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Inside the Machinima Rebrand: A Better Creator Relationship

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So what does Machinima still need? “What I know needs to happen is looking at that talent, sitting down with them, finding out what they want to accomplish with their brand and franchise, and then using my resources to help them accomplish that,” Tibbets says.

Driving talent is something that Machinima has done in the past, but hasn’t been doing as well in the past few years. Nurturing talent will help attract not only viewers, but advertisers.

“To be able to go into an advertiser and an agency and say, ‘This is what we’re doing across the year,’ just like a traditional television network does, being able to go, ‘Here’s our themes, here’s our events, here’s what we’re programming at different times of the year. Here’s the types of episodes we’re creating,’ that gives a level of understanding and comfort that digital has yet to really provide,” Tibbets says.

A New Direction in a Stormy Sea

What Chad Gutstein is bringing to Machinima is a focus on both talent and programing. The new CEO and his team are trying to think less like a traditional mass-producing MCN, and more like a broadcasting network, developing top talent and programming shows in a way that viewers and advertisers understand.

“My to-do list goes a mile long,” Tibbets says. “The priorities, and we’re really steps down the road on this, are defining our programming schedule for 2015—what does that year look like across all of our channels that we produce internally within our studio group?—and also working with our network partners to identify opportunities to package those programs and have discussions with brands. To be able to go out into the market, to the agencies and the brands and show them a program lineup that is high quality.”

That lineup should match the advertisers’ interests, giving them a programming lineup that they want to support.

These programming decisions are leading to next year’s newfront schedule. Newfronts— the online video world’s answer to television upfronts—have become an important milestone for the industry. They’re a chance for executives to trot out viewer stats and celebrity parters, all while trying to woo advertisers for the coming year.

“We look at the newfronts as being able to say, ‘Hey, all the work that we’ve done over the year, all the talent that we’ve developed with and produced with, this is the result and this is what’s coming up,’” Tibbets says. “That clarity, to be able to communicate that to the agencies and the brands will help them make smart decisions about their planning. They need to look ahead and say, ‘What are my spends for this year? Where is that going, and what is the return on investment from that?’”

The cast of “Inside Gaming,” one of Machinima’s most popular series, with more than 640,000 subscribers on YouTube.

One thing that won’t be a part of the newly rebranded Machinima is perpetual contracts. The company hasn’t always enjoyed a favorable relationship with talent, and one of the reasons is its early use of extremely long-term contracts that gave Machinima rights to any video a creator ever made. Happily, that’s now a thing of the past.

“I, being in the industry, had heard of and seen some of those contracts in the past,” Tibbets admits. “That’s the other big thing, why this C-level executive group is going to run a really efficient, really transparent business, at the benefit of our talent network. Those creators are where the real value lies in the development programming process. So putting out deals that are not—what’s the word? Two-way, mutually beneficial—that’s a losing proposition. We have to be in the mutually beneficial business with our partners in order to grow this the right way.

“Our job as developers and programmers is to create great content that the fans want to watch and share and talk about and comment about and engage with,” Tibbets says. “Machinima generates over three billion views per month and the objective is to continually grow that, continually grow our overall network business, our content business, and certainly the viewership.”

This article appears in the January/February 2015 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "The Machinima Rebrand: More Than Skin Deep."

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