The company has launched six networks so far, including an auto-news network, Fast Lane Daily, and one for people who create their own fashions called Threadbanger. The company is backed by giants such as Spark Capital, through former Lionsgate/Sony Pictures/Turner exec Dennis Miller; Saban Capital, which has a stake in Univision; and MTV Networks co-founder Bob Pittman. Former AOL chief Jonathan Miller is on the company's board.
Mr. Scannell chatted with MediaWorks yesterday on the eve of the company's official launch about being a big-media refugee in new-media land, why he thinks Next New Networks is needed and the company's bold plans to launch a total of 101 networks in the next five years.
MediaWorks: You have some pretty high-profile backers in this company. What kind of a role are they playing?
Mr. Scannell: Well, Spark Capital is the lead investor. Dennis Miller, Fred [Seibert], Jed [Simmons] and I have known each other for over 20 years. [Messrs. Seibert and Simmons co-founded Next New Networks with Mr. Scannell.] Dennis understands media and is really interested in moving into the space. When I left the company, he was very much providing me guidance. I met with lots of different people.
Haim Saban is basically a big thinker, parlayed businesses into businesses. Part of the reason we like Haim is we want to be big. He's got great strategic thinking and know-how. We like that he's involved in the group running Univision and has roots in Europe. And Benchmark is a lead investor in Bebo, which is like the MySpace of Europe, and they're starting to think about content and play in the content game. They like our concept of networks. Having Jon Miller on the board, he's played on both sides of the fence, been a TV exec and a digital-media exec, and he has vision. When he left AOL, he's the first guy we asked to join the board.
MediaWorks: You spent many years at a very large media company. Talk to me about the shift to working for an upstart.
Mr. Scannell: It's fun again. I left work on a Friday afternoon and went upstairs to the open space we'll be moving into, and one of the guys that works here is handcuffed to a pole with a bare light swinging over him, like an interrogation room, and I asked, "What are you doing?" They were shooting a promo. It's ... creatively inspiring.
We launched [the PulpSecret channel] today, and before it launched, everyone's high-fiving. It's good to be at the beginning of something. I'm proud of what I've done, but it feels like time to start something new. ... Plus, this is a business where there's lots of energy and hiring, and media companies are doing the opposite.
MediaWorks: Your goal is to create 101 micro-networks over the next five years. That's a very bold statement. Do you think that's doable?
Mr. Scannell: I think it's doable. We got funded in early December. Since then we've launched four, and we'll do one to three a month. We're setting up a process whereby we can make a lot. These are about communities and community-driven networks. We have a plethora of ideas, and we expect with this announcement there'll be more people coming our way. The talent pool is deep -- there are people in the blogosphere that want to move into video and people in the TV world that want to move into the digital space. There's also a phenomenon [in traditional media] that if you're a young person, you have to wait in line to be a creator and maker. ... But there's this generation coming of age with the ability to write, produce, cut on laptops.
MediaWorks: Why would content creators need Next New Networks when they can self-publish on YouTube or Revver or Brightcove or the like?
Mr. Scannell: One, we have a production infrastructure. Two, we're media veterans, so we kind of know the media business. Three, we're going to build an ad infrastructure. It's hard for people to figure out how to monetize things, but we can provide that infrastructure because we're veterans of the media business. And because people want to have a home, a home base. ... If people want to do it themselves, then fine, do it themselves.
MediaWorks: What is your ad plan?
Mr. Scannell: We'll be building an ad group here. Our thoughts are we want to get to scale quickly and offer different propositions to advertisers. One proposition is to buy or be presented in one of the verticals. But we'll have enough networks that you can buy groups of networks on a demo basis. So if you want to reach men, our car, comic-book and sci-fi networks will get you a men grouping. And we'll work with advertisers differently. We don't come with a do-or-don't rule book. We think the creative process is very different. It's about engaging the audience.