These ‘smart weirdos’ at Turner’s Super Deluxe make subversive videos for Facebook

Imagine a live online game show in which contestants are placed inside an empty white room with no knowledge of why they’re being filmed and then have to do whatever activity the viewers vote for. Or picture an interactive game that allows you to knock Drake off the top of the CN Tower in Toronto, which is featured on his most recent album cover.

This is the type of content being dreamed up and created by Super Deluxe, an independent comedy outfit launched in June by Turner Broadcasting. Super Deluxe is no small-time operation. Today, the studio has 80 full-time staffers, with an additional 20 or more freelancers helping with different projects.

The goal for Super Deluxe is to make subversive videos, games and memes, all in the hopes that it gets 16- to 34-year-olds who are spending a lot of time on social platforms to laugh. (Super Deluxe itself is a refresh of a comedy portal created by Turner in 2006 for short-form comedy videos.)

“A good YouTube video for YouTube is just as important to us as a funny little game that we make with our tech department,” said Jesse Pearson, Vice’s former editor-in-chief who now serves as creative director for Super Deluxe. “It’s about reaching as many people as possible and embracing all of these different formats.”

One format in particular is taking on greater significance at Super Deluxe: The outfit will soon launch a dedicated Facebook page for live videos. To date, Super Deluxe has produced Facebook Live segments like “Mystery Box” (the aforementioned game show), “Mountain Soda Dunk Tank,” in which viewers get to drop people into a tank full of green soda, and “Call Hell,” which featured live animation as Satan answered viewer questions supplied via a hotline.

These are not typical Facebook Live Q&As — a format that’s become especially popular among news publishers. Here, Super Deluxe’s tech department is building polls and other interactive software that allow the company to create more choose-your-own-adventure-style content.

“We can have our broadcasts respond directly to what the audience is saying,” said Cyrus Ghahremani, head of live video for Super Deluxe. “They can not only take ownership of it but responsibility for it as well.”

By taking the extra step in its live videos, Super Deluxe feels it can foster better engagement per viewer. Whereas the average Super Deluxe Facebook video gets 454,000 views (as of June, according to Tubular Labs), “Mystery Box” only has 35,000 million views — and yet, the live video also generated 19,000 comments. For most of Super Deluxe’s live videos, more than half of the viewers who tune in like, share or comment on the video, the company said.

With the goal of going live on Facebook at least once per day by year’s end, Super Deluxe has set up a 10-person Facebook Live team to oversee the dedicated page.

But, of course, Facebook is not the only area of focus for Super Deluxe, which also has two people experimenting with content for Snapchat. In taking a distributed approach to building the media brand, Super Deluxe has organized its staff by different specialties. There are separate stables dedicated to creating short-form social videos, animated content and long-form series for TV and streaming networks. Its tech department oversees the creation of games and apps, as well as any technology needed for videos made by the other teams.

In terms of revenue, Super Deluxe will follow a model similar to Great Big Story, another distributed-media brand created by Turner to chase younger viewers. Branded content will be a key part of the Super Deluxe model, as well as revenue generated from producing and licensing shows to different linear and digital distributors.

But the focus for Super Deluxe right now is growing the brand. On Facebook it has more than 1.5 million followers and generated 48.3 million views in July, per Tubular Labs. YouTube, its second-biggest social platform with 310,000 subscribers, accounted for 10 million views the same month. The games have also caught people’s attention. In the “Drop Drake” game, Drake has been dropped over 3 million times by more than 200,000 people, Pearson said.

“Within two hours, it made the front page of Reddit,” said Pearson. “We’re a group of smart weirdos, and we want to work inside all of the spaces and formats that our audience uses to consume culture.”

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