Some of the most ambitious online video projects these days are coming out of a shop called Media Rights Capital, a film, television, and digital studio with offices in New York City and Los Angeles. Dan Goodman joined MRC from ad firm Ogilvy a year and a half ago to head up digital projects, with a mandate to spend $10 million on compelling online entertainment with the participation of brand advertisers.
Goodman’s currently known projects are Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy, The Second City’s Quarantine, MommyCast, Amanda Congdon’s Sometimes Daily and Raven-Symone Presents. We wanted to get a better sense of the strategy behind the projects and the financial viability of them, so we corralled Goodman for a phone interview. A condensed transcript follows:
NewTeeVee: How are things going with the digital projects at MRC?
Dan Goodman: We really look at it as an infrastructure and a business partnership to empower our talent partners. All of the stuff we’re doing on the digital front, whether it’s with Seth MacFarlane, or the Second City, to MommyCast, is really an ongoing partnership — exploring creative opportunities, exploring business opportunities, distribution opportunities, and there’s a lot of learning that we’re getting out of it.
We want to create opportunities that are economically viable. We’re not looking to create loss-leader projects that we hope will parlay into something later, to find a return. I think one of the things that’s been really exciting about a lot of the content opportunities we’re bringing to market is it’s giving both advertisers and distributors a chance to get engaged with the content in very early stages, which creates a real partnership. The only way to get to those innovations is to bring them in really early.
NewTeeVee: From what I’ve heard about the Seth MacFarlane project, it seems like this process is very intensive and individual.
Dan Goodman: We’re quality over quantity; we’re not a volume business. We look to create the best opportunities we can around our talent partners on an individual basis. You’ll always see us trying to maximize that value first.
NewTeeVee: When do you think you might have a success story in terms of business economics? The 14 million views for Cavalcade sounds great, but I imagine you need to do more to turn a profit on that.
Dan Goodman: We don’t discuss too much of the financials, but what I’ll tell you is we already have business success on Cavalcade and many of our projects. And that’s a function of trying to be smart about how we bring our content to market. We definitely have our work cut for us like anyone else, but we are really encouraged by what we see as a real opportunity to build new businesses around premium digital content.
NewTeeVee: How much do expect to bring your content to platforms other than online, and to overlap with other parts of MRC?
Dan Goodman: I think over time we anticipate that those opportunities will increase.
NewTeeVee: I’m curious to know more about Amanda Congdon’s show. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of new episodes, but I see that she’s doing the live stuff now. Where do you see that one going?
Dan Goodman: There’s a great partnership that we’re about to announce that I think will just speak to digital innovation and building new content experiences online.
NewTeeVee: So is figuring out that partnership what’s holding back new episodes?
Dan Goodman: No, I think partly we want to line up our overall distribution partnerships before we get too far ahead of it, and what we really released was a beta. The thing that’s interesting about Sometimes Daily is it’s so rooted in the digital community. We’re always looking for premium content, but the idea of premium content is relative to its market. For the grassroots digital community, we thought Amanda was the perfect partner for that, and I think it’s just a matter of finalizing what we want to go into our formal launch with.
NewTeeVee: Do you expect your digital projects to be affected by the downturn? I’m aware of the news that you’ve just raised some money, and you’re probably more stable than other people at this point, but is it something that you’re seeing affecting what you’re doing?
Dan Goodman: A downturn economy always affects the advertising market. We’re certainly keeping an eye on how the market’s responding. We continue to see increases in digital advertising overall, especially in display advertising, and we’ll see how long that holds out. I think we’re cautiously optimistic, but certainly we keep a very close eye on the market response.
NewTeeVee: In the last year and a half, what have you learned about the online audience and how you can interact with them on a content level?
Dan Goodman: This one’s really better over a beer. But I think more than anything is don’t try to apply your own experiences and ideas to a marketplace. Be objective and be relentlessly focused on the data. You’ve got to be completely open-minded and ready to respond to whatever the marketplace tells you to respond to, and just expect that going in. If certain things aren’t working, retool and try it a different way.
With digital particularly there are so many variables that are changing constantly, how long will people sit in front of a computer, do they want it on a computer or do they want it on an iPod, are they responsive to disruptive advertising messages or not, does it build brand affinity, where are people watching this, do you build destinations? There’s a lot of pieces that in other businesses are more established, and here we’re still figuring out what they’re going to be.
NewTeeVee: What should we expect next from you? Will you be adding more content partners?
Dan Goodman: We absolutely will be, and we have future stuff that we’re pretty excited about with the existing projects we have, as well as couple of new ones.