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Conde Nast launches slate of original programming

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 8:38 am

NEW YORK — Conde Nast is launching a slate of original Web series, continuing the publisher's push to expand its stable of magazines into multimedia programming.

Conde Nast will debut on Tuesday online channels on YouTube and other video destinations for Glamour and GQ. The digital programming is just the start of plans for Conde Nast to spin off video series from many, if not all, of its magazines — even, potentially, The New Yorker.

In 2011, Conde Nast launched Conde Nast Entertainment to develop and produce movies, TV shows and Internet offerings based on its magazine brands. Dawn Ostroff, formerly president of entertainment for the CW network and an executive for Lifetime Television, came aboard to spur the multimedia expansion.

"This is by far one of the most exciting parts of what we're working on at CNE because it really is the future," says Ostroff. "It extends the reach of our brands, it really allows us to tap into a new audience, and we have the opportunity to be one of the first innovators in this space."

The four Glamour series include four- or five-minute-long shows like "Elevator Makeover," in which hosts Jessica Harlow and Theodore Leaf quickly remake a girl's appearance in a long elevator ride. Among the four GQ shows are a workout guide called "Fighting Weight" and "The Ten," in which celebrities share the 10 items they can't live without.

"This is just our first step, but clearly as we go forward, video is going to be a huge part of what we do here," says Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive. She also stars in one of the videos, one that tracks her during a day of covering Fashion Week. "In the future, this will be a huge part of what my staff — the brand staff — does."

Earlier this year, one of Ostroff's initiatives met some backlash after contracts with Conde Nast writers were reworked to grant the company "first-look" rights to any adaptations of published articles. Compensation rates for writers were also locked in. Some agents and writers protested that the terms were unfair.

But with steady decline throughout the industry in print magazine circulation, Ostroff and Conde Nast are intent on capitalizing from the sometimes lucrative entertainment possibilities in its magazines. The best-picture winner "Argo," for example, was partly based on an article published by Conde Nast's tech magazine Wired.

The company says that 850 of its writers have since signed the new deals. Conde Nast Entertainment has several film projects in development.

The magazine videos, inspired by the magazines and produced by Conde Nast Entertainment, will launch on their own sites, in digital magazine editions and as channels on YouTube. Though they share a similar approach to many of the premium channels launched in the last year on YouTube, they weren't made with funding from the Google Inc.-owned video site.

Other magazines have sought multi-platform expansion, including Hearst's Car and Driver, one of the YouTube-funded channels. Esquire, also a Hearst magazine, is to launch as a cable network produced by NBCUniversal.

Ostroff declined to say how much Conde Nast was spending on the channels but called it "a significant investment." She said Conde Nast Entertainment is in "a growth stage" as it gets started, and is relying on outside production companies to help produce the shows. While the programming thus far is in the lifestyle and reality television mold, Ostroff says Conde Nast is exploring several scripted show ideas.

More channels based on Conde Nast magazines (others include Vanity Fair, Vogue and Bon Appetit) will roll out every quarter, says Ostroff. Additional shows will also be added from GQ and Glamour throughout the year.

"All of the brands lend themselves to this type of content," Ostroff says. That includes Conde Nast's most esteemed and most word-heavy property, the 88-year-old The New Yorker. But Ostroff says, "we're not there yet."