Questions & Answers with 2016 Digital Dealmaker James Glasscock
James Glasscock joined Machinima in just over a year ago as the company’s SVP of Strategy and Business Development, a post he took after a similar role at Playboy Plus Entertainment’s. Glasscock may be one of the most influential dealmakers in digital but his background is in traditional television, a context that has enabled him to take old school models and apply them to new school platforms. His vision for business is one that taps social video influencers for their strengths but honors the value of building strong intellectual property that can be windowed, and juiced for revenue, across multiple platforms and syndication ops.
Before Glasscock’s tenure at Machinima, the company was solely based on YouTube. Since joining the company, he has led the company through a transformative period by helping the business evolve into a production company and digital studio with partnerships with Playstation VUE, Verizon’s go90, Vessel, Comcast Watchable, and more. They have brokered interesting first window deals on these platforms with Machinima’s own distribution reach on YouTube and other platforms as a second or third window for revenue and audience growth. From this approach, Machinima’s production output has more than tripled from 200 hours a year to over 600 hours. He also secured a deal with Playstation VUE that marked the first OTT SVOD service to be bundled with an MVPD. Machinima was also the first digital network to produce and air a Network Esports TV show — “Machinima’s Chasing the Cup” on CW.
Glasscock is gunning for the ungettable gets for this business and charging forward on unprecedented deals that can set a benchmark for other dealmakers. Here are some of his thoughts on the nature of the business and its future.
VideoInk: Everyone has a career win. What has been the deal you were proudest to have pulled off?
James Glasscock: There was not one deal, rather it was a combination of deals that we worked on simultaneously during my first year at Machinima (Verizon go90, PlayStation Vue, Comcast Watchable and Vessel) — each employing multiple windows and different economic levers for licensing, syndication and subscriber fees. The deals collectively helped set the tone for window and economic lever options in a pay marketplace for digital-first content. Additionally, the deals also helped us focus our programming strategy and operational requirements as we transitioned from the MCN ecosystem to a more holistic distribution model.
VI: Who has been most influential in steering your career or coaching you on good dealmaking protocol?
JG: Jeremy Westin, EVP at Poppin, (pictured left) has been a mentor and advisor to me for nearly a decade. Not only has he been my biggest champion, but he has always been there for me to bounce ideas off of and to see the other side of an opportunity. From a hero standpoint, its Ted Turner. He was rumored to have “lead, follow or get out of the way” mounted on his desk. These weren’t just words to him and they are words that have guided me throughout my career.
VI: What platform do you think presents the biggest dealmaking potential right now?
JG: I think Facebook and Snapchat Video are extraordinary opportunities. While the counting of video views amongst social video platforms (including YouTube) isn’t an apples to apples comparison, the evolution of Facebook and Snapchat as scale video platforms in such a short time promises expanded ways to reach and monetize. They also provide a view into a different way of storytelling and consuming content. Just like YouTube over the past decade redefined what it meant to be a programmer, Snapchat Stories and Discover and the Facebook Video Feed are now further redefining. It’s an exciting time in video where the audience experience is evolving at a blistering pace, which creates a fun problem to solve in monetization.
VI: Name one issue that is significantly impacting dealmaking right now?
JG: The value of digital shortform content, particularly in international markets, isn’t well established with traditional industry players who have a long history of buying longer form television and features. It requires a more collaborative deal process looking at a multitude of metrics and a combination of economic levers. 3 years from now there will be a broad range of benchmarks but right now we are inventing this. The good news is these partnerships have a fresh, flexible and transparent intention from the beginning rather than building off an outdated benchmark.
VI: Do you think there’s a “shiny object” in the industry right now? And will it bud into a bigger trend or should entertainment execs stay focused elsewhere?
JG: Everyone is enamored with VR/AR right now and I admit it’s fascinating but it has a ways to go before becoming a scale video platform. VR/AR to the early masses is a 2017/18 thing. I think the most important trend in 15 and 16 is the continued entry of traditional tech and media companies and new startups into OTT distribution to compete with the likes of Netflix, Youtube and traditional cable/satellite television bundles. This new competition is causing innovation at an extraordinary pace, creating unique experiences for consumers and growing demand for premium digital content.
VI: What do you think it takes to be a good dealmaker?
JG: [You must be] multi-disciplinary. Nothing pisses partners off more than under execution against expectations and nothing pisses off internal operations teams more than dealmakers assembling deals that can’t be delivered on. It’s a careful exercise to thread the needle between pushing your own organization to adapt/support new opportunities but not getting out too far in front of your skis, that your deals fail.
VI: Machinima has explored all business models — from the ad-supported side to having content licensed by subscription platforms like Vessel, and to direct-to-fan plays. If you had to bet on a business model — S/A/TVOD, where do you place your chips?
JG: AVOD SVOD and TVOD are complementary, not competitive. These models are the essence of Machinima’s strategy to deliver content to audiences in windows with varying value propositions. The AVOD model that go90 launched with is fascinating, we think this model in mobile especially is most attractive to the masses and very effective for advertisers. We are intrigued by what’s to come with platforms around the world either launching free cross carrier apps like go90, Watchable or creating subscription walled gardens or bundling apps like Vodafone UK and Sprint.
James Glasscock is featured at part of VideoInk’s Dealmakers of 2016 special issue.