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Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine is more focused on building audiences than scale

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Sarah Harden
Hello Sunshine’s Sarah
Harden

Business
Insider


  • 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:

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“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 women

A 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.”

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