"Essentially, Media Rights custom builds content from scratch," said an executive familiar with the company. Founded by former talent agent Modi Wiczyk and entrepreneur Asif Satchu, Media Rights pulls together the talent, distributors and producers, determines the most suitable media platform, and finances the deal. "They're not producers. They create partnerships," said the executive.
WPP, parent of ad agencies JWT and Young & Rubicam, as well as media networks MindShare and Mediaedge:cia, has, along with investment bank Goldman Sachs & Co. and telecom company AT&T, invested a total of $400 million in MRC that will be used for content production.
Deeper understanding of business
WPP's interest in Media Rights is financial and practical. "We do this to have a deeper understanding of the business," said Irwin Gotlieb, global CEO, Group M, the umbrella unit that oversees WPP Group's four media networks. "At our scale, we have to have a relationship with the content side that goes well beyond negotiation for 30-second spots or GRPs." As part of the agreement, WPP gets first crack at potential branded-entertainment opportunities for its clients in MRC financed projects.
The advertising holding company is no stranger to entertainment-related deals. In November 2005, WPP invested $25 million in film company Weinstein Co., co-founded by legendary filmmakers Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Terms of that deal allow WPP to get first-look at properties being developed and produced, with the possibility of developing branded entertainment deals between WPP's marketer clients and the film company. The MRC deal is a "much broader play," according to one executive familiar with both, because the projects MRC finances are not limited to film.
Some of MRC's recent endeavors include licensing "Bruno," the film by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen of "Borat" fame, to NBC Universal and providing financial backing for the Oscar-nominated "Babel," starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.