Netfli NFLX x isn’t the only company releasing new content during the pandemic. A digital series connecting superfans with their favorite young adult authors will premiere on Facebook Watch and Instagram on May 31, proving the show can go on—on the right platform.
The show, called Letters to ___, was created by production house Picturestart and is the one-year-old company’s first release. Backed by Warner Bros, Scholastic SCHL , Endeavor and more, the company is one to keep an eye on in the young adult space thanks to upcoming projects like a prequel to Grease and a film adaption of best-seller Eleanor & Park.
What originally was going to be filmed inside a studio in Los Angeles—with popular writers like R.L. Stine of Goosebumps, Stephenie Meyer of Twilight and Veronica Roth of Divergent surprising fans in person—quickly moved to Zoom and FaceTime. The show went from being tabled in March to wrapping up production in mid-May.
Letters to ___ isn’t the first program to pivot during the pandemic, but it is seemingly better suited for it. Preexisting shows that decided to film from home, such as American Idol, Saturday Night Live and The Voice, saw strong ratings when they returned to TV screens, but the novelty quickly wore off. Viewership for Idol and The Voice dropped to their lowest levels of the season, despite audiences having more time than ever to consume content. Blame the fact that they were trying to adapt their set programs to a new normal—and still fill an hour or more.
Letters to ___ , on the other hand, had the chance to think digital-first. But that doesn’t mean it’s being put together haphazardly at home; it will all be edited by digital media company Brat TV.
“We liked the idea of feeling immediate but didn’t want it to seem like a DIY, cobbled-together show,” says Picturestart CEO Erik Feig, who oversaw the Hunger Games, Divergent and Twilight film series. “In terms of high-end production value… the premium content does dry up during” the pandemic.
Episodes only run six to seven minutes long. And its target audience—the young adult fans—is used to consuming content through social media. More than one-third of Instagram users, for example, are under the age of 24.
The revamped show also fits perfectly within Facebook Watch’s new strategy. The platform, which has 140 million daily users and a 2020 content budget of about $1.4 billion according to The Information, decided to move away from scripted content earlier this year in favor of short-form talk shows, like its flagship series Red Table Talk hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith and Nine Months with Courtney Cox. Those series have both experienced a surge of viewers during the pandemic, with a coronavirus-themed episode of Red Table Talk garnering over 113 million views.
For Picturestart, which has the rights to the IP, the series sets up a slew of upcoming releases. It has an adaptation of R.L. Stine’s Point Horror books in the works for HBO Max, a film based on Veronica Roth’s newly released book, Chosen Ones, in production and an unannounced project with Stephenie Meyer coming up. (The only writer featured on the show Picturestart doesn’t have a deal with is Ann M. Martin of The Baby-Sitters Club.)
The series also serves as easy marketing.
“Because books have a really long life…they can be discovered over and over again, and the things you do to support and promote a book last a long time,” says Roth, who has been on a digital book tour since April. “I feel it too, the desire to connect with people in a meaningful way, beyond watching them on Instagram making sourdough starter.”
Source: Forbes Business