Yet another year passes by at Little Dot Studios, and it is yet another year full of milestones, broken records, exciting partnerships and brand new challenges.
We are once again proud to say we are ranked as one of the UK's Best Places to Work, including number 1 in the Media Industry, we completed another year of being a Carbon Neutral business and we celebrated our 10th Birthday!
As always, none of this would have been possible without our amazing team and the fantastic work they do in collaboration with our partners, to help brands, sports rights holders, federations, entertainment providers and more reach their full digital potential.
So to shine a light on all this fantastic work, we asked management from across LDS to tell us about their main achievements from 2023.
Alex Hryniewicz, Director of Content
2023 saw our owned Network expand to over 50 channel brands, with notable new launches including Cosmic, our new home for Space documentaries and Absolute Mysteries where we celebrate all those stories that challenge our perceptions. We also experimented with some new takes on channel launches, including All Out History where we superserve audiences with 3 hour plus episodes and Doc of the Day where we release new films every day but remove them from the channel after 30 days.
We announced a new partnership to dub true crime content into Spanish with Dubformer AI and have been utilising YouTube's own Aloud dubbing tool to convert other genres into Spanish and Portuguese language content. Whilst it is still early days, we're excited by the potential of reaching new global audiences and adding further value to our content partners.
We saw a number of significant channel milestones, Timeline passed 5 million subscribers on YouTube. Launched just over 6 years ago, the channel has amassed over 1 billion total views with an average view duration of over 30 minutes.
2023 also saw us create an original production machine filming and editing 235 pieces of original content across Absolute History and Shiver, all of which were viewed over 500 million times on vertical platforms including TikTok, YouTube Shorts and Reels. We also won our first commission to create TikTok videos across Absolute History and Shiver Dark History supporting the release of Ridley Scott's Napoleon Movie.
James Loveridge, Director of Entertainment
Whilst it's not been without its challenges, 2023 has been a pretty incredible year for the Entertainment team at Little Dot. Despite facing a difficult macro-economic environment and refining our focuses, we've still seen some fantastic growth this year. Our team is now over 100 amazingly talented people, running 446 social accounts across 6 different platforms, posting an impressive 6,050 pieces of content every month. Much of this growth is driven by expanding our long term partnerships with Prime Video UK, Netflix, NBCUniversal, Warner Bros. Discovery, Gordon Ramsay, New Dominion, Cineflix and more. We hit some ridiculous milestones this year with WB Kids hitting over 26m subscribers, Gordon Ramsay more than 20m, as well as gaining a further 6 YouTube Gold Play Buttons for channels hitting 1m subscribers. Probably one of my favourite stats is that The Graham Norton Show TikTok account is now the biggest TV show account on the platform in the UK.
As well as scale, this year has been some of the best creative output ever from the Entertainment team, working on the social creative output for campaigns like Sex Education Series 4 and Lewis Capaldi: How I'm Feeling Now for Netflix UK. We also launched a number of aggregated channels like our movie clips channel Screenfinity, our best in UK stand up channel Jokes On Us and the 'Love' network of digital first brands for Warner Brothers Discovery.
I've been constantly impressed by the creativity and enthusiasm the team brings to work and enjoy how much of the content they produce genuinely makes me laugh. Bring on 2024.
Creative Production Studio
Hal Arnold, Director of Production
2023 has been an exciting year for the Creative Production Studio, with some amazing new clients and projects keeping us very busy.
We started January with a team on the ground in Switzerland producing content at Davos for the World Economic Forum, following which we were awarded a digital series for a major beauty brand. Our collaboration with Farfetch also continued, shooting two livestream store tours in London and Chicago.
Our clean energy series for CNBC and Schneider Electric rolled on, with a third season delivered and a fourth moving into production. We supported Futerra with their Solutions House event in New York, providing live streaming and social production. Also in the sustainability space, the team produced a series around the impact of climate change for Yale Climate Connections.
