Major Copyright Suit Filed Against YouTuber

YouTube has been making millions for popular entrepreneurs who have created unique videos and massive audiences. The future of YouTube video has never looked brighter, but with success there often problems that arise.

Ultra Records, which has signed up musicians like Kaskade, deadmau5 and Calvin Harris, claims that popular YouTube personality Michelle Phan has been using some of their songs without proper permission. The result is that Ultra Records has filed a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement by Phan, and claiming she has used 50 of their songs without permission in her popular YouTube videos and on her web site.

Ultra Records is asking for a serious amount of damages, too – $150,000 per song, which would add up to a hefty $7.5 million dollars if Phan is found liable to pay that entire judgment. Phan has built up an audience of over 6 million subscribers who eagerly follow her makeup tutorials. Her most popular video, the Barbie Transformation Tutorial, has been viewed 50 million times, and her video on reproducing Lady Gaga’s look has been viewed 45 million times.

One of the odd twists in the lawsuit is that one of the musicians that Ultra Records featured in the suit (and, in fact, the most prominently featured musician), Kaskade, is on Phan’s side in the dispute. “Copyright law is a dinosaur, ill-suited for the landscape of today’s media,” said Kaskade on Twitter. He expressed his disbelief that his own record label was suing Ms. Phan for copyright infringement. “And the kicker . . . they’re citing her using my songs for the suit. Come. On,” he tweeted. The Grammy-nominated Kaskade said there was little he could do to stop the label from pursuing the case.

“Your music inspired not just myself, but millions of my followers to dance and dream on,” Phan responded to Kaskade.

Ultra Records filed the suit in California, and they are also seeking an injunction to prevent Phan from continuing to use their music. Ultra Records claims it has “sustained and will continue to sustain substantial, immediate and irreparable injury” as a result of Phan’s use of its copyrighted music.

A spokesman for Phan said the lawsuit “lacks any merit” because “Ultra agreed to allow Michelle to use the music and Michelle intends to fight this lawsuit and bring her own claims against Ultra.” Further, the spokesman said, “Michelle’s intention has always been to promote other artists, creating a platform for their work to be showcased to an international audience. Kaskade, whose music has been featured in Michelle’s videos, has publicly defended Michelle against Ultra’s claims and acknowledges the success he’s gained from her support.”

This will need to get sorted out in court, but certainly the case will be watched closely by other YouTube stars. It certainly seems like YouTube videos would be a great way for musicians to get their music more widely noticed, and benefit both parties. The devil is in the details, though, and all parties will need to feel that the agreements are fair and equitable.

Source: BBC

Big Brands Gravitating Towards eSports

Anyone who still has doubts about the validity of eSports, or electronic sports, needs only to look at videos out of the sold-out KeyArena in Seattle from Valve’s DOTA 2: The International tournament. Over 10,000 people watched team Newbee defeat Vici Gaming three games to one in a best-of-five format to take home just over $5 million of the over $10 million in cash handed out on July 21. Vici Gaming went home with nearly $1.5 million and the third and fourth place teams, Evil Geniuses and DK, also went home winners with over $1 million and over $819,000, respectively.

While the majority of the millions of global fans watched the action via livestreams on their PCs and connected devices, ESPN3 covered the action just like it would an NFL or college football game. In fact, eSports has thrived thanks to livestreaming companies like Twitch, which back in May Google was rumored to be acquiring for $1 billion. But TV networks like ESPN certainly help put professional video gaming into the mainstream spotlight. And advertisers and sponsors are more accustomed to televised exposure for traditional sports.

One trend that’s clear with eSports is the crossover into holding major events in traditional sports venues. Last fall, Riot Games sold out the Staples Center for its League of Legends Championship Series Finals. While 12,000 people watched live in the home of the Lakers and Kings, over 32 million tuned in to the livestream. This year, European Sports League (ESL) hosted a DOTA 2 tournament at former World Cup soccer stadium Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt, Germany. And Riot will host its 2014 World Championship in October at former South Korean Olympic venue Sangam Stadium, which seats 66,000 people.

