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Interview with Drew Massey, Founder, Mania TV

Mania TV (www.maniatv.com) is a Denver, Colorado-based online media firm that operates an online Internet-based television network. Techrockies spoke to Drew Massey, the firm's CEO and founder, about the company and also dug into Drew's thoughts on the future of Internet advertising and video on the Internet.

Techrockies: Tell us the story on how the company started?

Drew Massey: It was November of 1998, and I was talking with Excite.com founder Joe Kraus, and we were talking about how the Internet and media, and television and how the two were going to marry. At the time the biggest thing was WebTV, Microsoft's product, which was Internet on your television box. I didn't buy that. To me, it was counterintuitive. I thought the revolution was really bringing television to the Internet. So, I trademarked Mania TV, and waited for five years for broadband to hit critical mass, then put together all the pieces for the company, and then we launched in Labor Day of 2004. So we've been live now for about two and a half years, and have been about bringing television online using it as the new distribution model.

Techrockies: What's your background, and how did you get into this?

Drew Massey: I've been a media junkie since I was a kid. My last company was the young men's magazine called POV, which I launched using my credit card in the early 90's in New York, which I grew to $10M in revenue and it was Adweek's star of the year on it's hot up and comer list. So I have a background in new media and new culture, which is sort of my specialty and what I'm passionate about. I saw that video was going to the Internet. A lot of people had talked about that is the late 90's, with Pseudo and DEN and Pop and iCast, there were a ton of companies out there who were too early. So when I was putting together the plan for Mania TV, it was really aimed at youth culture, because they are the ones who spend all the time living and breathing on the internet. It's almost like it's more than a medium, it's a culture, it's like oxygen--they can't live without it. So we tap into that and satiate that demand.

Techrockies: How are you backed and funded?

Drew Massey: We started on a credit card, and raised angel money during the nuclear winter of VC investment, and then went live Labor Day 2004. We were funded the next month by Benchmark Capital, and did a Series A in October of 2004. Our Series B was in September 2005, with Benchmark, Intel Capital, and Centennial Ventures.

Techrockies: Why start the company in Denver?

Drew Massey: Good question. I'm from Colorado, originally, which was a big part of it. Plus, the last revolution in television happened in Denver with cable, with the Malones, Magnesses, and Bill Daniels, and Jones, so we're leveraging off that goodwill as well. Plus, the entrepreneurial environment is very, very healthy, and you can leverage off low cost, very good talent.

Techrockies: Is seems like things are going pretty well?

Drew Massey: It's been great for us, in 2006, more than any other web site out there focused on video, we've been way ahead on advertising. We had thirty one blue chip advertisers join us last year, from GM to Nintendo to Proctor and Gamble and video game and movie companies. It's been a great year for us.

Techrockies: Do you feel like advertisers are finally seeing the Internet as a real advertising medium?

Drew Massey: They do. I remember a couple of years ago, I was talking to people at agencies, and they basically laughed at us, saying no one would want to watch video on their computer. Of course, they didn't know what they were talking about, two years later. It's an insatiable desire to watch TV on the computer, at least for the youth market. That's why I waited five years before I launched Mania TV after I trademarked it. Broadband had to get there, streaming technology had to get there, and it is. It's great now -- it's not HDTV, and it's not as great as regular television, and we're not looking to replace television--but there's a huge opportunity online. I'll give an analogy. It's like Amazon, you're not replacing Walmart--Walmart has $300 billion in sales. But Amazon does a pretty good $10 billion business, and their growth rate is radically higer than offline. That's the same opportunity online--we're not looking to replace Viacom, with $30 billion in revenue, but there's a huge opportunity to carve out several billion with higher growth rates. And that's just advertising. You probably know this, but there's an avalanche of TV dollars online, more so than in the past, and the readiness and adoption level is high with advertisers and blue chip marketers, who understand the internet is a great way and a great medium to reach users, especially the youth market. When you saw a few years ago Daimler Chrysler, P&G, and General Motors were the biggest TV buyers, and they said they'd be moving their TV dollars online, you know this is not just a fad. This is not 1999, where the ad dollars being spent online were driven by venture capital funded companies like Pets.com, who were chasing their own tails. This time, it's real dollars, and real advertising. It's here to stay, and it's growing rapidly.

Techrockies: It's traditionally been very expensive to create content, how are you dealing with that issue?

Drew Massey: You're right, content is expensive. However, production costs have gone radically down. That's why you see reality shows like JackAss are produced on a $1500 Canon GL1, so there's a radical shift in terms of production and costs. Everything from the equipment, and mikes, to software is cheaper. Obviously, video editing software is more than abundant, and processing power is more than abundant, and storage now on computers is extraordinarily inexpensive--and every kid knows how to edit. Barriers have been broken on the production side, and you marry that with the elimination barriers on the distribution side, and you can see there will be a proliferation of good content. Mania TV has a product--My TV, which allows viewers to create their own TV channels and it's really about empowering those creative people to unleash their inner creativity and television talent to produce shows and shorts and animation, and TV channels and news casts, and broadcast them for free via Mania TV.

Techrockies: That's in addition to your own content as well?

Drew Massey: We use our own platform to leverage it ourselves, and we create teleprogramming which we broadcast 24/7. I don't know if you're familiar with Tom Green, we've built a platform in his house, an actual studio there. It's a great way to leverage his personality, and he gets broadcast to the Internet every night. It costs a fraction of what it costs to broadcast Letterman on TV every night.

Techrockies: What's next for whole video revolution?

Drew Massey: That's a great question. I think what's next is premium. Everyone is just getting used to it. In 1981, in the cable TV world, when MTV launched, there was still 20 years ahead of you of extreme blockbuster growth, where there were lots of cable channels that people hadn't thought of yet. We're in that same window now, and one of the cool things that will help is the funding from advertisers. The more revenues to put into programming on the Internet, the better programming we'll have. I think you'll be seeing more premium stuff like we do, like Tom Green Live, we've got a couple of other shows we're about to announce, like Dave Navarro live. So I think you'll see a lot more efforts in that respect on original and premium version created just for this platform--not just repurposing old school stuff, like old sitcoms like the Newlyweds and putting that on the internet. That's not going to do very well. It's real interesting, the real paradigm shift is when there is new, original content online. Every medium needs content created for that medium, and this is no different.

What's your view on the future of the 30-second roll? Is it going away?

Drew Massey: Besides just premium advertising, we integrate products into the show. We integrate the brands into the programming. The creative can really match brands with the content and the delivery of the message. We provide pre rolls, but that's a fraction of what we do. The 30 second preroll does not have a great future. Maybe a shorter pre-roll, like a 15, does, but what is better is an episodic 5-second, which gets viewers to stick around after the content to see what the rest of the story is. I think there will be a watershed in creative, from the traditional 30 second spot, that will change radically. You'll start seeing creative agencies, who create really original content for the Internet, commercials for the Internet, which are not $500,000 or $1 million dollar spots. People are still creating these old school spots which are really, really expensive. We're working with Adidas and they used Flash animation to create a 15-second spot, and I can guarantee it didn't cost them over $20,000, or $25,000 at most to produce.

Techrockies: Thanks for the great insights!