Mashable Inc. will make four short-form web series with NBC Universal's Bravo to appear this year, the latest sign of the news web site's growing ambitions in video.
The deal marks the first time Mashable will work with a traditional TV network on a slate of shows. Financial terms weren't disclosed. The two companies previously collaborated on "Real Thoughts with Real Housewives," a web series in which stars of Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchise shared thoughts about their lives.
Each Mashable-Bravo series will span six episodes. Some will be original ideas, and some will stem from existing Bravo programming. Material from each episode may appear in different forms on social networks like Facebook. The shows will debut on web properties owned by both companies, according to a statement Monday.
Mashable, founded in 2005 by Pete Cashmore, created an in-house video unit last year to produce series for its website, social networks and a growing list of companies interested in the short-form video medium. To pick subjects for its shows, Mashable Studios uses data on Mashable's readership as well as technology that anticipates which topics will become popular online.
As advertisers spend more on online video, digital media companies like Mashable, BuzzFeed and Vox Media are investing in production. Video can help attract funding while paving the way to work in the lucrative medium of TV.
Vice Media Inc., valued at $4 billion by the end of 2015, is one such model. After producing news and lifestyle video content for its online channels, the company secured a weekly show for HBO and now has its own cable channel. Mashable's deal with Bravo is a step in that direction.
"TV is the next frontier," Mr. Cashmore, Mashable's chief executive officer, said in an interview at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Tex. "We have a lot of interest in deeper relationships with TV because of its scale. TV doesn't have digital distribution, but it does have amazing brands and reach."
For Bravo, owned by Comcast Corp.'s NBC Universal, the partnership extends its reach to younger viewers online who may not subscribe to a cable or satellite service. As the average age of traditional TV audiences rises, media companies like NBC Universal have partnered with web publishers to retain their relationship with younger viewers. NBCU invested $200 million in Vox and BuzzFeed last year, while Time Warner Inc.'s investment arm led a funding round in Mashable.
Making web series is also an inexpensive way to test ideas for potential TV series, as these episodes cost less than the average for TV, Mr. Cashmore said.
The companies plan to pick topics that appeal to both Bravo and Mashable audiences. Bravo's viewers tend to be female and affluent, while Mashable's are typically young and tech-savvy. "The Real Housewives" web series did well with both groups, according to Lisa Hsia, executive vice president of Bravo Digital Media.
"What we need to do is grow our casual audience, and the beauty of digital is you can bring in the casual viewer," Ms. Hsia said in an interview. "We have the core Bravo user, but need more reach."
-- Bloomberg News