“Selling out stadiums shows how passionate players are about eSports,” said Dustin Beck, VP of eSports at Riot Games. “Fans from all over the globe will be tuning in to watch the best of the best LOL eSports team battle it out for the World Championship the same way soccer fans from across the globe came out to support their favorite teams during the World Cup. That level of passion and engagement translates to an opportunity for brands who are looking to communicate with this audience by bringing added value to their eSports experience.”

Russell Schwartz, president of theatrical marketing at Relativity said eSports is the new appointment TV, only it’s online.

“Outside of sports on TV, which is the only thing people watch live any more, eSports is the best way to reach Millennials,” said Schwartz. “It’s a live experience that people can interact with online. It’s not that it’s a huge business yet, but it’s getting there. Television is so elusive these days, but with eSports we know it’s where male gamers 14 to 35 are watching.”

Major League Gaming and Relativity formed a strategic content and marketing partnership across sports management, television, film and digital media in 2013. The goal of the collaboration was to accelerate MLG’s growth as a mainstream media property, drive appointment viewing to and further strengthen Relativity’s presence in the gaming space.

Relativity used to promote this year’s theatrical releases of Kevin Costner’s 3 Days to Kill and Paul Walker’s Brick Mansions. HBO TWX reached out to Riot Games and used the League of Legends online audience to promote the launch of the fourth season of Game of Thrones.

Earlier this year, Coke Zero KO kicked off its partnership with Riot Games with the development of the Challenger Series, a series for amateur League of Legend gamers to compete for a spot in the professional league. In essence, it’s a minor league system for players to show their eSports prowess and potentially graduate to the Big Leagues and compete for big money, sponsorship deals and free travel around the globe to compete in tournaments.

“We have worked very closely and collaboratively with Riot Games to create a league that delivers true value to the fans and players of the sport, and that begins to build an infrastructure for eSports that mirrors that of the more traditional sports,” said Matt Wolf, Coca-Cola’s global head of gaming. “To help promote the partnership, we recently launched @cokeesports on Twitter as a place for the brand to engage with fans through our activation with League of Legends. Moving through the end of the year, we will have a presence in South Korea for the World Finals in October.”

League of Legends is currently the most popular eSports game in the world with over 85 million players across the globe. As a result, those playing the game professionally are working with some big brands. Erich Marx, director of Interactive and Social Media Marketing at Nissan North America, partnered with League of Legends Team Curse because he and many people on his team are gamers, technologists and fans of eSports and they believe in its potential.

“Our job is to find audiences that are apt to engage with us and who will appreciate our content and hopefully share it with friends and beyond,” said Marx. “ESports are very innovative, and that fits perfectly not only with Nissan products, but our marketing strategy. ” Nissan is using the huge social networking reach of Team Curse pro gamers to raise awareness of some of its online campaigns.

Red Bull has embraced eSports over the past three years, focusing first on Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft 2 and adding DOTA 2 to the mix. The energy drink hosts its own eSports events around the country with top players and invites fans to watch live and online. The company also sponsors pro gamers and treats them the same way they treat real athletes, complete with health and nutrition tips to enable peak performance when training and playing in virtual competitions.

“A huge organization like Red Bull getting involved in eSports makes other big organizations pay attention and attract other big organizations,” said Jimmy “DeMoN” Ho, a DOTA 2 pro gamer on Team Liquid. “McDonald’s recently sponsored an event.”

Also blurring the line between sports and eSports is the fact that traditional Red Bull extreme athletes were competing at X-Games Austin in June for the exact same medals that Call of Duty: Ghosts teams were playing for. ESPN covered the first-ever video game competition, which was hosted through MLG, along with the skateboarding and other extreme sports.

“This is another example of the maturity of eSports,” said Ehtisham Rabbani, general manager of Logitech’s gaming business. “We believe that eSports helps keep the X-Games relevant. ESports already has greater viewership online via streaming than many sports today, including the X-Games and many NBA and NHL games. It is not if, but when will eSports become the most popular sport in the world.”

Even the NFL has taken notice of eSports. St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold is an avid gamer who attended his first MLG competition in Anaheim in 2013. He liked eSports so much he bought Call of Duty: Ghosts team Rise Nation Gaming, which was one of the teams that competed at X-Games Austin a few months after the Activision and Xbox $1 Million Call of Duty Championship in Los Angeles.

