Pilgrim Sets Sail Into Short-Form

CEO Piligian’s Studio to Incubate New Business — and, Maybe, New YouTube Stars
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Pilgrim Studios is one of today’s most prolific producers of scripted and non-fiction content, with such hit shows as Step It Up! (Lifetime); Fast N’ Loud (Discovery Channel); The Ultimate Fighter (FS1); and Ghost Hunters (Syfy).

Last month, Pilgrim ventured into the digital arena with the launch of 1620 Media, a new company that will produce short-form series and specials targeted to younger viewers. 1620 has already launched six short-form series featuring episodes ranging from 30 seconds to two minutes in length, and expects to distribute another seven shows before the end of November.

Pilgrim Studios CEO Craig Piligian recently spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about 1620 Media and the strategy behind creating short-form digital programming alongside Pilgrim’s popular long-form linear series. An edited transcript follows.

Next TV: Given the success Pilgrim Studios has had in the long-form arena, why did you decide to delve into short-form programming with 1620 Media?

Craig Piligian: The purpose is threefold. You can’t deny that the digital marketplace is one that you have to be in, even if you can’t monetize it they way you do a traditional cable show. You have to be in the digital space to be noticed.

No. 2, we wanted to show people that we could produce original content in a different way — we’re not just a long-form cable-programming provider, but we can provide content in 15-second, 30-second [or] one-minute intervals and have a clear picture of what kind of content we want to provide.

That being said, it’s also an incubator: We want to look at these shows as potential long-form shows. We’re kind of throwing darts at a dartboard, so we’re launching with five series, and maybe one of those shows will become a long-form series. We are incubating ideas for long-form programming on our own platform.

NTV: Will you look to attract advertisers to the shows?

CP: Yes, we want to attract advertisers to our content, but we also want to have brands come in and look at what we can do in one or two minutes. We don’t just produce long-form programming — we can produce for Budweiser, we can produce for Lincoln cars or Chevy trucks or any one of those brands that are looking to have a production partner for short-form digital content. If brands start producing their own television shows, then we want to be the producers and to let them know that we are in the game.

NTV: Are millennials the target audience for 1620 Media’s short-form programs?

CP: The younger millennials are watching content on their iPads and iWatches and they’re watching it in 15-second to three-minute intervals. We want to try and capture lightning in a bottle. If we get one or two of these short-form videos to be successful and popular with young viewers, we could create our own YouTube stars. You can build these stars and then you can make a long-form series or movie featuring them — there are people out there who get 6 or 7 million hits and become big media stars. We just want to get into the game. Now it’s up to us to hit a home run.

NTV: Will you look to gain access for 1620 Media on other digital distribution platforms such as Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV?

CP: Absolutely. We just want to get noticed. We’re trying to do a variety of different types of content across a different type of platforms.

NTV: How many shows are you looking to ultimately offer on the site?

CP: The sky’s the limit … we want to do as many shows as we can and work with great talent. [Actor] Barry Bostwick is in one of our shows, which is crazy — he’s doing Inside the Extras Studio and he’s the host. We didn’t know that we would get that caliber of talent for our little 1620 Media launch.

NTV: How do you get the word out about 1620 Media and your shows?

CP: Social media is huge part of that, making sure you have a presence there to get people invested in your shows. It’s what we did when we started our own website. We have the biggest social media following for a small, unscripted production company. We organically grew it, and now we’re trying to draft off of our own social following to begin with and then expand from there.

NTV: Will Pilgrim Studios stay aggressive with its long-form projects now that it is creating short-form content through 1620 Media?

CP: Definitely. We have some great new projects across a number of platforms, including syndication and cable, that I can’t talk about yet but eventually we’ll announce.

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