Significantly we secured the contract to produce 12 months worth of original YouTube content for a major sportswear retailer, with the team devising and executing multiple formats featuring big name creators and ambitious concepts. In addition, we shot globally for an iconic footwear brand.
Finally, our work for the Girls Day School Trust won, with the Paid Media team, Little Dot's first Drum Award, in the Digital Industries Media strategy category.
The team have worked incredibly hard across 62 productions (and hundreds of deliverables), not including supporting original production work for Little Dot Sports, Network and History Hit. The fab news is that 2024 is shaping up to be an even bigger year, bring it on!
Connie Hodson, Director of Acquisitions & Programming
For Content Acquisitions it has been an incredible year of growing the team and bringing in highly experienced acquisitions executives with Sophie Hunt from eOne Entertainment and Darren Asamoa from Google, Syco Entertainment and Banijay.
In addition, Digital Rights Management is now being housed by the Content Acquisitions Department and led by the amazing Martha Williams.
Collectively we have acquired 4,006 hours of premium content across all key genres for our Digital Media Network gaining extensive rights across AVOD and FAST.
This year, we also invested in our first original series, American Viscountess, partnering with the brilliant Julie and Luke Montagu and the team at Living History. Partnership has developed to be a key priority for us and even more so as we move into 2024. We are thrilled that we signed new partnership deals with Cineverse, Blue Ant, Fifth Season with more in the pipes.
Data and Product
Graham Swallow, Head of Data & Product
This year, the Data, Tech and Product team have been on an incredible hot streak of product development. By the end of 2023 we will have launched our all new Payout reconciliation product (responsible for over $50m of revenue allocation), launched a fully proprietary and bespoke content and metadata library, known as Baserock - all while maintaining an always-on 24/7 datawarehouse supporting the entire business' reporting needs.
New product ideas have come thick and fast, with successful implementations of burgeoning AI capability to analyse and breakdown videos to tell us how best to retain viewers, a tool to identify the optimal mix of videos to make any channel perform to its best ability, a one stop shop to take the pulse of any channel and diagnose any performance improvements, as well as multiple developments in our ability to analyse content, audience and consumption themes to make better decisions about every aspect of content development.
We've launched a Data Science capability and are testing multiple machine learning models that will transform our approach to channel management. Bring on 2024.
Paul Woolf, Head of Unscripted Development & Executive Editor, Real Stories
In March, we were able to announce that Oscar winners Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi have joined our Endurance documentary for National Geographic. Which made an already thrilling project even more exciting!
Overall, it's been a challenging year for the US TV industry but I'm hopeful that, with strikes resolved, 2024 will be more buoyant. Our unscripted slate includes history, science and true-crime series that we can't wait to pitch in the new year, including an idea we're developing with the brilliant Remember World War Two project.
Ines Respini, Head of People
2023 has been another busy one for the People team! We have transformed our recruitment and onboarding employee experience through our fantastic careers portal, new starter training pathways, a re-launched buddy scheme, and the highlight, breakfast with our CEO, Dan Jones. We rolled out a new HR system globally, connecting all employees, and their data, in one place. For the second year in a row, we have been ranked in the top 25 large employers in the Great Place to Work awards, and I am particularly proud to rank in the top 25 as well for Great Places to Work for Women.
We continue to put employees first by providing best-in-class flexibility to our employees, by offering hybrid working, flexitime, as well as the opportunity to work as a digital nomad, away from our normal places of work, both abroad as well as in the UK. This year we have supported many of our colleagues start a new life journey with our generous gender neutral family leave options and for those looking for a lifestyle change, the opportunity to take a sabbatical.
James Turnbull, Head of Technical Operations
In 2023, Tech Ops delivered more projects and resolved more support cases than ever. Together with our formidable Legal team, we got the business certified in ISO 27001 certification, the international benchmark for information security. This required implementing an extensive set of policies and procedures around data security, before being audited by an external body. People can read all about that here.