“I didn’t even know about eSports until last year, but I just enjoyed playing Call of Duty so much, and I was always online,” said Saffold, who recently signed a five-year, $31.7 million contract extension with the Rams. “I love the bragging rights. And now here I am. I finally see everything for the first time from a first-person view instead of on a computer screen. It’s all good for these kids. It shows that video games can bring you some money now. It’s not always a waste of time.”

ESports is definitely not a waste of time for big sponsors. Intel INTC has been sponsoring eSports for over 10 years now. George Woo, who heads up the Intel Extreme Masters global eSports tournament, said the company entered the space to establish a marketing platform to promote its gaming processor online and offline to make it the preferred and recommended processor brand by enthusiasts and to drive purchase intent for all of its gaming products.

“Attendance to Intel Extreme Masters events has grown 10X with us filling up sport stadiums, where we have visitors lining up to get a seat to watch the competition,” said Woo. “Online it has grown 100X, where we now get more viewers watching livestreams for a single event than we’d have tune in for an entire season in the past.”
The article originally appeared in Fortune on July 24th, 2014 and has been reprinted with permission from the author.

Casual Connect 2014: Sage Advice For Mobile Games

The mobile game business is growing and changing rapidly, and it’s often difficult for those living inside this rapid pace to get perspective. Video games as an industry have been around for more than 30 years, and there’s a lot of valuable experience from that time that’s highly relevant today. Unlocking those vaults of knowledge and sharing some of the priceless pearls of wisdom at Casual Connect 2014 were two industry veterans, Gordon Walton and Eric Goldberg, in separate talks that addressed some important issues.

Gordon Walton

Gordon Walton is perhaps best known for his immense labors at BioWare in bringing Star Wars: The Old Republic to life, shepherding that project through most of its lengthy development. Walton has been producing games for decades, though, and has worked with teams of a handful to teams of hundreds and back down to teams of just a few. Along the way, he’s gathered some observations about the process of moving from AAA games to mobile, and he shared those insights with the audience.

“When you’ve made big games with an army of people, can you really make games with a handful of people ” Walton asked rhetorically. “Yes, it’s like riding a bicycle.” He noted that the focus changes between small games where you’re focused on what you do today, while on big projects if you focus on daily tasks only you’ll never reach the end goal. In any case, though, you still have to make a great game regardless of the size of the project. “Quality is still #1, you can’t make games that don’t rock,” Walton said. “Every once in a while you’ll see something that breaks the rules, but usually not. You have to do less, better, rather than more, half-assed.”

“You really need to understand your market. You need to understand your customers, you need to understand how marketing is done, you need to have an idea of how you’re going to acquire those people. Developers in my experience like to ignore marketing. They like to think ‘No, no, we’ll just make a great game, all that other stuff is fluff, it’s not all that helpful.’ The truth is it’s just as important, it’s just as big a pillar as the great game. A mediocre game with great marketing doesn’t do any better than a great game with poor marketing. Both of them suffer, typically. A development leader who hasn’t studied marketing is handicapping themselves, they’re going to have to have a really great partner on that side that they trust.

Walton also discussed the importance of hiring the right people, and that on a small team everyone needs to be excellent work. As projects get bigger, you’ll need people devoted solely to management and project management, rather than everyone being hands-on. Overall, Walton noted, the drive to quality continues, and even games that are relatively simple will have a high degree of polish that goes into the graphics and game design.

Eric Goldberg

Next up was Eric Goldberg, a long-time game designer and executive who’s been consulting with game companies for decades. Goldberg spoke on the topic of Publishing as a Service, and how games have transformed from one-time packaged products into ongoing services. That change means re-thinking much of what goes into the design and development of games. Properly done, games-as-a-service can be terrific cash cows, propelling numerous companies into the billion-dollar annual revenue class.

Goldberg noted that there are six essential skills, which also denote areas where there are problems as we make the transition from product to service. The six essential skills: Programming (in the sense of scheduling content, not coding), deployment, direct marketing, monetization, analytics, operations. This applies to anyone who is in the service business, such as Rovio and Supercell. “They both had similar genesis stories,” Goldberg noted. “They both did 40 or 50 mobile titles that failed before they delivered their great hits. If you look at how Rovio developed Angry Birds, they did not fully get the service lessons, and Supercell — and I had the privilege of working with that team when they did their previous work at Digital Chocolate — did. In fairness to Rovio, Supercell came along two or three years later, so they had a chance to learn from their lessons.”

