Cannabis media and advertising agency Ronin is finally launching the long-awaited Social Club TV ー a streaming network and platform dedicated entirely to pot. Ronin founder Josh Otten, who also co-founded PROHBTD, said he launched the network to give creators access to an audience and platform for longer-form content, in a way in which Facebook and other social media platforms could not.
“If you look at the cannabis media landscape, Social Club TV is going to be really the only OTT network out there for cannabis consumers and audiences who are looking for that sort of content to be able to provide them with broadcast-quality, long-form content,” Otten said. “We are the destination.”
The network is launching today on Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, and Pluto with more than 17 different series that add up to about 50 hours worth of cannabis-focused content. Otten’s personal favorites in the library include actor and comedian Gabriel Sunday’s Dope State, a mockumentary series poking fun at California cannabis and stoner culture, and Pimp My Grow, which is expected to launch in the next few weeks and showcases some of the challenges of homegrow. Other series on the roster include cannabis cooking show Pot Pie; a female-focused talk show called The Nest; and several shows starring rapper Berner and his work with cannabis brand Cookies. Otten said there are already a few more series in the pipeline and a deal in the works with Amazon Prime.
Ronin, Social Club TV’s parent company, boasts a 3,000 square foot studio in Culver City where it makes much of the content currently. But some of the content in Social Club TV’s library was developed during Otten’s time with PROHBTD and has been running on Pluto’s THC channel for the better part of two years.
“Over the last couple of years, partnering with Pluto proved our thesis,” Otten said. “The content works, the audience is there, and they like it and engage with it. So for us now, it made sense to expand on that, take our library and launch a new OTT network. And now, what we are finding is tons of content creators are coming to us, hungry for an opportunity.”
Ronin and Social Club TV already have partnerships in the works with celebrities and brands like Berner, Cookies, and Big Mike. But they are also discussing partnerships with popular influencers on Instagram who are looking for ways to create longer-form content. When it comes to popular social platforms — think Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube — they’re either not well-suited for longer-form video, unfriendly to cannabis content, or a little of both. Social Club TV, Otten said, is the answer for content creators looking to invest time and money into cannabis-focused content that has longevity.
“There is opportunity for content creators who aren’t chasing ... views on Instagram and Facebook that are disposable,” he said. “We have 3 or 4-year-old content that is discovering new audiences every day. And they’re watching it long-form because it’s built for that. It’s built for people who want to watch the entire thing and we’re finding it’s performing very well.”
Social Club TV does not have plans to showcase user-generated content like Social Club, an Instagram-like app developed by rapper Berner, but independently of Otten and Ronin, which folded last year after users reportedly used it to sell drugs and share gory and pornographic images, TechCrunch reported.
“The app that was launched last year (which we have no ownership or involvement in) allowed users to share photos and interact with one another without moderators. It is similar to Instagram or Massroots. SCTV is an OTT content platform with broadcast-quality content similar to Netflix or Hulu. There will be no way to share files or interact with other users,” Otten clarified in an email.
Stepping into the streaming space is a risky move at a time when streaming services and major networks are getting fiercely competitive, and companies in the digital media and cannabis industries are struggling. But there is opportunity in cannabis content. In 2019, more than one million U.S. households streamed cannabis-related content, and the number of hours streamed surged by 42.7 percent compared with 2018, according to data from PeerLogix as reported by Fox Business. Not to be outdone on content, Netflix has invested in web series Disjointed, as well as a few documentaries like Weed the People and Grass Is Greener. HBO boasts the popular title High Maintenance.
All that content isn’t cheap. For now, Social Club TV has been funded in stealth mode and by Ronin’s agency model, but the company is going out for a round of fundraising in March. Ultimately Otten envisions mainstream advertisers like GrubHub, Totinos, Kellogg, and Proctor and Gamble buying into advertising on the network.
“We believe some of our biggest advertisers are going to be mainstream brands, because they want access to our audience,” he said.
And longer term, Otten said Social Club TV may explore a subscription model.
As for the format of the media, he expects that to change, too. Most of the content launching Wednesday runs about 11 to 22 minutes, but ultimately, Otten said he hopes to branch into a wider variety of run-times and subject matter. He envisions everything from long-form documentaries and films, to content that complements, if not features, cannabis consumption. One idea of Otten’s, for example, is to dedicate a channel to music and visuals for people looking to chill out and relax when high. By the end of 2020, Otten aspires to have more than 1,000 hours of content, both made by Ronin and curated.