OZY Media expands its empire to broadcast with PBS agreement

OZY
Source: OZY Media

Digital media network OZY Media is getting political with PBS.

The company announced on Friday that its first TV series "The Contenders: 16 for 16," will air on PBS starting on September 13. Each hour-long episode will feature two notable presidential candidates that— despite seeming different at first—have more in common that one might think.

"Having a smart, stylish show is going to be perfect timing," said Carlos Watson, CEO and co-founder of OZY Media. "I'm excited to bring these dramatic stories of how people ascend to the highest office in the land."

Watson hopes that OZY's multi-million dollar TV deal, which was first announced in January, won't be the last. The company has 16 shows in development, with three being shot currently. It also signed a deal with Hollywood talent powerhouse Creative Arts Agency.

"Millennials don't want to watch television, but they will watch great television," Watson. "When people are doing something special like 'Game of Thrones,' 'Peaky Blinders,' or 'The Americans,' I think millennials and others will watch."

PBS, on the other hand, is hoping OZY will be able to bring some of their youth audience to its network.

"OZY has certainly demonstrated a way to reach an incredible audience in that [millennial] sphere, and have a lot of credibility in audiences that we have an interest in exposing to the world of public broadcast," said Marie Nelson, vice president of news and public affairs for PBS.

Though the show is tied to the current interest in politics, Nelson believes that it will still be able to attract an audience after this election.

"We certainly believe this is going to have a very long tail," she said. "Political junkies are the types of folks that have an interest on an ongoing basis. We're very excited we're going to have the opportunity and the right to continue the content."

'The change generation'

With 20 million monthly unique users and 1.5 million subscribers, OZY Media is trying to become the news, arts and culture source for what Watson has dubbed the "change generation."

OZY stories have appeared in partner organizations includingThe New York Times, NPR, PBS NewsHour, TED, The Financial Times and The Huffington Post.

But while the popularity of digital media is growing, television still offers more lucrative advertising and distribution rights deals—and an immediate way to reach the masses.

For example, Vice Media launched its first cable channel in February, and is gearing up for a daily show on HBO. Vox Media's "Prefabulous," a show about prefabricated homes based on its digital property Curbed, found a home on A+E in May.

OZY has been focusing on several initiatives to get its name more widely recognized. It recently held a festival in Central Park to branch out into events and experience-based marketing.

Adding a TV series may give OZY even more exposure among older millennials and PBS TV viewers. Watson adds that it will create a diversified revenue stream for the network, similar to Vice.

"We've always said we want OZY to be seen as the HBO of the news space," he said. "This deal builds our brand in addition to building our business."

Disclosure: CNBC parent company NBCUniversal has invested in Vox Media.