When Rocketboom first got started at the end of 2004, and especially during the years of 2005 and 2006, every-time we put a video up online, people were amazed just by the act. “Hey! Come check this out!”, a 9-to-5er would shout out across the office and soon several people were huddling around a monitor saying things like “Wow, check out those kids with a video camera out on the street in New York. They are filming a rock and putting it up online, can you believe it??”
It didn’t take much to appease the audience back then. You didn’t need much, you just needed to show up. Being at the right place at the right time had so much to do with Rocketboom’s early success. At first sight, Rocketboom wasn’t about the content for most people, it stood as a symbol for the democratization of media and the almost instant realization that disruption and major change in the world was inevitable.
The excitement and power of this independent spirit is exactly the fire that fueled me personally and continues to fuel me today. I do think its part of the quintessential essence of the Rocketboom brand and many others out there.
However, that is only one part of the story and one part is often not enough. People may have been distracted, but they really did care about the content. A rock was enough to look at in the begging but there needed to be more and this has always been our greatest challenge: How do we get the content to be better?
And the world has changed since way back when. The Numa Numa kid is still a good smirk but its just not funny anymore. Neither is the 100th Leave Britney Alone parody that you cracked up at last year (granted, this is still pretty funny) – and as you may suspect, the hyperbole surrounding the free ability to podcast, videoblog and in general publish and distribute video to the world with the touch of a button is an old story now. It’s not a miracle or something. Can you even remember what the internet was like before video?
Once the show had grown large enough, we set out to find a marketplace and there was nothing. Then we ran out of money. So we experimented. Over time we got a pretty well rounded set of experiences on the internal ad sales front – eBay auctions for ad space, creating ads ourselves, sponsorship programs, non-exclusive sales agents, inserting pre-made ads, major ad sales directly with advertisers, ad sales via traditional media-buyers, even anti-ad sales.
While related, ad sales is a very different business than content production. It was fun to play, and it’s extremely supportive, but distracting to the primary mission of Rocketboom and our team’s talents. Every moment we spent on ads was a moment lost on the content. We wanted to interface with ads in some way, but why not leave this job up to people who have a passion for it? There are MANY people out there thinking about this already.
We then tried plugging into a 3rd party option. We tried start-up ad companies like Federated Media and blip.tv and refused to go exclusive with anyone for a long term without some kind of guarantee. And no one was ready because no one could sell out our inventory across all of our platforms (e.g. our own video formats plus videos on You-Tube and TiVo, etc.). It tends to require managing multiple accounts and methods and no one has been able to handle selling ads across all of our platforms except us. 🙁 For a good enough deal that is 🙂
If you ever stop over for a chat, remind me to show you a video I still have on my Nokia N-95 walking into the Supreme Court in New York to save the future of Rocketboom.
“Note: We have not yet found record of a lawsuit in which Congdon is named as a primary plaintiff, but documents from 2007 indicate that she filed motion in a New York court to be recognized as co-owner of Rocketboom and was denied.”
Having been completely and utterly stuck for almost two years by the courts without being able to accept any investment offers or other equitable partnerships to grow Rocketboom at all, we have since been frozen like ice… and without any additional resources to grow.
Meanwhile… others did obtain investment, leveraging their hit shows into networks. Revision3 which was spawned from the major Digg hit Diggnation has raised around $10 Million dollars and Next New Networks which spawned from the early itunes cartoon hit, Frederator, has already done $23M in investment. While these networks have provided immense value for the growing transitioning space, they are all controlled now by venture capitalists which tend to have as their primary objective, a sale. This is not to undermine the importance of the content and the mission of each of the new networks, nor does this in anyway, I hope, kill the spirit for the people there including the VC’s themselves. I’ve been studying them all closely and often write about them here.
Robert Sociable for example, who probably thinks I’m his worst critic (even though he is a great inspiration to me) leveraged his experience videoblogging for Microsoft’s Channel-9 to start up Podtech. Did Podtech burn thorough too much too soon? Ad revenue has been spotty for most companies over the last few years and many start-ups anticipated that they would be able to justify high CPM ad revenue right away, on a large scale, with many hit shows, and a cherry on top. Podtech recently sold for used parts and the Scobleizer left to start yet another new network, Fastcompanay.tv.
Aside from the hit shows which have spawned the networks, most of the other shows on these networks have not lived up to their predecessors, content-wise, and new shows are often canceled soon after they are launched. This may be an indication of content quality more-so than a pre-profit phase of a nascent marketplace.
Upon becoming free to make a move, we signed up with Creative Artists, and engaged in months of talks about possible partnerships with traditional Hollywood companies as well as an amazing amount of non-media oriented businesses moving into the media space, and eventually got a very good sense of what Rocketboom is worth, what our options were and what we wanted to do to move forward.
Relevant to Rocketboom’s business, there are “kinds” of companies that could provide a strategic partnership for Rocketboom like Google, Ebay and Microsoft, for instance, which dominate in tech online, or companies like CBS, ABC and Disney, which are known for TV Broadcast and Film, or even companies like Apple and Intel which produce electronics that receive our distribution.
We were compelled by Sony because they are a complete package. They have so much experience in all of these special areas. With regards to infrastructure and support, they are industry leaders in TV and Film, electronics, gaming, music, the list goes on all the way to the advertising infrastructure that is already well established.
In other-words, instead of gaining capital to burn while continuing to build or seek an advertising solution, we now have one of the most prominent advertising solutions out there, along with increased distribution, a road map for expansion and a guarantee that I believe is an unprecedented deal for this space.
I owe this partnership to the vision and understanding of Michael Arrieta at Sony Pictures. Ive heard a lot of plans from a lot of companies and I believe Mike’s vision to distribute Superman quality video online across multiple platforms is brilliant. The future he has in mind for Crackle, and the way Rocketboom will soon be integrated into the PS3, PSP, Bravia i-Link and their syndicated network of 3rd party distributors – all the while leaving the distribution that we have intact – is a future with the resources – finally! – to improve our content and expand upon it.
Having run out of money twice this year while risking everything to make this the best distribution and advertising deal ever, for here we stand still independent and in control of our business and our editorial, I want to thank Joanne, Kenyatta, Elspeth, Jamie, Sarah, Liz and all of our editors for making it through you are the reason why Rocketboom made it here.
And finally thanks to everyone who has watched and everyone who has ever offered us support or been inspired by what we are doing – even if it was sucking really bad – we’ll be here for you!
[end with cheesy news music and then out]
SONY PICTURES TELEVISION ACQUIRES EXCLUSIVE WORLDWIDE CROSS PLATFORM DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS TO ROCKETBOOM.COM – full release
Rocketboom Inks Seven-Figure Distribution Deal With Sony – TechCrunch
Tom / TomsTechBlog.com: The Mathematics Of An Internet Phenomenon Ben Homer / Online Video Watch: Rocketboom Gets Big Dollar Distribution Deal From Sony Andy Merrett / The Blog Herald: Sony Pictures Television gets exclusive distribution rights to Rocketboom
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