We also grew our team and supported LDS staff working from more than 40 different countries. We took on the support of our German offices and collaborated closely with our US counterparts. We integrated our new colleagues at Locowise, supported the People team's launch of a new HR platform and migrated our business-critical infrastructure from one floor to the next. We also made a difference to local schools and charities by donating our fully functional but end-of-life laptops, along with other hardware.
Robbie Spargo, Director of Sports
This year in Sport, we have smashed growth targets, produced our best ever original content, and consistently delivered industry-leading social-first design and editing work. We've won new work with major MMA, basketball, motorsports and sailing organisations and retained long-standing relationships with The FA, ECB and Serie A.
We have delivered record-breaking season-on-season growth for the Barclay's Women's Super League, delivered record YouTube viewership for the England men's national football team even though they had no international tournament, delivered record engagements for LTA on social as they themselves grew tennis participation, and delivered on a punchy '10x my revenue in 6 months' target given to us by a boxing client.
We made a half-hour documentary for Ascot Racecourse that was broadcast internationally as well as producing a daily, social-first wrap show from their flagship Royal Ascot week. We've made short-form interview formats for Barclay's WSL, subsequently picked up by Sky Sports, and are making another for Team GB. We've also made an influencer-led multi-part series for a sports broadcaster's YouTube channel.
All this took place in the context of one the most challenging economic climates that the sports industry has had to weather in the last 15 years, making our work in engaging and growing audiences through content on social more important than ever.
Zara Gregory, Director of Operations
2023 has been a transformative year at LDS, with the strengthening of our Operational offering for the entire company. We've introduced brand new technologies, juggled multiple change projects, streamlined, and optimised how we get things done and continued to provide 1st class expertise to help our colleagues work smarter.
Knowledge sharing & collaboration has been a major theme, working closer and forging stronger relationships with many LDS departments. A great example of this saw us partner with the People Team to co-create a suite of training programmes tailored towards our most junior workforce, equipping them with skills and tips on how to prioritise their workloads and communicate with impact.
It's been a busy year, and across our functions - a huge shout out in particular to Tech Ops, Content & Platform Ops, we've individually and collectively done a lot, too much to give justice to here... but we've had oodles of fun along the way.
Our Office team has continued to provide an extensive range of perks (Arts Classes anyone..?) & with our social committee hosting our very successful (legendary!) annual Summer Party.
Christmas will be a welcome break... but I can't wait to get stuck into 2024, I'm confident it will be a great year!
Tessa Ingham, Chief Operating Officer (WING)
WING has worked on some incredible campaigns this year, delivering the creative approach to win the UK & Ireland the Euro 2028 bid, developing a record-breaking world-first hologram tennis lesson featuring Emma Raducanu hosted by Vodafone 5G technology, launching Aston Martin F1's new factory with an attention-grabbing, high octane stunt, electrifying an art and light show on the Palazzo dei Congressi in Rome with Maserati, delivering an artful launch of the Jaguar TCS 2023 Formula E team, and producing a series for Google with McLaren that took us behind the scenes of the McLaren F1 team and amassed 40+ million views.
Over the last 12 months our work has attracted close to 1 billion views and has been recognised by our peers resulting in over 10 industry award accolades.
Not ones to take things slowly, in November we also moved offices in just nine days from acceptance of offer to completion and are now happily ensconced in the Truman Brewery, a couple of floors below Little Dot Studios.
Shout out to our brilliant WING team and our fantastic clients, for keeping it fun, creative and always forward thinking. Have a great break and bring on 2024.
James Carson, Managing Director (History Hit)
2023 was a year of industry recognition for the great creative work History Hit broadcasts across audio and video on demand. In July, we won Best Specialist Channel at the Digital Broadcast Awards, which was an amazing moment six years on from our launch into video on demand. In September, our podcast network picked up two Signal Awards for individual episodes followed by a silver for Best Network at the British Network Awards in October. On top of these we published our first book The History Hit Miscellany in September as part of a long term partnership with Hodder and Staughton, and filmed a second series of The World's Greatest Archeological Discoveries for Channel 5 for broadcast in 2024.
