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Convenience, Choice, and Control: Taking on Traditional Media with ZEUS and SAG-AFTRA

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The creators of Zeus and David White, National Executive Director of SAG-AFTRA give an inside look into how SAG-AFTRA and creators are working together in new ways to reflect artists’ needs and the evolving new media landscape.

“People are watching content at their convenience, choice, and control,” television executive producer and ZEUS CEO and President ​Lemuel Plummer shared during “Lights, Camera, Content Creators: SAG-AFTRA & ZEUS Bridging the Gap Between Linear and Digital Storytelling Platforms.” Plummer, alongside leading online creators King Bach, Destorm Power, and Amanda Cerny, as well as SAG-AFTRA’s David White, spoke about the need for a platform that fulfilled that brief while utilizing the power and following of artists who came up through social media. Cerny, an actress and Zeus content creator and partner, affirmed the hunger for content delivered in this fashion. “All the signs are there. Fans are asking for more [in the comments of our videos], and we’re able to provide it.”

Content Delivered with Convenience

ZEUS stands apart from other platforms who follow the subscription model (like Hulu, Amazon Prime or Netflix) because it is built in large part by its content creators. Co-founded with Cerny, Power, and Bach, the platform aims to identify creators who have risen through the ranks of platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and the dearly departed Vine, to cultivate a large fan base and a clear vision for their image. These creators will then have the opportunity to develop programming consistent with that image, and geared toward what the fan base wants. “We greenlight people, not shows,” Plummer noted, and that sentiment was affirmed by each creator’s excitedness to try new things on the forthcoming lineup.

Content Delivered With Choice

The panel also held valuable advice for creators wishing to ascend to a level that ZEUS could partner with. When asked about how to build a following, both Cerny and Bach stressed the importance of consistency. “Posting once a month won’t do it,” Cerny warned. Each also was able to name the value that collaborations (with each other, as well as with other high profile creators like Jimmy Tatro) had in raising their profiles and bringing in new fans. Power added the importance of exploring creation fueled by controversy – “because controversy sells.” Invoking the example of beefs in hip-hop, Zeus content creator and partner, Power asserted, “they work because they do something against the grain to get these new fans.”

Zeus content creator and partner Bach spoke more about how doing something against the grain helped fuel his rise. On Vine, “I looked at what the Vine community was doing AND what they were missing.

The viewer’s ability to choose what content they want to watch, and interact with creators who will listen to their feedback, provides an element of consumer choice that also aligns with creator choice in a manner unlike any other subscription platform; Plummer thinks this connection will make the difference in a crowded marketplace of subscription-based streaming options. “We felt it was important to collide traditional and social media worlds together.”

Content Delivered with Control

ZEUS’s collaboration with SAG-AFTRA is a historic one, in that it provides a sense of protection and understanding that isn’t often afforded to creators working exclusively in the online space. But SAG is determined to change that image. “We love the vision of creators,” said White about why the partnership was developed. “[This group] has matured to the level where they understand their responsibility to their audience and to [themselves],” and there’s a need to fairly share in wealth when that happens. “So the idea that they’ve reached a stage where they’re putting out professional content, premium content, and the vision to make sure they’re not only sharing that but that the next generation [of creators] gets to share that too, is why SAG-AFTRA wants to get involved.” This partnership, along with the high production quality and unprecedented control over writing, editing, and directing that ZEUS will provide, “validates the hard work [the panel has been doing] since 2003, while upping its production value.”

The panel also had the opportunity to talk about how control plays into their relationship with brands, a phenomenon talked about frequently at Social Media Week and important to the rise of these creators. The best advice you can take for working with an influencer? “Give us creative control,” says Bach. “We study viral content, [but] they look at it as what they think is going to go viral.” Power in particular was vocal about the brands he’d worked with who pushed back against his knowledge of the online space, only to end up with a final product that didn’t work. When his vision was listened to, he often heard “Oh, that did work!” when he knew it would all along! Bach shared the story of a viral campaign for Brita he did with Steph Curry: “it went viral because I had fun doing it, he had fun doing it, and it was something no one had seen before.” Like the viral Brita campaign, ZEUS and SAG-AFTRA are embarking on a partnership previously unseen in this space. Time will tell if that sense of fun and newness will pay off, but Bach is excited to see this project “take them to the next level.”

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