Axios shifting video strategy to TV
Axios is no longer producing editorial videos to distribute on its site or platforms like Facebook and YouTube. The company is moving in favor of television by skipping original digital video.
“TV is our editorial video strategy,” said Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei.
In Aug. 2018, the company announced a deal to produce a documentary news show for HBO that premiered three months later. The deal was renewed again in Feb. 2019 for a second season. Then, on Oct. 8, it was picked up for an additional two seasons.
In February, according to the LA Times, Axios generated $25 million in revenue in 2018. However, VandeHei declined to comment on the current terms of the deal with HBO and what profits the company expects to make this year.
Axios had been producing videos for its site and other platforms before the HBO show’s debut. But, with the deal secured with HBO, the company found much support for the debut of the first season. Documentary filmmakers Perri Peltz and Matthew O’Neill, national political reporter Jonathan Swan and chief technology correspondent Ina Fried were a few personalities attached with season one.
With season two, Axios has people on the staff that are focused exclusively on the show.
Raisa Zaidi, a Producers Guild Award-nominated producer who previously worked for Al Jazeera English, serves as the show’s editorial director and works across Axios’ newsroom of 56 editorial employees to formulate story ideas for the show. Amelia Knight is the show’s project manager and responsible for handling logistical matters like organizing shoot locations and coordinating with the 30 to 40 people that can be involved in putting together any given episode. And Juliet Bartz is an associate producer on the show, charged with researching segments and prepping reporters.
“It speaks to their production and storytelling ability, but it doesn’t provide me a glimpse into how they work with brands because branded content and entertainment are different than creating their own content,” said an agency exec.
Then again, Axios does not necessarily need its HBO show to be a big driver of traffic to its site or sign-ups for its newsletters. It can be its own business. With companies including Amazon, Apple, NBCUniversal, Netflix Quibi and WarnerMedia stocking up on shows amid the streaming war, “that is opening the door to companies that have high-end content and high-end audience to be able to start to explore. This could be a new revenue line for some. It’s certainly a new revenue line for us,” VandeHei said.