Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast
Danny Goldman is the Founder and Managing Director of Goldridge Media. He bought one of the first ever video ads on the internet, worked for large branded agencies, and is now running his own consulting firm distributing movies and TV content for established studios. Danny talked about how the business model works and how it’s been changing due to the direct-to-consumer models adopted by large networks and program providers.
Danny started out his career looking for something that was a combination of business and creativity, and so he settled on the PR world. Afterwards, he did a year in the sponsorship industry. He felt he was going around in circles, and then he stumbled across the world of advertising. It was there that he discovered you could do something called media buying where you got to buy space on behalf of clients within media. That could be TV, print, or whatever it was. He was really interested in it and found it to be the combination of business and creativity that he was looking for. This led him to join an agency where he worked on a number of big accounts. The one he spent the most amount of time on then was the Voxel account, and Voxel did some interesting campaigns like launching the course with the world’s leading supermodels. After this, he went on to work for another agency called Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which is quite well known in advertising circles, and then he spent three years working on an account for a company called Initiative Media. It this was around this time, in 1999-2000, when Danny took his first foray into the emerging online advertising world. He set up Initiative Media’s first digital buying agency called Initiative and bought the UK’s first video banner ad for Persio, which he also recalls as an interesting experience.
In 2000, he was headhunted to join Sony Pictures to become the VP of Sales for large parts of the EMA business. That involved using his experience in understanding broadcasters and how they valued content to license Sony Pictures content, which on the film side was movies like Men in Black, Da Vinci Code, Terminator 3 and 4, and TV shows like The Shield, Breaking Bad, Damages, The Tudors, Seinfeld, and some old shows like Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and Charlie’s Angels, so it was a real mixture of content.
He spent 11 years there, then ran a small UK distributor as CEO of that business. He set up Miramax‘s European TV distribution arm not in the horrible Harvey era, but in the private equity era. He worked for Curzon World and released three Oscar-winning movies, which was another memorable experience. Four years ago, he set up his own consultancy to work with content owners, producers, big US studios, and US and UK producers to help them build their distribution and, to some extent, their co-production, pre-sales, and even development activity all in the world of TV and film. That’s Danny in a nutshell.
A peek into the world of media distribution
In film, traditionally, there was a distribution pipeline that involved releasing a movie in cinemas, then releasing it on DVD, and then even recently, on digital download and digital streaming, and then making that content available to paid TV broadcasters in the UK, like Sky Cinema, or maybe on Prime Video or Netflix. The last leg of that chain would be the likes of BBC and ITV who would play those movies from time to time.
That windowing structure, according to Danny, is evolving all the time, partially because of COVID, partially because of general trends in the marketplace. Imagine that at every step, somebody needs to be there as the content owner. Somebody working for the content owner will knock on the door of the cinema and say, "These are the terms under which you can play my movie. This is the split of the retail price that we want to get from you, and these are our marketing commitments in return." Next, somebody has to do a deal with the Sky’s, Netflix’s, and the BBC’s of this world to agree what the license fee would be, how long that show will be under license and therefore available to be broadcasted, and what are the economic terms around that.
On the series side of things, it’s a little bit different, he says, because there isn’t the theatrical aspect to it. What you tend to find there is that somebody buys or commissions a show, and that’s usually a broadcaster, but it could also be streaming services now. They may pay 100% of the budget, or they may pay less than 100% of the budget. But in any event, they’re paying for the show to broadcast on their platform, and then it becomes available either subsequently or internationally, and then someone has to do that deal too.
COVID’s effect on TV & film
Danny says that because of COVID, the whole nature of their business is changing quite radically. COVID is accelerating those changes, and the longer the impact of COVID is felt, then the more profound the change is going to be. His industry is not one that lends itself to commoditization. What’s really changing is that the traditional model that involves territorial licensing and sequential windowing, because of the increasing prevalence of global platforms. Where once it was just Netflix that was disrupting the model, now there’s Disney+, Amazon, Peacock from NBC Universal, HBO Max, Hulu which is also part of the Disney World. Even Sky to some extent is a multi-territory regional player. Danny acknowledges that there’s a significant shift taking place where originally, content owners would have licensed the content out to third parties. Now increasingly, they’re looking to build direct-to-consumer offerings that allow them to effectively build a subscriber base and a customer base without having to have that mediated by third parties. Therefore, when it comes to how many people are doing his job and how many people are involved in distribution, that model is constantly shifting. The number of people in it are reduced, because the scope of distribution is shifting all the time. And so, there are big changes going on right now in the distribution world.
In terms of promotion, if studios directly control it or if it’s outsourced, Danny says it depends on whether it’s film or TV. On film, the studios are responsible for the marketing of the film. They sometimes do that in conjunction with their partners. But essentially, it’s down to the studios and the content creators to build a brand, and every time they launch a film, effectively, they’re creating a new brand and building awareness for that. He says it’s another reason for the shift in the windowing, which is the length of time it takes for a movie to go through the different cycles of consumption.
Recently, there was an announcement that AMC Studios has reached an agreement with Universal that allows for movies to play on premium pay-per-view or premium VOD. It means that movies can be downloaded into the home on a temporary basis 17 days after theatrical release, when typically in the US, it was more like three months, and in the UK, it’s four months. That’s a reflection of the fact that studios are spending so much money on marketing that they want to get the biggest bang for their buck. They want to get customer consumption taking place as close to that marketing as possible, so that marketing works as effectively as possible. They don’t want to wait another four months and then have the cost of trying to remarket a movie. With series, Danny says it’s a little bit different, because it’s really down to the buyer, the commissioning broadcaster to build the brand, and that can be through external marketing. But given that they have relationships with their customers and talk to them all the time, they have a certain amount of promotional air time, and they use that well to launch new shows. They are also involved in other promotional activity that are more PR-, interview-, and social media-based. So, there’s a mixture of ways that people communicate to try and launch new movies and shows.
Even if shows are being sold straight away, it doesn’t necessarily mean that things like merchandise will become less important, that if the window of the sale is so short, the logistics of designing and distributing merchandise must be getting harder, and merchandise used to be quite a good source of revenue. It still depends. Films are released pretty close together around the world, and that’s exactly the point. The point is that having spent the money on advertising, marketing, and promoting a movie, you want it to work as effectively as possible. You don’t want to wait and wait for it to come out and on other platforms. Those deals that are about merchandise, he says, are all done way before the movie’s even shot, in many cases. Promotional partners come on board very early and build their merchandising campaigns very early, and that’s based around the creative vision and the scale of the project. When it comes to TV shows, Danny says that when you’re doing something like Game of Thrones that has various merch elements to it, that becomes a function of how well the show does. It’s much rarer for a big merch campaign around a TV show that happens right from the get-go. It’s more like once it’s shown it’s working and it’s getting an audience that the people want to tap into that. So on the merch side, according to Danny, that just does its own thing.
Though Goldridge Media currently doesn’t have a website, Danny believes that it’s his 20-year history in the business that gives him credibility. People know him and he knows people. When he was starting out, it was more the case of him saying, "Hey, this is what I’m doing. These are the things that I can offer to you," and just getting himself out there through his network. But he’s found that, over the course of the last 12 months and actually more since lockdown, funnily enough, he’s had more people contact him saying, "I’ve heard what you’re doing in this area. Maybe you could do that for us," and so he says it’s come more from referrals. Because the distribution scene is not a massive world, Danny says your reputation, standing, and experience are truly your greatest calling card. If you want to learn more about Goldridge Media, you can find Danny on LinkedIn. Danny really is proof that you can build a very successful and enduring business based on your skill sets and on your reputation.
Cover Photo from Medical Xpress