'We are trying to build that direct audience:' Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine is more focused on building audiences than scale
- Sarah Harden, president of Reese Witherspoon's media brand Hello Sunshine, is more interested in building smaller, loyal audiences than building a massive media company.
- The company has projects in the works for Apple, Hulu and Amazon.
- A number of women-focused media brands have tried to serve women but "there are too few stories where you've had women driving action," she said.
Digital media companies relentlessly chase scale to win over advertisers. Two years into launching, Reese Witherspoon's media brand Hello Sunshine isn't interested in following its peers.
According to Sarah Harden, president of Hello Sunshine, the company is more interested in building smaller, but more engaged, audiences than building an impression-based media brand. Hello Sunshine's mission is to create cross-platform content that tells stories for and about women. The company has a handful of projects in the works including shows for Apple, Hulu and Amazon and a podcast network.Read more: Reese Witherspoon launching audiobook project
"We're not at the publishing CPM end of the spectrum, we are trying to build that direct audience," she said while speaking at Business Insider's Ignition conference in New York.
For the upcoming "Little Fires Everywhere" series based on Celeste Ng's bestselling book, Hello Sunshine is working with Hulu on an eight-episode show. By the time the show is finished with Hulu, the project will have been in the works for two and a half years, Harden said. By then, she hopes that Hello Sunshine will have an audience to show.
"Part of our promise to Hulu is that we're going to bring our audience and help drive them to TV," Harden said. "Whether you're trying to get people to sit in a movie theater or show up for a show on a streaming platform or find you on social, that's how we define our company."
Asked if getting the rights to a project and promising to bring an audience is appealing for partners, Harden said that's the vision.
"We're going to do everything in our power to make that show incredible, but we have work to do yet - that's a 10-year journey we're on [and] we're building this company for the long term. I'd rather have 1 million women who follow us who love everything we launch than 50 million 'likes' across a more ephemeral relationship."
Hello Sunshine has its own platform for womenA few years ago, companies like Verizon's Go90 and Warner Bros.-owned DramaFever rushed to create their own direct-to-consumer streaming services for content. Now both of those services have disappeared while other companies like Disney and WarnerMedia are planning to launch their own services in the coming months that feature their own content.
That environment has led many in the media industry to wonder if the direct-to-consumer model is viable for content creators beyond giants like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube.
Hello Sunshine, for one, seems bullish on building a platform that consumers will come back to. The company has its own video-on-demand channel with AT&T that's available on DirectTV, DirectTV Now and U-Verse. The first series for the channel, dubbed "Shine On With Reese" launched this summer.
Of course, building a media brand catered to women is nothing new and is an area that magazines and TV networks have served for decades.
The difference with Hello Sunshine is the way that all the parts fit together, Harden said.
"Our goal is to bring to life different perspectives, different stories, different narratives," she said. "There are too few stories where you've had women driving action. There's room for excellent storytelling [and] finding the combination of IP, talent and the right partners."