Fred Seibert on ‘Bumping’ into the Future of Video

With MIPTV and the second annual MIP Digital Fronts a few weeks away (you can register here!), VideoInk reached out to a diverse lineup of influential video industry executives scheduled to present or appear at the event. Our conversations covered their individual businesses, plans for MIPTV and the Fronts, and the video business as a whole. Enjoy!

Fred Seibert needs no introduction. What is there to say about the man who has built television networks, produced all-time hit series, helped foster one of the most important social platforms on the web, and sold the world’s first YouTube MCN, except that we like his chances when it comes to any business venture he puts his mind to. Maybe Seibert’s two most important projects right now are the Channel Frederator Network, an MCN devoted entirely to animated content and creators, and Thirty Labs, an incubator to support the future of video.

All things worth talking about, and all things we did ask him about:

The Channel Frederator Network has been gradually growing since its launch. What sort of tools, services, and support does the network provide to its content/channel partners?

We offer quite a bit. Our huge advantage as a network is the hyper-exclusive focus on animation and animators.

Channel Frederator Network

Once someone has joined we give them access to our proprietary dashboard of tech tools, our exclusive (and highly engaged) community of fellow animators, dozens of well-honed best practices documents and, a large set of resources such as discounts for software and hardware, end-card templates, and more.

The Channel Frederator Network is also very “high touch” with network members; we believe in constantly communicating with them. Our dialogs take many forms including multiple monthly hangouts where our YouTube strategists talk with a dozen members about optimization, exclusive live stream interviews with animators and executives working in the broader animation industry, 1-on-1 channel audits, a monthly newsletter, and an average of a 12-hour turnaround on questions emailed directly to our community managers. As you can imagine, 1,500+ creators have a lot of questions!

For certain channels we’re also able to utilize YouTube’s TrueView platform to generate revenue. Basically for every $1 we spend we make back on average $1.20. As you can imagine, it’s very helpful.

Finally, we do a tremendous amount of promotion for the creators in our network. “Saturday Morning Cartoons” is a program dedicated to showcasing the awesome members in our network with six new cartoons from our members each week. We also feature a network member each week on “CH Loves,” a program on Cartoon Hangover. This, combined with promotion from our social outlets, has driven over 12,000,000 views and 600,000 subscribers to our network members in the past six months alone.

Frederator is responsible for one of the most successful content Kickstarter campaigns of all time. What do you credit for the success of “Bee & PuppyCat”? When is it right — and not right — to use crowdfunding?

First and foremost, it’s all about Natasha Allegri, the artist and writer who’s responsible for all the success of her creation “Bee and PuppyCat.”

From a business and audience point of view, the jargon would be that the characters appeal to an underserved audience by a

Bee

creator who has a strong fan base. And, of course, Frederator has developed its own vibrant community, built by a reputation for delivering high-quality cartoons. The original “Bee and PuppyCat” short film really connected with viewers but it doesn’t have a an obvious place on television, because who makes cartoons to adult men AND women? So, the fastest way to get Natasha’s pure, distinct vision to the world was to crowd fund it.

Right concept + hungry, connected audience = successful crowdfunding.

Frederator is developing a TV version of “Rocket Dog,” a popular series on the network’s Cartoon Hangover channel. Is moving digital content to TV something Frederator is actively looking to do?

Our studio is always actively looking for all opportunities to fund production of cartoons from talented creators and reach audiences everywhere. “Rocket Dog” was created by Australian animator/filmmaker Mel Roach, produced at Frederator Studios, and gained popularity as part of an anthology short-film program distributed on our Cartoon Hangover channel.

We’re honored that Studio Moshi in Melbourne signed on to by our co-production partner and bring the show to television worldwide. And, I hasten to point out that both of us see no distinction between “TV” and streaming, whether on YouTube or other platforms. In our view, there’s no distinction.

It’s the right decision for “Rocket Dog” and Mel. Frederator has cultivated a community of creators and pipeline of content in development and we are open to the right deal wherever it is.

The MIP Digital Fronts want to establish an international marketplace for digital content. Channel Frederator recently licensed its first international series for the US. Is that a core focus for you at MIPTV/MIP Digital Fronts? What else do you hope to accomplish?

The channel side of Frederator Networks, distinct from the studio productions, have started to mature into a full-fledged media company, with hungry, loyal, viewers. So we see our mission being to constantly find programming that will keep them happy. MIP’s a great place to help make that happen.

Last year, you launched the Thirty Labs to incubate new technologies and products that can help people rethink how they watch and engage with video. What are some aspects of video that you feel are ripe for innovation? What can you tell us about the projects Thirty Labs is currently incubating?

I think in today’s hothouse environment it’s hard to go even one day without bumping into another great thing in video. So, from our perspective, every single aspect of moving pictures is ripe for exploration. From movie theatres to live broadcasting to video sharing to… I don’t know, you tell me. We’re looking at it all.

It might seem off topic, but I like to tell the story of Ahmet Ertegun, the maestro who invented Atlantic Records. He said that succeeding in the music business was easy; just walk around until you bump into a genius. I couldn’t agree more.

It’s not a unique observation to see that the world of technology is on fire. Our perspective is that the great technologists are the latest creative community to come into their own. I’ve been involved in shepherding creative people of all stripes — composers, musicians, designers, painters, filmmakers, engineers– forever. Thirty Labs is just the latest manifestation of my tremendous fan support of the new generation of creative geniuses.