Holly Graham, Chief Business Officer
We have seen significant additions to our work with Consumer Brands this year, including exciting projects covering strategy, content production, distribution and paid media. Potentially some of our most exciting and fulfilling work has been in the Social Impact space, where we have worked on projects for the UN General Assembly, COP28 and supporting the team at the Earthshot Prize with their awards in Singapore.
We also ran an amazing accelerator program with the Health team at YouTube - a 10-week bootcamp designed to help UK health creators optimise their channels, create high quality content, and build their audiences. We're excited to work with more content-focused brands in 2024 - thank you to the amazing Brand team for all the work and creativity that has gone into getting us where we are.
Jules Belza, Director of People
2023 was a year of expanding Little Dot Studios Americas’ core services and utilising our expertise to deliver huge wins for our clients. The Little Dot Studios Americas client accounts saw over 26 billion views on YouTube, with the Little Dot team uploading over 45 thousand pieces of content!
Little Dot Studios Americas demonstrated our multi-social platform capabilities by pushing further into TikTok and SnapChat, enabling our clients to reach an even wider audience. A holistic social strategy was key to the success and development of our client’s brands in 2023. Our other areas of expertise, including production, paid media, ad sales, and digital rights management, further supported our brand clients. We produced over 1,500 minutes of original content to fuel the digital strategies of the leading entertainment and technology brands. We supported key clients with impactful paid media campaigns to ensure our clients got the most ROI on their content investments. One of the top performing kids content channels on YouTube saw a 113% growth in organic viewership after the launch of the Little Dot Studios Americas paid media campaign.
The Little Dot Studios Americas team continues to make all of this possible and the team is eager to continue delivering fantastic growth to clients in 2024. Cheers and Happy New Year!
Nils Franck, General Manager LDS Germany
2023 was a challenging year for the German business, but we handled this challenge extremely well.
The Channel Management division developed magnificently, and we were able to clearly position ourselves closely within the most consumed sports in Germany. This includes the largest German soccer magazine Kicker and the German Touring Car Championship DTM, as well as many others. In the entertainment sector, new partners included Warner/DC and the legendary German comedy talent Oliver Kalkofe. All in all, a very successful year.
On the production side of things, we took part in an enormous number of tenders and are proud to say that we have already secured some projects for 2024. Among them, we will be working with our client Daikin and have also been able to secure extensive productions for a number of existing clients for the year ahead.
When it comes to strategic consulting on social media activities for larger brands, we see a huge demand for educational work and support for the marketing departments of brands and entertainment clients. The variety of platforms and the correspondingly different content mean almost every customer needs a bespoke level of support, which we are happy to provide with this promising new business area.
The highlight in the German business is our enormously well performing owned network, which now has 9 YouTube channels and 6 new channels planned for 2024. The power of the synergies within Little Dot Studios can also be seen and felt here. The processes are very closely aligned with those in the UK. The acquisition of new customers with German-language content, the strategic planning of new channels, agreements on possible additional products (e.g. podcasts) and much more is closely connected with the corresponding departments in the UK.
Germany is still a relatively small player in the LDS universe, but the German market has a lot to offer. A key USP of Little Dot Studios is our international network and enormous experience in digital business, which sets us apart from many other agencies. With this in mind, combined with our strong team, first-class clients and great successes in recent years, we are extremely positive about 2024.
This blog barely scratches the surfaces of all the amazing work that has gone on at Little Dot Studios this year.
A huge thank you to all the contributions from our management team and to all our amazing employees who have contributed in countless ways, both through their work but also helping to create an inclusive and supportive business culture.
We can't wait to see what 2024 holds!