Univision has its own BuzzFeed clone

Flama, the digital video network from Hispanic media giant Univision, shares some DNA with BuzzFeed.

Since launching the Flama site in April 2014, Univision and its partner Bedrocket Media Ventures have arrived at a content strategy to attract Hispanic millennials: pair YouTube talent with a young, Hispanic editorial team well-versed in sharable content. The result is straight out of BuzzFeed, with the addition of an inverted question mark on the “¿WTF?” button. The content, all in English with a heavy emphasis on video, is your standard viral fare: “Spanish Words White People Can’t Say,” “How Mexican Girls Get Ready for a Date,” and “10 Ignorant Tweets about a Mexican Winning an Oscar.”

Flama offers Univision an opportunity to reach the second- and third-generation Hispanic Americans who aren’t glued to telenovelas and sports — a market segment consuming copious amounts of digital video. But Univision is building the operation slowly: Flama has just 15 employees today, as well as roughly 30 YouTube-creator partners who produce video content for the network, such as Rebecca “Becky G” Gomez and Megan Batoon. Flama doesn’t reach comScore’s minimum reporting threshold for traffic, but the Flama site racked up 720,000 unique visitors in January, according to a Univision spokesperson. On YouTube, the “Flama TV” channel (its only one) has 189,000 subscribers and attracts above 1.4 million monthly views, according to YouTube analytics platform OpenSlate.

“As a big media company, you have other considerations beyond ‘let’s just get a ton of scale,’” said Flama chief Steven Benanav. “When we created the brand Flama, the idea was it would give us a license to do things differently and try things without hurting the Univision brand. We had the chance to get our feet wet.”

The big question for Flama is whether it is offering much its audience isn’t already finding on BuzzFeed. While some of the content is clearly geared toward a Hispanic audience, much of it is fairly standard viral culture pieces. Flama touts “11 Hilarious Memes on That Goddamn Dress” and “16 Signs You’re Part of an Awful Couple” as Flama originals.

As Flama looks for its voice, it has actively sought to monetize its efforts through pre-roll video advertising, integrated branding within video content, native ad units on the site and (soon) traditional display ads. Flama has worked a half-dozen advertisers so far: McDonald’s, CoverGirl, General Mills, FAFSA and Job Corps. Trojan sponsored a 10-episode Flama comedy series, “The Bodega,” which follows a pair of brothers working at their Dominican dad’s New York City bodega who try to get rich fast with a series of impractical schemes. Flama also pulled together a series of sponsored listicles for Trojan, including “8 Condom Moments in Pop Culture” and “10 Smells and Foods that Turn People On.”

“Flama has played it safe with their content so far,” said Paul Kontonis, executive director of the Global Online Video Association. “But having a consumer-facing brand is smart, … and the organization has the internal support and the funding it needs to build it out.”

Flama mobile screenshot
Flama’s mobile site

By focusing on its site, which is tougher to scale than existing YouTube stars’ channels, Flama doesn’t have to share ad revenue with Google or YouTube creators. But Flama does have distribution deals in place with Hulu and Condé Nast. And Flama has worked with a consultant to investigate launching a multichannel network of its own, according to a source. That would make it substantially easier for Flama to grow its audience, even if the relative revenue coming in from each viewer would be smaller.

“When you’re starting out, when you’re pretty new, you can’t expect everyone to find you,” said Benanav. “You need to get your stuff out there and find them.”

And once Flama finds those people, the company hopes its content strikes a new chord with viewers, even if the formats are familiar.

“There’s no 50-year-old guy being like, ‘I know what Latino millennials want,’” said Alexis Tirado, managing editor at Flama. “The content is for Latino millennials, and we are Latino millennials. Other places don’t have that.”

Main image courtesy of Univision / Flama

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