“There are several things that people who started in the product industry have to unlearn,” Goldberg pointed out. “One is that developers can be publishers. They could not be in the product environment, they needed the intermediaries called publishers.” The second key unlearning needed is the timing of your development effort. “Post-launch is much more important. It used to be that all of our effort went to delivering the game that shipped on that fixed date. The idea of operations, that you have to deal with an existing audience, is a key feature of services. The last is that you cannot avoid the business of games. If you are not thinking about marketing as part of your game design, you will do less well in games as a service, and in some cases, significantly less well.”

Goldberg went on to discuss the six essential skills in some detail, noting that how you schedule content and even what you call it changes significantly — while ‘sequels’ per se are rare in games as a service, there are content releases regularly that often aren’t even given a title. Deployment is the art of choosing the right platforms, territories, and partners for your game, as well as where you’re going to soft-launch it for best effect.

Direct marketing is a key discipline for games as a service, and fortunately, Goldberg points out, “There is a 150 year old discipline called direct marketing that people know how to do very well.” He recommends looking at the extensive materials on direct marketing and all the techniques that were developed for mail, because there’s great wisdom there. “The reason to do this is that most of your competitors are not doing it,” Goldberg advises.

Goldberg advises that you make monetization part and parcel of your game design — it shouldn’t be something tacked on at the end after you created the game.”We have now had several tens of thousands of games that have proved that if you do not figure out the monetization, you will fail. In fact, there’s been a whole series of well-loved games that were built for the old monetization model and failed when redone,” Goldberg said. The poster child for this, most recently, is Dungeon Keeper.

The best practice is to think about each of these six areas, and Goldberg provided his key takeaways in one slide. It’s important, too, to realize how things change as your game service scales up, and the increasing number of people you will need to devote to customer serivce.

The Ghost In The Xbox Machine

Video games have been part of our culture for more than a generation now, and there effect can reach far beyond a few minutes or even hours of fun. Video games may still be largely concerned with basic motor functions rather than evoking and dealing with emotions and grappling with issues like life and death, but even so they can sometimes touch our hearts. Finding those stories and telling them should be something every game marketer should consider, because that can have a very powerful impact.

A recent example comes from a teenage YouTube commenter (00WARTHERAPY00) in the comments section of a piece talking about whether or not games can be a spiritual experience. Here’s what he had to say:

Well, when i was 4, my dad bought a trusty Xbox. you know, the first, ruggedy, blocky one from 2001. we had tons and tons and tons of fun playing all kinds of games together – until he died, when i was just six.

I couldn’t touch that console for 10 years.

but once I did, I noticed something.

we used to play a racing game, Rally Sports Challenge. actually pretty awesome for the time it came.

and once I started meddling around… I found a GHOST.


you know, when a time race happens, that the fastest lap so far gets recorded as a ghost driver yep, you guessed it – his ghost still rolls around the track today.

and so i played and played, and played, until i was almost able to beat the ghost. until one day i got ahead of it, i surpassed it, and…

i stopped right in front of the finish line, just to ensure i wouldn’t delete it.


Fellow commenters were quite moved by the story, some of them confessing to tears. According to Yahoo Autos, the teenager’s comments have gone viral since being picked up by various publications, and he says he’s overwhelmed by the response, saying he “just commented on a video, which happened to be about spirituality in video games” and “never expected any of this.”

What a wonderful way to remember a lost father, and a beautiful example of the meaning that games can hold – even when that’s not the intent of the designer.

Source: Yahoo Autos

That Darth Car Is Some Hot Wheels

You may know Darth Vader as the dark lord of the Sith in Star Wars, but what you didn’t know is what kind of wheels he’d drive if he was here on Earth. Some pretty Hot Wheels, it turns out. Mattel’s using the occasion of San Diego Comic Con to launch its new Star Wars Hot Wheels line, and the company has chosen an interesting promotional vehicle – or rather, had one created by PCW Brands.

