• Interview: MTVN's Greg Clayman, EVP, Digital Distribution

    As MTV Networks' Executive VP of Digital Distribution and Business Development, Greg Clayman is the company's main digital deal-maker, striving to reach far-flung audiences in the broadband and mobile era. Given MTVN's stable of powerhouse brands and the myriad opportunities that cross his desk daily, Greg's goals, and the strategies he uses to achieve them, have far-reaching implications.

    In this interview on the cusp of the NATPE show, Clayman explains how MTVN has organized its digital deal operation for success, why broadband video's benefits can't always be easily quantified, what the company looks for in syndication deals and why advertising is poised to play a big role in mobile video. An edited transcript follows.

    VideoNuze: Let's start with the basics - what's your role at MTV?

    Greg Clayman: I'm the EVP of Digital Distribution and Business Development for MTV Networks. I manage distribution of our content across all digital partners, such as AOL, MSN, Bebo - basically our whole digital syndication business. Just prior to this I ran just the mobile group, which I actually I still do. I report to Mika Salmi, who runs everything digital at MTVN.

    VN: You have a pretty broad role, how do you organize things?

    GC: We have a group of biz dev people, some dedicated to broadband, some to mobile. Same on the operations and product development side. We learn a lot from each other by being all together, though these areas do diverge in certain ways. Remember, video is just one piece of what we do. We're also in ring tones, games, voting, you name it. But there's a lot of things that broadband and mobile video have in common - I'm always amazed.

    Also, our partners were a real motivator for us to organize this way. Some of our key mobile partners like AT&T and Verizon started getting into broadband in a big way around a year or so ago. We wanted to make sure we were all aligned so we worked most productively with them.

    VN: Let's talk specifically about broadband - what are MTVN's goals?

    GC: Well, there are really two. First is to make money - if that isn't too obvious. We think there's a terrific ad-driven business that's growing nicely. We can measure our performance very well and are getting a pretty good handle on how to grow revenues.

    Second, we want to use broadband to drive traffic and awareness to our other platforms, specifically on-air and our various web properties. The latter is a significant business now in its own right. So for example, if someone sees a video of The Daily Show somewhere online, that may entice them to come to TheDailyShow.com and maybe start doing searches for other stuff. We also want to drive awareness of our shows in general. The fact is that the TV business is still where essentially all of our revenue comes from right now. So if we can spark interest in shows and move the ratings by even by a little bit, that pays great dividends for us. So we're balancing how to achieve both goals.

    VN: How do you measure the success of the promotional stuff?

    GC: Admittedly, that can be tough. Certainly we look at ratings, and what we think is contributing to them. For example, we had excellent ratings for the Movie Awards. But it's hard to say, is that because we had excellent talent? Or because we did a big partnership? Or was it billboards? It's hard to know specifically.

    VN: Is MTVN's syndication push a recent phenomenon and how important is it?

    GC: It's very important, we're embracing it equally, alongside building out our own destinations. Look, MTV has some of the top online brands, obviously growing them further is a top priority. We want to do everything we can to achieve this.

    We've always been interested in getting content in front of lots of consumers, but it's really been only the last few years that broadband video has exploded in a significant way and some of these social networking spaces have taken off. So we want to work with lots of people - people we have good relationships with. Where we see eye-to-eye with them. And importantly people who respect copyright - which by the way is becoming more commonplace these days. This is trending in the right direction I'm happy to say.

    VN: Talk about business models in these broadband syndication deals - what do you favor?

    GC: In the majority of cases we provide video streams and a player and we serve ads on top of that content. We're experimenting with ad formats - lower third, bugs, pre-rolls, etc. For the most part we sell the ads and give a revenue share to the partner. That's the most basic model. Getting to a point where we have multiple partners and we can turnkey this stuff is a goal. But there's a lot of integration work still to do.

    VN: Let's shift to mobile video - how developed is it really, particularly compared to broadband?

    GC: Look, we're still very early in both, but certainly earlier in mobile. For example, look at MediaFLO (Qualcomm's initiative) - it's only supposed to launch this quarter. But what's interesting in the mobile space is that people pay for things. I think that matters. So it has the potential to become a pretty material business quickly. And for better or for worse, there's a finite number of players - both carriers and providers. So it's more akin to the cable model in some ways.

    Contrast this with broadband - in that world there are tens of millions of users, but they're dispersed across so many different properties. And they don't want to pay. So actually making money can be a lot more difficult.

    VN: You're touching on the "closed" nature of mobile video today - how and when will that change?

    GC: One of the things we'll start to see more of soon is direct-to-consumer, off-deck video. But platforms for this don't necessarily exist in a big way right now. We're years away from a huge critical mass. In the next few years we'll see developments around open platforms like Google's Android, but it's not going to be material for a while to come. And remember, carriers have tens of millions of happy subscribers, who are willing to pay for services. There's a strong incentive to maintain that. To make this market really take off, we think standards are needed, the same as we've seen online and in broadband to some extent.

    VN: So net, net, do you think mobile video remains largely a paid medium?

    GC: I think advertising can and will play a big role. We're seeing a big movement in mobile ads. That's because there's a role for advertisers to play in subsidizing content development. But advertising has to be done in a way that's not incredibly annoying to the user.

    Where we have done research, we've found people really like mobile video, and they watch it everywhere. The bathroom. The bedroom. Waiting for the schoolbus. Even at work! People are doing it. Bite-sized clips work very well. We see this all the time. So no question, there's a bright future for mobile video.

    VN: What's your panel about at NATPE?

    GC: I'm moderating a session with a great group of folks who are driving mobile video forward. They have tons of experience and love to talk! Attendees are sure to gain a lot of insights about the mobile video opportunity.

    VN: You've been gracious with your time. Thanks and good luck.

    (Note: Greg Clayman will be moderating "Mobile Content: What's Hot? What's New? What's Next?" on Tues, Jan. 29th at 3pm)