Famed goalie Hope Solo will hit the soccer fields in Rio de Janeiro this month to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games, and a new docuseries from digital entertainment company Fullscreen gives viewers a glimpse into her day-to-day life.
Keeping Score, which premieres today, is a video series that follows Solo and teammates Megan Rapinoe and Crystal Dunn as they prepare for the Olympics. The series will air exclusively through Fullscreen's video streaming service, which costs $4.99 per month, and specifically targets Millennials and Gen Z.
Fullscreen, which was acquired by Otter Media in 2014, declined to comment on how many subscribers it has so far, but says users are generally exceeding 100-minute sessions on the app and website.
"The U.S. women's national team has been such a phenomenal success over the past decade," says George Strompolos, Fullscreen's founder and chief executive. "We felt that fans of the U.S. women's soccer team would be interested in more programming around that."
To his point, more than 22 million viewers tuned in to watch the 2015 FIFA World Cup Championship, in which the U.S. women's soccer team beat Japan's 5-1 for the title.
A media company for YouTube stars
Prior to launching Fullscreen, Strompolos had spent years working at YouTube, the then-nascent social media site where ordinary people could publish videos. There, he co-created the "Partners Program," which allowed creators for the first time to generate revenue through YouTube advertisements.
"Once we built that [the Partners Program] at YouTube back in the day, we saw that there was a new creative class of filmmakers, personalities, stars, animators, and influencers that were really experimenting on YouTube and capturing the hearts and minds of young audiences around the world," Strompolos says. "I saw pretty quickly that there was an opportunity to create a media company with this new generation of talent at the core."
So in 2011, he decided start his own company. The aim: to support creators by giving them the tools to, say, manage their royalties or license music, in return for a cut of revenue. Fullscreen also acts as an agency of sorts, connecting brands to its network of 70,000 influencers for both long-term and short-term marketing campaigns. (That portion of the business, Strompolos says, has recently eclipsed the creators' platform.) Most recently, in April of this year, Fullscreen launched its own on-demand video streaming service, where it shoots and produces original content.
The Fullscreem streaming service is a small fish in a sea of global competitors. Netflix, for instance, ended 2015 with more than 44 million subscribers in the U.S., according to the Consumer Intelligence Research Partners Study, while Amazon Prime -- which recently launched its own monthly streaming service -- has the potential to reach as many as 61 million subscribers (i.e., the number of overall Prime customers, according to a recent Piper Jaffrey estimate.) Netflix costs between $7.99 and $11.99 per month, while the Prime Video offering costs between $8.99 and $10.99.
Still, Strompolos insists that such services target older audiences, while his is uniquely for Generation Z. In that way, he sees Fullscreen as being more of a "complement" to traditional streaming platforms, because it gives direct access to social media stars that the younger generation grew up with. Consider that popular web celebrities including Grace Helbig are members of the Fullscreen creators community; Helbig recently co-starred with Hannah Hart, another YouTube star, in Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, a show produced by Fullscreen and Legendary Entertainment.
"Our obsession around this audience, and this generation of talent, shines through to the audience," Strompolos says.
He adds that the interface itself has a younger, more colorful look, and lets users post comments just as they would on platforms like YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. After all, as Strompolos sees it, the strategy taps into a sort of youth existentialism: "What they share is how they establish their identity," he says.
According to the founder, it was relatively easy to convince Solo, Rapino and Dunn to commit to letting Fullscreen produce Keeping Score, because the business could promise an unusually quick turnaround.
"This project came together in a matter of two months," Strompolos says. "We're not trying to re-create this idea called 'development hell,' which has plagued Hollywood, where projects just get trapped in the ether."
He also says Fullscreen can adapt as it goes, and may add an episode or two if the players feel the story is incomplete.