The Darth Car is based on a C5 Corvette, with a body crafted mostly from fiberglass (with carbon fiber used on the front splitter), and the result weighs almost half of the standard Corvette. The chassis was lowered slightly, giving it an even more ominous look. It’s perfectly street-legal, too, and it’s been road-test up to 80 mph – though PCW Brands CEO Billy Hammon says the Darth Car could hit up to 150 mph.

What’s under the helmet It’s not scarred and ugly, it’s a GM LS3 V8 engine that is tuned to put out 526 horsepower. Hey, the Sith Lord doesn’t want to be left behind at a stop light. Of course, the Darth Car uses a six-speed manual transmission, which no doubt can be handled telekinetically if you’re so inclined (and have the requisite Force skills). The Darth Car also has a secondary, hand-acutated drift brake on the rear axle for when you need to outmaneuver a pesky landspeeder on a curve.

The Darth Car is fully armed and operational, outfitted with plenty of fine Hot Wheels touches – like the logo on the side. The wheels are custom-milled for the Darth Car, and the unique tires are high-performance while also deliving the Hot Wheels look. The missiles mounted on the side are machined from stainless steel, and the side pipes look just like Lord Vader’s light saber – and of course, they are illuminated. Not to omit the special sounds of Star Wars, the car can emit the unmistakable sounds of Vader breathing and his light saber activating, all controllable remotely via an iPad.

Oh, and just to top things off, the hatch opens like Darth Vader’s helmet, and includes a smoke machine to generate the appropriate vapor when opening. The Darth Car took seven weeks from final design to completion, and it’s already causing jaws to drop wherever it goes – and generating interest in Mattel’s new Star Wars Hot Wheels line, too.

Source: Car and Driver


Up To Half Of Redbox Rentals Result In Purchase

Game publishers have traditionally viewed game rentals with a jaundiced eye, presuming that people who rent a game for a day or two won’t be buying the game, and thus represent a lost sale. Not so, avers Redbox’s director of video games Ryan Calnan. While an increasing number of people are streaming games and downloading games, there’s still plenty of game sales happening. Game rentals are also growing in popularity, and Redbox says that leads to more game sales.

“We have a 20-50 percent conversion rate of people buying a game after they’ve tried it through Redbox,” Calnan said. “The percentage varies depending on the time of year, but it’s a very healthy conversion of rent-to-purchase rate.”

Redbox operates rental kiosks for DVDs. Blu-ray discs and video games at more than 35,000 locations across North America. Customers can rent popular games for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii. Some kiosks in selected areas offer PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Wii U games as well.

Game rentals gives publishers a way to engage with a customer without requiring that massive initial purchase. If the game is good, getting some hands-on time can convince a customer to buy the game. Just as with mobile games, console games are facing the discovery problem, and rentals help solve that for publishers. “It gives them the ability to reach beyond the hardcore gamer,” Calnan said. “And it offers publishers an incremental revenue opportunity.”

Redbox has been trying some promotions in conjunction with publishers like Square Enix and Deep Silver. The promotions for Saints Row 4 and Thief led to an increase in incremental purchases from customers who normally wouldn’t identify as gamers. “There is still a very big emotional attachment to the physical media,” Calnan said. “And a lot of people have slow internet connections and can experience extremely long download times. So I think Redbox has a very strong place in the gaming industry.”

Source: Polygon

Internet Celebrities Fine Bros. Debut New React Channel

In an effort to generate new original content with an innovative format, internet celebrities The Fine Bros. have debuted a new React channel which will coexist with one of the biggest channels already present on YouTube. The comedy duo’s new channel will run programming five days a week and incorporate talent from all of their shows.

React will feature more than 100 cast members from Fine Bros.’s Elders React, Teens React and Kids React series showing people’s responses as they watch viral videos. The popular React series will continue to post twice-a-week on their main channel, which has over 9.3 million subscribers on its own.

“What drives us is what drives anyone: We want to create and share content with people,” said Benny, one of the two Fine Bros. to Variety. “We have a big audience, and the end goal is not just to make a living but to grow into a big media company.”

The company Fine Bros. Entertainment currently has 13 full-time employees based in Burbank, Calif.

The other Fine Bro, Raffi, insists the two Brooklyn natives still work “18 hours a day, seven days a week” working to launch new projects. “Instead of slowing down, we’re saying, How far can a company that could never have existed in the old system go ” he said.

Similar to other popular YouTube creators, the Fine Bros. earn a majority of their money through advertising on the site as well as from brand sponsors. For example, the company has created branded content for big-name companies like Universal Studios. While they declined to disclose their revenue, they did say their main channel accumulates more than 100 million views per month.

“We have a series that is something brands can be organically integrated into,” said Benny.

The Fine Bros. work with YouTube multichannel network Fullscreen and are repped by WME and managed by Max Benator.

Source: Variety

Chernin And AT&T Close To Buying Controlling Stake In Fullscreen

By Sahil Patel

The Chernin Group and AT&T through their joint venture called Otter Media are nearing a deal to buy a majority stake in YouTube multi-channel giant Fullscreen.

As first reported by Recode, the deal would value Fullscreen between $200 million and $300 million. For context, Fullscreen’s biggest competitor in the YouTube space, Maker Studios, sold to Disney for $500 million, with $450 million in additional payouts depending on the company’s performance. (That said, it’s important to note that Otter Media wouldn’t buy Fullscreen outright, which is what Disney did with Maker.)

If the deal is completed, this would keep Fullscreen in the Chernin family. The Chernin Group led a $30 million Series A round in the MCN over a year ago.

More recently, The Chernin Group partnered with AT&T to launch Otter Media, a joint venture focused on investing in and acquiring over-the-top video startups. The firm has $500 million behind it and recently made its first acquisition, for Demand Media’s Creativebug, which distributes DIY arts and crafts videos.

If you’re looking for a reason for why Otter Media would want a controlling stake in Fullscreen, it’s right there: over-the-top. Fullscreen is developing an owned-and-operated video platform that would bring premium content from its network of talent as well as from other creators. This content, which the company has yet to comment on, would look to super-serve millennials.

As we said back then, a marriage between The Chernin Group and Fullscreen make a lot of sense. Fullscreen has been developing its own over-the-top video platform at the same time its investor The Chernin Group has expressed interest in owning such businesses made the two a perfect match.

According to Recode, if the deal is finalized, Fullscreen CEO George Strompolos would continue to run the company.

Other investors in Fullscreen include Comcast Ventures and WPP Digital.

More to come from this, I’m sure.

This article was originally posted on VideoInk and is reposted on [a]listdaily via a partnership with the news publication, which is the online video industry’s go-to source for breaking news, features, and industry analysis. Follow VideoInk on Twitter @VideoInkNews, or subscribe via for the latest news and stories, delivered right to your inbox.

What Facebook’s Q2 Earnings Tell Us About The Future of Advertising

Most web publishers are seeing more than half of their traffic coming from readers who are on mobile devices, but so far the advertising dollars have not kept up with the shift to digital, even less so with the shift to mobile. That is, until now.

In Facebook’s impressive earnings report from Q2 2014 released yesterday, it was revealed that revenue was $2.91 billion, up 61 percent from $1.81 billion during the same period last year. What’s more, nearly two thirds of those revenues came from mobile ads. It represents a wide gap in favor of mobile and illustrates that a fundamental shift is not just under way, but has already happened. So what finally made the difference

According to the ad exchange OpenX, more than half of the effective mobile campaigns are now being delivered in a native format. With banners ads proven ineffective on the web and even less so on mobile, Facebook pioneered this format which allows advertisers to present their marketing messages in a less intrusive manner in the news stream with the same look and feel “in-stream”.

Native is the “killer app” that advertisers were waiting for in order to shift serious ad dollars over to mobile. Facebook is already banking a lot of those mobile dollars with company operating margins at 48 percent in the second quarter. They are now focusing on getting native right on other platforms such as Instagram as well.

We can expect similar advertising results from other publishers as they trim and tweak their own “in-stream” ad offering.



3BlackDot Ties Game And IP Creation With Sponsors

At Casual Connect in San Francisco, 3BlackDot co-founders and former Machinima division heads Angelo Pullen and Luke Stepleton, along with former Duck Dynasty co-executive producer Hank Stepleton, unveiled their new influencer-driven entertainment company. The co-founders have partnered with top-ranked YouTube gaming influencers Adam Montoya (SeaNanners – 4.5 million subscribers) and Tom Cassell (TheSyndicateProject – 7.6 million subscribers) to open up new opportunities for brands to connect with gamers and the 13-34 year-old gaming demographic.

3BlackDot focuses on four main influencer-driven specialties:

In partnership with Section Studios, the first 3BlackDot studio initiative includes development of entertainment franchise Zombie Killer Squad in Nov. 2013. The mobile game quickly garnered one million installs in the first nine days, making it one of the fastest growing games to reach this number in history. It reached to the top spot of #1 App in the Apple iTunes store in the U.K., Canada, Australia and #2 App in the U.S. With more than 2.6 million installs, Zombie Killer Squad will release a game update that incorporates two additional YouTube gaming personalities — ihascupquake (1.6 million subscribers) and TmarTn (1.7 million subscribers).

Executive producer Hank Stepleton heads up the PickAxe production arm, whose first project is a live-action short film based on Zombie Killer Squad. The trailer to the film will debut at the 3BlackDot Influencer Lounge and launch party at San Diego Comic-Con.

3BlackDot also creates and builds campaigns for entertainment properties and brands such as Machete Kills for 20th Century Fox, Volkswagen #NowYouKnow, Office Depot and Disney Infinity. Angelo Pullen and Luke Stepleton explain what they learned from Machinima and how they plan on utilizing YouTube Influencers to grow new cross-platform IP in this exclusive interview.

What does the company name mean?

Angelo Pullen: It is a play off of ellipses, to communicate that there is always more to come.

Luke Stepleton: Ellipsis . . .  or ‘And then’ or ‘more to come.’

What did you learn from your time at Machinima that you’re applying to this new company?

Angelo Pullen

Angelo Pullen: Machinima was a great opportunity for us to work with a myriad of large brands and we gained an expertise in organically integrating a brand’s messaging into the YouTube ecosystem, while driving massive viewership and engagement. We were also very successful at building audiences around premium content online for shows such as Halo: Forward Unto Dawn and Battlestar Galactica, which is something else we look forward to putting to use with our production arm “PickAxe.”

Luke Stepleton: Machinima was a great place for me, truly enjoyed learning and working with a good group of people. The most valuable opportunity Machinima afforded me was the experience and ability to work with both brands and influencers.

How has YouTube evolved since its inception?

Angelo Pullen: YouTube started off similar to many other platforms, giving its creators tools to share and communicate. However, the creation of the partnership program and the concept of a platform sharing its ad revenue with the creators that are helping build its audience was one of the single most important moves for a platform to date.

Luke Stepleton: Loads, more than any one person can possibly provide a single answer for. The core of what makes it a wonderful platform hasn’t changed. The single most important change that YouTube implemented was the Partnership program. For me, this may go down as one of the most socially important and impactful decisions made by any corporation in the last 50 years.

What’s the secret to turning YouTube followers into customers?

Angelo Pullen: Authenticity. Provide something that the Influencer and their community actually care about.

Luke Stepleton: Not forgetting the ‘You’ of YouTube, and working closely with influencers to speak authentically to their audience.

Luke Stepleton

What did you learn from your first mobile game, Zombie Killer Squad, when it comes to connecting with Youtube influencers?

Angelo Pullen: Give the YouTube Influencer the freedom to drive the creative direction of the game, specifically for their respective communities, and you will succeed.

Luke Stepleton: Every creative process and production offers its own unique set of learning opportunities. Working creatively with YouTubers to produce a game is no different than producing a movie or film. It takes the creative input of everyone involved to make it great.

What role will game development play in your company moving forward?

Angelo Pullen: A significant role. We are looking to become a legitimate player in the world of game publishing. Our focus will be on becoming the predominant publisher of Influencer driven games, developing engaging IP that is creatively driven and marketed by Influencers.

Luke Stepleton: Game development is a cornerstone for 3Blackdot, allowing us to work with a truly engaged community.

What opportunities do you see on Youtube when it comes to production?

Angelo Pullen: We are really excited about our production arm, PickAxe, which will be focusing on developing Influencer Driven content for Over-The-Top (OTT) outlets, but incubating the content on YouTube first. We believe that working with Influencers to develop premium content for their respective communities and then letting the community decide if they would like to see more, creates a unique opportunity to mitigate the risk that many other traditional producers are met with, while also increasing the LTV of a viewer for the OTT. It all starts on YouTube.

Luke Stepleton: There are significant opportunities for production on YouTube moving forward. 3BD plans on utilizing YouTube as a place to develop audience and IP. Working with the community on IP development, through the YouTube platform, is a key differentiator for us.

What does Hank Stepleton bring to the table for original series for online?

Angelo Pullen: Hank brings a proven track record of creating content that sells. Hank has produced 12 major TV shows and most recently served as executive producer of the popular American Reality TV Show, Duck Dynasty. Duck Dynasty has broken several ratings records on both A&E and cable television as a whole. The fourth season premiere drew 11.8 million viewers, the most-watched non-fiction cable series in history. Hank will develop content and pitches for digital outlets, as well as traditional cable outlets.

Luke Stepleton: Hank brings a level of professionalism that enables 3BD to immediately become a force in the content production realm. Oh, and he is my brother, whose intelligence, integrity, hard work ethic, and dogged persistence have been integral in my professional development.

Adam Montoya

With so many TVs offering YouTube anyway, how do you see the concept of entertainment evolving across devices?

Angelo Pullen: I think with the creation of more platforms and content, we will start to see more and more serialized content being created for specific niche communities/demographics and they will be offered up to people to consume the content where they like, when they like.

Luke Stepleton: The most difficult part about the future is “Discoverability,” it is an uphill battle for all content creators. 3Blackdot solves the problem of discoverability for its clients on the agency side of our business, as well as for our own IP.

What opportunities does Android TV open up for you as game developers and entertainment creators?

Angelo Pullen: I think with services such as Android TV and Amazon Fire TV, the barrier of entry for indie game developers & publishers has dropped significantly. It’s an exciting time when you create content and games that are platform & device agnostic and can be played on your big screen or taken with you on your mobile device, while still providing a seamless engaging experience.

Luke Stepleton: Android TV is a huge opportunity for 3BD. We are stoked to work with OTTs on developing content with audience already in mind — working with the influencers and their audience to develop IP that appeals to massive cross platform audiences.

What role will YouTubers play in the actual company?

Angelo Pullen: Adam “SeaNanners” Montoya, and Tom “TheSyndicateProject” Cassell are two of our co-founders and partners in 3BlackDot. Not only do they share our vision, but are providing much of the creative direction for our games and content. Moving forward, we look to partner with more YouTube and social media Influencers who share our collective vision towards building exciting IP, content, and games.

Tom Cassell

Luke Stepleton: Adam and Tom are co-founders in 3BlackDot, and like all co-founders they will play an important role: From developing IP creatively, to input on how to more authentically to work with audiences, and finally as thought leaders in their respective space.

Will you be an official YouTube partner and host YouTubers and creators (like Machinima did)?

Angelo Pullen: We do have a collective of YouTubers that is a part of 3BD, but for the time being, we are not looking to aggregate a massive amount of channels. We are much more focused on partnering with YouTubers who are like-minded and want to create compelling assets (i.e. games and content)

Luke Stepleton: Though we understand the correlation to Machinima, our desire is to partner with content creators to create value with influence. Empowering both the company and content creators to deliver truly engaging entertainment properties.

How will you work with consumer brands across gaming and entertainment?

Angelo Pullen: My and Luke’s core competency while at Machinima was working with consumer brands and helping them authentically integrate their products and services into the YouTube ecosystem. As we move forward, we are excited about all of the new ways we can leverage new technology, games and content to drive engaged audiences to a brand’s products and services. We believe the definition of branded entertainment is going to take an entirely new shape as we begin to harness the power of mobile devices.

Luke Stepleton: 3BlackDot firmly believes that any demographic can be reached by leveraging “Peer to Peer” marketing techniques. We firmly believe the most difficult part of the future is discoverability, and that goes for brands as well as content creators. Working with the Influencers inside the YouTube and social media eco-systems can empower any brand to strategically target their desired demo.