Refinery29, a digital media company for young women, marched out stars of television, music and their own digital channels to tout its upcoming content at a NewFronts presentation Wednesday (May 3) afternoon in New York.
The presentation came off more as a frenetic, loud and energetic variety show, filled with colors, stars and plenty of hype, fitting of its audience of millennial and Gen Z women and girls.
The digital channel announced a slate of new programming that supports the company’s theme “Our Party is Women” which includes collaborations with Willow Smith, Zosia Mamet, Rashida Jones, Chloe x Halle, Evan Rachel Wood and her band Rebel and a Basketcase, and comedian/actor Sasheer Zamata.
Taking over concert venue Terminal 5, the presentation was more like a show, with quick hits of video and descriptions from content producers interspersed with music and flashing lights, with a confetti shower at the end.
“Women are the protagonists of our content,” said Philippe Von Borries, CEO and co-founder of Refinery29.
Building on Refinery29’s core values of self-expression, creativity and inclusivity, this year’s programming slate hopes to push boundaries of representation for all women in media. Genres will range from comedy to music, style and beauty, to global social issues. Content will be distributed across Refinery29’s network of social and long-form distribution partners, which reaches a global footprint of more than 500 million.
The afternoon was bookended by two artists who represented the company’s growing presence on the music front. The teen duo Chloe x Halle – young and empowered like their audience – kicked it off with a song on being strong and smart then were announced as guests on the upcoming season of UnStyled Fashion Films, hosted by Refinery29 co-founder and global editor in chief, Christene Barberich.
Closing the event was actor/singer Evan Rachel Wood and her band Rebel and a Basketcase, singing a powerful protest-style song, “Today”. The band will be part of a new series called The Drop that exclusively ‘drops’ music videos from female artists to showcase their sounds and discover fresh new voices.
In between performances the company presented more of its new and continuing content. On the music front, Willow Smith the teenaged daughter of Will and Jaden Smith, will be the executive producer of Soundscape, a fashion-forward music video series that pairs next-gen female filmmakers with rising musicians to produce videos that upend stereotypes. The musicians will then take their videos on a nationwide tour.
Girls star Zosia Mamet and Alex Gayner presented their new modern fairytale anthology series Fabled. “We unraveled these old fables with a new retelling…our princesses are going to be badasses,” said Mamet.
Other video programming included a docu-series following global change agents, Girly, developed in collaboration with Fictionless Films and executive producer Rashida Jones; and I’m an Anomaly, a long-form docu-series that explores women who don’t fit the norms of society.
Refinery29 has also partnered with television programmers TBS and TNT on two projects. The RIOT Writer’s Lab, in partnership with TBS, is a two-day comedy lab in which six emerging female comedy creators will receive guidance from seasoned television writers and industry executives, including Saturday Night Live’s Sasheer Zamata. The company’s Shatterbox Anthology, a film series that puts women behind the lens, has recently partnered with TNT.
The company also trotted out its own stars and executives to tout their shows and stats, including Elisa Kreisinger, host of the Facebook channel and op-ed personal essay series Strong Opinions Loosely Held; social channel star Mi-Anne Chan, host of Beauty with Mi; and Arianna Davis, who talks with celebrities on The Mention.
Through all the hype at the NewFronts presentation, the Refinery29 did touch briefly on its stats: since inception, cumulative time spent viewing Refinery29 video amounts to 780m minutes, 13m hours or 1,484 days, with total monthly streams consistently exceeding 300m with a 600% year-over-year growth.
It also touted its strength with brands and advertisers through a commissioned Nielsen study: With unaided recall of branded content totaling 56%, Refinery29 outperforms its competitors (including linear TV) by 12 points. Additionally, exposure to Refinery29 Branded Video has a direct, positive impact on its audience’s actions, increasing their likelihood to make a purchase by 51%, according to a release.
But it’s Refinery29’s connection with young women that is helping it grow globally into all areas and genres of media.
Amy Emmerich, chief content officer of Refinery29, said: “Put simply, this isn’t a time for business as usual – the audience expects more from us, and this slate, which offers experiences as well as focused category launches, delivers…It’s about how powerful we can be, individually, but more important, collectively.”