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Inside the Machinima Rebrand: A Better Creator Relationship

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Machinima is due for a respawn. The video gaming lifestyle multichannel network (MCN) has been through some rough patches, but with new leadership, new focus, and a rebranding effort that’s more than just a catchy tagline, it looks to be finally on the right path.

Many wondered what would happen to the Machinma after CEO Allen Debevoise, who seemed synonymous of the network, stepped down in the spring of 2014. Soon after, Chad Gutstein, formerly COO with the Ovation cable network, took over the role. Gutstein inherited a badly listing ship, and his first orders of business were to fill several senior executive vacancies, then boost flagging viewership. An $18 million investment from Warner Bros. (which followed a significant investment from Google) gave him the resources he needed to get started.

Seven months after Gutstein took the wheel, Machinima unveiled its Heroes Rise rebranding campaign. The rebrand included a newly configured homepage with more tools for partners, a three-tiered support system that awards more assistance and sponsorships to partners that attract a steady viewership, and Console, a video channel management tool.

A Three-Tiered Approach

To find out what’s behind Machinima’s new direction, we spoke with Daniel Tibbets (right), the company’s newly hired chief content officer. Much of the discussion focused on creating better and more productive relationships with channel creators.

Today’s MCNs compete to offer the best tools to creators to help them grow—and to find the next big franchise. Machinima has introduced a three-tiered system that labels partners either M-White, M-Red, or M-Black. M-White is the entry level, where creators can get DIY tools to help them build and maintain an audience. M-Red is for M-White graduates, creators who have shown an ability to create compelling content and attract eyeballs. It includes better tools, training, and a chance for the brand opportunities that YouTubers crave. At the top, M-Black is for the big dogs only. It offers one-on-one support and access to big-name, big-money sponsorships.

“The idea of the M-Black is creators that are programming at a level of frequency, high viewership, and certainly have created a brand identity for themselves,” Tibbets says. “Our objective with the tier system is to work with individuals in our talent network to help them grow their business and be a part of M-Black. There they have a certain level of services and, certainly from a development standpoint, there’s a lot of opportunities to work with them in a brand environment.

“M-Red I would define as creators that we have identified in the network that we think have a tremendous opportunity to grow their business, to develop new product, to develop their channel, and to work with brands. While they may not have a high level of frequency of programming today and/or a high sub base or a high viewership base, our objective is to work with them to help grow their channel. Whether it’s through working with them on their individual channel or creating new programming for their channel, the objective is to take them—take people that come into the network at M-White that are new to the platform, probably new creators—help them get established and move into M-Red and then, ultimately, help them develop more content, more programming philosophies, and then move them up to M-Black.”

Creators access Console, a new web-based system, to study performance metrics and chart growth.

“We have a team of engineers and product managers that have looked at the needs of the talent, whether it’s being able to look at metrics, look at revenue, look at how they’re performing,” Tibbets says. “That’s one of the things I think is really important when you look at talent in this space. It’s usually an individual who is writing, producing, shooting, starring in, editing, and posting content. The amount of work that goes into it is pretty substantial. One of the things that we wanted to look at was what’s an easy-to-use, easy-to-navigate tool that provides each one of our creators a simple, quick view of their performance? Our talent can use Console to increase their views, subscribers, and engagement time. At the end of the day those metrics drive back more revenue.”

If Machinima is going to succeed where it matters most—in viewership—it needs to drive talent and create more hit shows.

“When I look at the value of this company, what I saw right before I came into it was they have a dedicated audience—and it’s a passionate audience—around gaming and fandom; they have distribution, which is so powerful; and they have this great talent base,” Tibbets says.

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