By Jennifer Saba
(Reuters) - U.S. industrial conglomerate General Electric Co plans to release its first feature film through video streaming devices like Roku and Apple TV in a marketing effort that raises the bar for sponsored content.
"Shake the Dust" is a documentary about breakdancing and how the movement has united people across the world. Executive-produced by the rap star Nas, it will make its debut on December 24 through a partnership with the music video platform Vevo.
GE bought the rights to release and sponsor the movie for two weeks and will promote it inside the Vevo app and through an advertising campaign on the home screen of Roku. In addition, GE will launch other videos to complement the film, such as interviews with Nas and a segment with former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart.
GE, whose healthcare arm makes medical equipment, wanted to emphasize the connection between neuroscience and music, a topic the company plans to keep exploring next year. The conglomerate wants to reach consumers who shun traditional television, said Sam Olstein, director of innovation at GE.
"We have been grappling with this challenge of how to reach the binge consumer who doesn't watch TV," he said about people who sit down to watch several episodes of a TV show - for example "Orange is the New Black" - on streaming video platforms like Netflix.
The film sponsorship is a first for GE, Olstein said, adding that the documentary's creators can seek out other distribution after the campaign ends.
The sprawling conglomerate, involved in everything from energy infrastructure to jet engines, is known as an innovative advertiser that experiments with new platforms and formats.
For this effort, GE wants to position itself against tech giants like Google and Facebook that are known for attracting talented engineers. Olstein said the film and related videos are also a way to reach out to a new wave of investors.
(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski)