In an effort to lure in teens and millennials, Verizon Communications Inc. announced Wednesday that it was adding original programming, produced by teen YouTube network AwesomenessTV, to new over-the-top channels.
AwesomenessTV, which DreamWorks Animation purchased for $33 million in 2013, has grown into one of the Web's biggest multichannel networks for emerging online talent. The network, which has more than 7 billion total views and 112 million subscribers, has served as an important launching pad for YouTube stars.
"We're committed to working with only the best and most innovative content providers, like AwesomenessTV, and driving opportunities as new content models emerge and customers experience the most in-demand and popular video in entirely new ways," Terry Denson, vice president of content acquisition and strategy at Verizon, said in a statement.
It's no secret that online content has become the norm for younger audiences.
Defy Media, a digital content company geared toward millennials, found in a study that millennials watch 11.3 hours of free online video and 10.8 hours of subscription online video weekly -- much more than the time reported for free online TV offerings from broadcast and cable networks (6.4 hours) or for regularly scheduled TV (8.3 hours).
About two-thirds of millennials consider smartphones or tablets their primary devices, according to another recent study conducted by CTM/USC.
"It's increasingly clear that 'mobile first' is the way millennials are consuming all types of content, especially HD video and music," Denson said.
As consumer appetite for YouTube and online videos grows, more companies -- including movie studios and television networks -- have been expanding into the space.
"The millennials are at that stage where they are forming brand prerferences that will likely last a lifetime," said Jim Nail, an online video market analyst at Forrester Research. "If brands can't reach them through old media, they will be desperate to reach them through some of these new innovative channels."
Verizon's new programming will be available later this year in the U.S. on the AwesomenessTV channel and the DreamWorksTV Channel.
AwesomenessTV's channel will continue to feature a mix of short-form content and long-form premium content, including scripted and unscripted series. On the DreamWorks side, the channel will feature live and animated short-form content, including some of DreamWorks Animation's already established characters.
"The length [of the videos] will be all over the place," Brian Robbins, chief executive and founder of AwesomenessTV, told The Times. "What's great about this is we aren't locked into traditional TV times .... we'll be playing with what's appropriate depending on what the programming is."
The partnership also gives the company the opportunity to cater to its core millennial audience.
"Mobile is where our audience lives, which is why we are looking forward to working with Verizon to introduce our programming and talent to their massive customer base," Robbins said.
Brett Bouttier, president of Awesomeness TV, echoed the significance of creating content for mobile devices.
"Having Awesomeness live everywhere is really important," Bouttier told the Times. "Easily over 60% of our audience is watching or consuming our content on mobile."
With the rise in mobile content, more companies are expected to invest in the digital space.
"It's one acquisition and investment after another these days," Nail said. "And probably more to come."