Addressing a packed house at a scene-y downtown beer hall Thursday, a confident if limping Jeff Zucker extolled the success of his six-month-old baby Great Big Story, the video channel aimed at mobile and social twentysomethings that CNN launched last October.
“What’s exciting for me,” Zucker told Deadline, “is that this is going where the consumers are, where the hard-to-reach consumers are. Everybody talks about wanting to reach young people on their mobile devices. Well guess what? In six months, we’ve done that. The way you do that is by telling great stories.
“What’s great about GBS,” he continued, leaning on a cane that goes with his recovery from recent knee surgery, “is that it’s not about news, it’s not about what’s happening in politics today, it’s not about what’s happening in the world. They’re just telling great stories. At the heart of any great venture is a great story.”
GBS, he said, addressing the burger-biting, drinks-downing ad reps and press, is the first brand “that we have launched in 35 years that does not boast those three little red letters that the whole world knows so well, and for good reason.” The CNN global chief — riding the wave of high ratings fueled by the presidential election cycle and its flame-haired
“It’s not about what’s happening in politics today, it’s not about what’s happening in the world. At the heart of any great venture is a great story.” Jeff Zucker on Great Big Story
Mesmer — declared GBS a success beyond his expectations. “Great Big Story is a new network. Not a news network, a new network with a new distribution model, a new audience and new opportunities for your brand.” It’s dedicated to “the awesome, the untold and the flat-out amazing.”
The success of the new venture, Zucker added, “is among CNN’s and Turner’s top priorities.” While competitors may crank out stories in high volume, he said, “we focus on delivering a special few. So far we have told nearly 400 stories from 28 different countries around the world,” earning nearly 40 million multi-platform video views every month and 6.2 million fans — key among them “urban dwelling, globally curious 27-year-olds who live on their phones, a notoriously difficult group to reach.”
In the coming months, Zucker said, “our footprint will expand aggressively on internet TV, streaming services and messages, Apple TV, Roku and Facebook Messenger among them. He then spoke of new shows “that are real projects that will grow our brand and great opportunities for yours.” They include a second season of Aquatic World With Philippe Cousteau. Then there’s Hey, Willie, “life advice” dispensed by troubador Willie Nelson. Also on offer, a VR series, Take Me There, exploring unknown wonders of the globe. A co-venture with the Toronto International Film Festival that will match young filmmakers with unspecified but guaranteed “biggest stories yet.”
After the election, Zucker said, GBS and partner CNN Films will present a six-part series of short films that will run across digital, social, television and live-event experiences. The series will continue through the end of 2017. Zucker also announced That’s Amazing, an eight-part primetime series that will appear on The Weather Channel and, in condensed form, on GBS. The Great Big Show will be a weekly TV showcase curated from the best stories.