It was 2011 when What’s Trending first launched into the live streaming space with a daily digital entertainment program. Turns out the media co, led by CEO and on-line host Shira Lazar, was a little ahead of its time.
The initial show, a joint venture between CBS Interactive and AT&T, stirred up plenty of buzz and earned some notable industry hardware (including two Emmy nods), yet failed to get real traction amid a still-skeptical audience and technology that wasn’t quite up to par.
“The landscape wasn’t really ready for that kind of live-appointment programming,” Gabrielle Kessler Hanks, What’s Trending’s head of strategy and partnerships, told StreamDaily.
Fast forward to mid-2016 and the digital world is a very, very different space. Live streaming, in particular, is enjoying a bona fide renaissance with the emergence of wildly popular platforms such as Facebook Live, YouNow, Periscope, YouTube Live and, more recently, live.ly, the latest player to enter the field via its Gen Z-approved parent co, musical.ly.
It’s amid this new environment that What’s Trending is taking another big shot at live by launching a slate of fresh daily programming on live.ly.
“We’ve put in our 10,000 hours as far as live programming goes and, as the landscape matured and the stars aligned from an audience perspective, we’ve finally arrived at the moment to have mass adoption from a platform and mobile perspective,” said Kessler Hanks.
Among the content now available is a show with online creator Bart Baker and Lazar (both pictured) featuring special guests such as musician Jay Sean and Apl from The Black Eyed Peas.
In addition, the company will launch a weekly advice call-in show around sex, relationships and mental health called #Here4U hosted by Rickey Thompson and Lazar; and Lazar will host a show called “Girl Talk” on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays on her own live.ly account, which currently reaches about 300,000 followers, according to data supplied by What’s Trending.
In addition, the brand has a partnered with Live.ly TV on a weekend @WhatsTrending brunch show with Baker and Lazar that is set to go live on the platform’s own @musical.ly channel.
What’s Trending is also in the throes of developing a network of its frequent collaborators and early adopters to the musical.ly and live.ly platforms, including Jason Coffee, Txunamy and her mom, Esthella, and Greg Dunbar. Much like a traditional MCN, the aim of the network (dubbed WT Live) is to provide talent with the strategy and tools they need to increase their live audience size and engagement metrics, and build on strategic partnerships with brands looking to get into the live space.
“We are actively figuring out what works best from a client monetization standpoint. I think our primary function is just to keep creating content that is going to be attractive to our (audience) demographic,” said Kessler Hanks.
To date, What’s Trending has worked with the likes of Ford, Marriott International, Samsung and PayPal on branded-content campaigns.