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What's Happening: Inside Twitter's Big Video Push

For the first time in what seems like a long time Twitter answered its own question: “What’s happening?”

“Saucy is happening,” a Twitter-made marketing montage flashed across the screen at the platform’s NewFronts event on Monday. Also happening, according to Twitter: “Gorgeous,” “oops,” “slam” and “creation.”

Twitter has been using the phrase “it’s what’s happening” in its marketing to attract fresh attention to itself as a cultural touchstone. As a business, though, the question of what’s happening hasn’t always had a clear answer.

On Monday, the company sought to change that by highlighting its offerings around sports, news, culture, entertainment, finance and other content from 16 streaming video partnerships, led by BuzzFeed, Vox Media, Viacom, the WNBA, and the PGA.

Twitter’s video package will be anchored by a live 24-hour Bloomberg News stream and will include its first wholly-owned digital show, called “#What’sHappening.”

A room full of advertisers and media partners were at the NewFronts to hear the platform pitch shows, like BuzzFeed’s “MorningFeed” and The Player Tribune’s “Verified.” Twitter is adding the new sports content after losing a bidding war to Amazon last month to stream the NFL’s Thursday night games.

“The rest of the world uses our content and we’re excited to actually be doing this ourselves,” said Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter’s vp of global brand strategy, after the NewFronts reveal. “It ties in literally to our brand.”

“#What’sHappening” will start streaming in primetime later this year, and as of yet it doesn’t have a sponsor. “That’s what this week is about,” Lunenfeld said. The show will be a cultural daily dive into what’s happening on Twitter, be it a Fyre Festival fiasco or a Golden Globes red carpet moment.

Twitter is trying to create a live streaming network to sell ads against. In creating “#What’sHappening,” it will own the content outright, meaning Twitter won’t be splitting ad revenue with a media partner.

“Younger affluent males is our main audience, and Twitter obviously has a young audience,” said Ben Collier, brand director at Remy Martin, following the presentation. “This wide variety of content through partnerships, brought to life in a younger, more dynamic, unfiltered way, will help our brand further expand our conversation.”

Brands are looking for more places to bring digital video ads, and Twitter picked an interesting time to get noticed, as other digital natives like AOL-Yahoo, BuzzFeed and others pulled back from NewFronts main events this year in order to have more private conversations with clients.

Lou Paskalis, Bank of America’s svp of media planning, investment and measurement, expressed interest in the new Bloomberg partnership, where the channel said it would stream all day every day. The bank was not a sponsor yet, however.

“I can’t make myself relevant every moment of every day, but I can be relevant on Twitter,” Paskalis said. “And Twitter is relevant everyday. So, I’m looking for that.”

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