Down with OTT: Studio71 CEO Reza Izad on the evolving video landscape

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Reza Izad (not the RZA).
Reza Izad (not the RZA). Credit: Ad Age

Chances are, you've never heard of Studio71. But you've seen its work—or at least your kids have.

From Canadian YouTube superstar Lilly Singh to vlogger Roman Atwood to "Good Mythical Morning" with Rhett and Link, Studio71 is the media agency behind videos that it claims generates some 11 billion views across platforms every month. The company helps creators grow their offering for advertisers as well as make money and through merchandising and intellectual property.

"Our job is to really figure out, with large audiences, what are the avenues you can port them into to create more content, like podcasts, [and figuring out] distribution, putting the content in a lot of different places," says Studio71 co-founder and CEO Reza Izad, who joins me on the Ad Lib podcast today. "We're seeing a lot of activity in the Rokus and Amazon Fires of the world. And then merchandising and licensing and original production. That's the way we're thinking of this world."

They're also looking at Snapchat. Just this week the company debuted a Snapchat Discover channel for WorldStarHipHop, a hip-hop culture publisher whose YouTube channel is part of Studio71's network on the service. The debut came the day before the platform's chief strategy officer, Imran Khan, announced he was leaving the company, causing the stock to dip.

If Izad is fazed, he isn't showing it.

"Clearly the user growth thing is the big thing they need to be concerned about. The way we look at it, it's very vibrant community—it's almost 200 million monthly active users—many of them are in the U.S. … which means ad dollars are strong," says Izad. "When you have a brand like WorldStar, which is already very dominant on Instagram, has a fairly decent presence on Facebook, super strong presence on YouTube, Snap is a natural expansion of that. And it's an app for brands who want to engage with WorldStar to have a cross-platform journey on both the media side and [the] integrated or branded content perspective."

Still, there's been no shortage of Sturm und Drang over the past year or so—just this June Verizon's maligned Go90 streaming video service announced it was shutting down. A former talent manager who has worked with the likes of Prince, Kanye West and comedian Katt Williams, Izad explains why he moved into the direct-to-consumer video space in the first place, and where he believes it's heading in the next few months as new buyers including major players like Disney and Jeffrey Katzenberg snap up content.

"We're seeing a cycling of unsuccessful OTT players and an emergence of new people who are going to try to compete in that market," says Izad. "That market saw a dip last year and I think this year going into next year you're going to see much more content buying from a new set of OTT buyers who didn't exist or weren't in market this time last year."

On this episode of Ad Lib, Izad also discuss the relative merits of the various platforms—Facebook versus Instagram TV versus Snapchat—and we talk about the one and only time he came close to being confused with Wu Tang's the RZA.

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