this week when LG announced the app would come preloaded on 1.3 million of its new double-screened LG Wing smartphones.
The deal should help Ficto stand out from the competition by (literally) putting it in people's hands.
The mobile streaming service set to launch in October will focus on shows that leverage the smartphone's unique features, bringing to them a heavy dose of interactivity and social engagement. It also offers some brands, like LG, product placement and a degree of creative control in their shows. "Snoop 16," an interactive gameshow hosted by Long Beach native Snoop Dogg, will debut as one of the streamer's original programs.
Mike Esola is the chief executive of L.A.-based Fiction Riot, a.k.a. Ficto. He told dot.LA that talks with LG began about a year ago. Both companies thought the other would be a good match.
"(LG Wing) is best utilized by apps that exhibit premium-level content on the main screen and interactive functionality features on the second screen," Esola said.
In exchange for the preloads, Ficto will embed LG products into some of its programming. LG will be paying for the product placements as well, a revenue stream that will likely be key to the free service's growth. In future phases of the partnership, LG will also include the app on other phones and televisions, Esola said.
Ficto has had about 60,000 users during its beta period. It will launch next month with dozens of licensed shows and seven originals. The latter group is where its mobile- and social-oriented content will predominate.
"Snoop 16" episodes, for example, will center around a March Madness-style bracket, except the competitors will be various items like rappers or cars; viewers will fill out and submit their own brackets, and if they match Snoop's, they will receive an LG Wing smartphone giveaway.
Streaming service Ficto is creating shows with LG's new smart phone in mind.Courtesy of Ficto
Esola acknowledged there is no guarantee the new phones will sell. And getting the app integrated with LG Wing's swiveling second screen required investment.
"It's not easy to adapt to a new form factor," Esola said, referring to the phone's shape and size. "Apps don't (usually) spend the time [to adapt] until they know. We took the risk."
In doing so, LG is betting that Ficto can break through in the crowded streaming field. It will aim to do so largely through interactivity, which Esola has referred to as a form of "engaging and empowering" viewers.
The ability to share Ficto content across social media is a departure from fellow mobile-oriented streamer Quibi, which did not allow users to share content clips. After a disappointing launch, the L.A.-based company recently added that feature, among others.
By contrast, Ficto has built-in technology to enable sharing clips over social media while complying with copyright law. Ficto will also provide creators with some analytics about the performance of their shows, something that Esola says many streaming companies, namely Netflix, do not do.
About 80% of the company's revenue currently comes from licensing shows to foreign markets, which allows apps in those markets to use Ficto's shows and essentially present them as their own.
The company also makes revenue from brand integrations, an area that is expected to grow as its user count climbs. Such arrangements allow a company like Anheuser Busch to "sponsor" a season or episode in exchange for a degree of creative control and product placement.
Ficto also licenses its proprietary technology for functionality like e-commerce integration and data analytics.
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LA Tech Updates: Apple Podcast Vet Joins QCODE, Amazon Reportedly in Talks to Buy Wondery, Pharrell's New Black Ambition Incubator
Apple Podcast Veteran Joins Startup QCODE<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUzNTQzMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNDUzMzYyNH0.pOGV2lL0qOJQDiWw1T5i4SqsGfaL54hLWED6_5Mf1Ww/img.png?width=980" id="8d68d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f2a47797239f360473fead53338231d4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="qcode" />www.sonos.com <p>QCODE, a Los Angeles podcast startup run by a former Creative Artists Agency talent agent, snagged longtime Apple podcast executive Steve Wilson. The 15-year veteran will become QCODE's chief strategy officer.</p> <p>QCODE, which <a href="https://dot.la/sonos-podcast-qcode-2648395035.html" target="_self">last month raised $6.4 million</a> in a Series A round led by Sono, is positioning itself as a funnel for Hollywood. </p> <p>Founded by Rob Herting, a former agent who had represented largely writers and filmmakers, the company has produced eight shows since 2019. Several have been auctioned for film and television, including "Dirty Diana." Amazon picked up the 6-part erotic drama for a TV series.</p>Wilson, who most recently ran marketing for Apple Podcasts, brings insights from the behemoth platform as the industry sees revenues soar. Advertising brought in near $1 billion this year, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau's podcast report prepared by PwC.
