EXCLUSIVE: Mobile streaming service Ficto has formed several new content partnerships and fleshed out its content offering of more than 50 shows as it prepares to go live in the first quarter of 2020.
Led by CEO and co-founder Mike Esola, a former agent at UTA and WME, Ficto was first announced about a year ago. The service is free to download and supported by revenue from advertising as well as data monetization, artist contributions, e-commerce and other areas.
Programming ranges from unscripted sports and lifestyle shows to interactive and YA properties to scripted thrillers and comedy. (See slate highlights below.) Entire shows run about 30 minutes, with episode lengths in the 5- to 7-minute, “snackable” range.
Ficto will launch just before the April debut of Quibi, a high-profile, mobile-focused startup overseen by Jeffrey Katzenberg (through his investment and holding company, WndrCo) and CEO Meg Whitman. While Quibi gained notice by raising $1 billion in initial financing, Ficto has raised about $15 million and has a tighter focus on what it describes as “independent and under-represented artists throughout the world.”
Esola said during the year since Ficto went public with its launch plans, the company has “witnessed an amazing response and steady groundswell of support from Hollywood professionals, emerging independents and established consumers brands who share this common interest in creating content for our platform.”
During the fourth quarter alone, the company says it set more than 30 content partnerships.
Two of the partners are with BLKBX Creative Group and PowderKeg Media.
With BLKBX, Ficto licensed an interactive dating show, Date & Switch, and an interactive courtroom show, We the People. In conjunction with PowderKeg Media, Paul Feig’s digital content company, which committed to elevating underrepresented filmmakers who are female, LGBTQ creators and/or of color, Ficto has licensed East of La Brea. The show had its premiere at SXSW last spring.
In all, 22 female filmmakers are behind Ficto’s launch slate. The service will also deliver a millennial-focused presidential campaign trail series in the works, following volunteers who work in competing grassroots organizations. Branded content is also starting to take shape.
“More than ever, brand storytelling has steadily grown as a critical aspect for any company that seeks to expand market share while also strengthening brand affinity among existing customers. They’ve quickly found that visual storytelling platforms, like Ficto, offer unique distribution and interactivity for creators and brands to build awareness and directly engage with their customers,” said Annie Turkel, SVP of Strategic Partnerships. “We’re already seeing early adopters among beverage, auto and cosmetic brands who are getting involved not just in sponsorship but in creation and production to develop authentic, impactful content that truly connects with and invigorates like-minded viewers.”
Ahead of its launch, Ficto will exhibit its new platform at CES in Las Vegas, the Brand Storytelling Summit and Sundance Film Festival; Slamdance; and the SXSW Film Festival.
Here are highlights of the launch slate:
Represent – Ficto has partnered with Steel Wool Entertainment and USA Surfing (the recognized governing body for surfing by the United States Olympic Committee and the International Surfing Association) on a series following U.S. Olympic hopefuls in the lead-up to surfing in the Tokyo 2020 Games. This is the first time surfing will be included in the Olympics. The show is directed by Justin Jung and produced by Bradford Simpson.
Enhance – Ficto has partnered with CityLights on this show chronicling how technology pushes the limits with athletes. NFL MVP Award recipient, Patrick Mahomes, will be featured in the first run of episodes.
Swing State – The millennial-focused presidential campaign trail series in the works following volunteers who work in competing grassroots organizations on the Democratic ticket.
Date & Switch – In partnership with BLKBX Creative Group, Ficto is premiering what it calls the first-of-a-kind, interactive dating show where viewers influence the decisions of real people on their dates.
Judge Vs. Jury – Also in partnership with BLXBX, Ficto is premiering what it describes as the first-ever interactive courtroom show where the defendant can choose whether they will accept judgement by the viewers’ vote or the judge’s.
East of La Brea –A collaboration with PowderKeg Media, the show premiered at SXSW earlier this year. East of La Brea tracks the untold stories of LA through the lives of two very different Muslim women from working class backgrounds: Aisha, a Black Muslim, and her Bangladeshi-American roommate, Farha.
Real Artists – Directed by Cameo Wood and starring Tiffany Hines and Tamlyn Tomita, the show is based on the Ken Liu short story. A sci-fi thriller, it follows a young animator as she learns about that the premise of her work is based on something that is hard to accept.
Last Seen – Directed by Heather de Michele, the series centers on a true crime podcast host as she travels to a small Pennsylvania town to investigate a decades-old case.
Hollywire Biography – In partnership with Hollywire, the show takes an intimate look into the lives of Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, Ed Sheeran, Demi Levato, Camila Cabello and others.
Women in Gaming – In a partnership with Los Angeles-based Contend, Ficto will be premiering a show centered around some of the most successful female players competing in eSports.
Bluetooth – Expanded from the short, Pickpocket, Ficto bought an original young adult, alien invasion project from Mike Glasz, Matthew Pittman, Zach Wechter & Mishka Kornai.
Quickstand – In partnership with a number of local comedy clubs and charitable organizations around the country, Ficto will premiere a show featuring emerging stand-up comedians as they revisit the last place where they were gainfully employed or educated and attempt to blend in.