Amazon Reportedly in Exclusive Talks to Buy Wondery<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5NDU5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjgyMDY3NX0.BHKSXjwra-gGsFEa7lXCCCMJXWV5cYxrZqhddj3-uds/img.jpg?width=980" id="d401d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c9c9eee1f9adc4c1d5edeca1af986a84" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Hernan Lopez" />Hernan Lopez started Wondery with the belief that in-depth, narrative audio stories were poised to bloom.<p>Amazon is in "exclusive talks" to buy podcast company Wondery and subsume its 30 hit shows and over 8 million monthly listeners into its empire, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.</p> <p>The talks reportedly value Wondery above $300 million, in line with previous estimates from analysts, when Apple and Sony were said to have expressed interest.</p> <p>Wondery has produced dozens of original series including "Dr. Death" and "Business Wars," and has 19 shows currently in development to become television series. </p> <p>The company does not publicly disclose its financials, but chief executive Hernan Lopez has previously said the company is profitable. About three-quarters of Wondery's revenue comes from advertising, but Lopez has said the company's revenue share from content licensing is growing (Wondery owns the intellectual property for all of its originals). It also launched a subscription service, Wondery Plus, in June and is currently looking to expand its international footprint. </p> <p>Wondery, the West Hollywood-based company with the largest audience of any independent podcast producer, has been the subject of swirling rumors that several suitors are interested in acquiring it.</p> <p>After a pandemic-induced decline that struck much of the podcasting industry, Wondery's audience has surpassed its pre-COVID levels. Its Q3 revenue was about double year-on-year and its Q4 performance has been strong, Lopez previously told dot.LA. </p> <p>Podcasting overall now attracts over 100 million monthly listeners, according to Edison Research. The Interactive Advertising Bureau projects podcasting revenues to exceed $1 billion by 2021.</p> <p>That growth has spurred somewhat of an arms race, most evident in Spotify's spending spree, which also has helped that company diversify from its reliance on streaming. Amazon Music is one of Spotify's biggest competitors along with Apple Music, and <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-music-joins-podcasting-fray-11600261201?mod=article_inline" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently expanded into podcasts as well</a>. </p> <p>Acquiring Wondery would give Amazon more content to slide into Amazon Music, a scaled-down version of which is free for Amazon Prime subscribers. Combining that content with its Alexa smart speaker also could empower the company to capture more eyes and ears in the increasingly competitive attention economy. </p> <p>The talks are reportedly ongoing and no deal has been confirmed. </p>
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LA Tech Updates: Fidelity Reportedly Seeks to Unload Bird Shares at a Loss; Warner Bros Streaming 2021 Releases; Plug-In South LA's Accelerator for 2021
Fidelity Reportedly Seeks To Unload Bird Shares at a Loss<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTI2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTc0NTgyM30.2gHsdIxx6hnX0sV0Evq4Xdc-UsOWfaDn5sxhMhUWVoQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="e3f93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7034229cee2777d3a9f7e45313d88a5b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Escooter Unicorn Bird Seeks to Unload Santa Monica HQupload.wikimedia.org<p>Fidelity Investments is attempting to unload some of its shares in Bird Rides Inc. at a loss, <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/bird-investor-fidelity-selling-stake-scooter-2020-12?r=US&IR=T" target="_blank">according to a report</a> published Wednesday night by Business Insider.</p><p>The move comes <a href="https://dot.la/bird-scooter-2648232688.html" target="_self">after dot.LA reported in October</a> that the mutual fund giant has marked down the value of its Bird investment by 17% since the beginning of the year.</p><hr><p>As a private company, Bird does not have to share its financials. Nor do the venture funds that hold most of its shares. However, Fidelity is required to account for shares at their fair market value so it provides a rare glimpse into the company's health.</p><p>But a source close to the matter said the sale should not be seen as any indication of Bird's financial performance. The shares represent less than ten percent of Fidelity's position and the intended sale is the result of a new portfolio manager taking over who does not want to invest in pre-IPO companies, the source said. </p><p>Neither Bird nor Fidelity would respond to dot.LA's request for comment.</p><p>Bird <a href="https://www.inc.com/magazine/201902/will-yakowicz/bird-electric-scooter-travis-vanderzanden-2018-company-of-the-year.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">became the fastest company in history</a> to reach unicorn status in 2018 and achieved a $2 billion valuation less than a year later. But as the pandemic hit, it abruptly laid off 406 employees <a href="https://dot.la/bird-layoffs-meeting-story-2645612465.html" target="_self">via a Zoom call</a> and was forced to remove its fleet from city streets just as it was gearing up for its normally lucrative summer season. </p><p>dot.LA reported in October the company <a href="https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EjstMVqVoAAWd7f.jpg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">put its Santa Monica offices up for sublease</a> less than a year after completing a costly renovation.</p><p>Bird has maintained <a href="https://www.bird.co/blog/empty-streets-effect-pandemic-unexpected-lesson-life-after-cars/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the pandemic has been a positive</a> as riders prefer scooters over crowded buses and subways. <a href="https://www.bird.co/blog/scooter-riders-making-comeback-riding-longer-than-ever/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">It says it is seeing riders take longer trips</a> than they did before the pandemic. </p><p>Last month, <a href="https://dot.la/bird-ipo-2648944903.html" target="_self">Bloomberg reported</a> Bird is looking to go public via a blank-check company. Bird said it had no plans to go public "this year," which did not exactly rule out a SPAC sometime in the near future. </p>
Plug-In South LA Opens New Accelerator Cohort for 2021<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg2MzAxMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTg0MTM1Mn0.QPKaMFTusp_uKe5Td0K77QKhp7KXUY6_An5edQ588VM/image.jpg?width=980" id="460a2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c53839f0b8ac6658fd10bb2da6ea53f8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Plug In South LA's Accelerator Program is returning in 2021. The outfit is looking for 10 Black and Latinx founders who have proof of product-market fit and traction. The organization, founded in 2015 by Derek Smith, aims to build a network for Black and Latinx founders in South Los Angeles.<br></p><p>Last year was the inaugural accelerator program funded by Verizon, Silicon Valley Bank and Nike. The 2019 cohort hosted five startups including Spooler, a tech-based clothing design startup that credits the program with helping to increase revenue two fold since March. During the program, the company received a contract to launch a Sesame Street active wear product line. </p><p>The last day to <a href="http://pluginsouthla.com/accelerator" target="_blank">apply for the program</a> is Dec. 9 </p>
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