First Major Deal Done By Ivana Kirkbride with Warner Bros. Trumps Early Deals for go90; A Dozen Shows Already Greenlit
At VidCon, a small slide during Ivana Kirkbride’s presentation about the present and future of go90 mentioned a new multi-year deal with Warner Brothers Digital Networks (WBDN), including Stage13, Machinima and Blue Ribbon. Now, sources familiar with go90’s deals confirm to VideoInk that go90 is brokering a handful of multi-year deals, similar to the one done with AwesomenessTV in 2015 for a rumored $190 million.
According to various sources, WBDN is the first to have dry ink, but Complex Networks and AwesomenessTV — two companies in which Verizon already has an ownership-stake — are close behind. All three, along with a few other pending sports deals, will span into the 9 figure range, marking the largest deals in go90’s history, and Chief Creative Officer Ivana Kirkbride’s career toppers. With a rumored $5+ billion budget for content acquisitions, production and marketing across the Verizon-owned businesses, these three deals alone could are still a drop in the money pit Verizon has committed to video.
So what are the deals exactly?
The deals, while not being pegged as “first look” deals, are strikingly similar. Sources close to the dealmaking claim these are multi-year (3 to 6 year) development deals with an assumed “first look” and that Verizon wants to be involved in the process as early as possible. And though the investments don’t indicate co-production, nor co-ownership of IP, there is a profit-participation element that spans beyond the first window of exclusivity for U.S. distribution.
Verizon’s early team received criticism for sloppy dealmaking by Hollywood standards that skewed so heavily in favor of the producers that it economically made little to no sense. During our interview last Fall, Kirkbride noted the insane volume (in terms of hours) of content being produced and released on go90 with zero marketing, no ownership and little strategy for renewals. These elements stood at the crux of her vision for righting the direction for go90.
As far as the first deal with WBDN, sources claim that the deal was strategic and somewhat thorny given the forthcoming acquisition of Time Warner by Verizon competitor AT&T.
But, Machinima was among the first wave of companies to receive funding from go90 prior to Kirkbride’s tenure, putting the company in strong position for this round of investment. And while Machinima, Stage13, and Blue Ribbon were the first named as content providers in the deal, development pitches could extend to other WBDN-owned brands like DramaFever and Ellen. Most of the content, however, is intended for go90’s sci-fi/fantasy, male-driven “Saga” channel, with both unscripted and scripted formats being considered, according to a Verizon spokesperson who declined to further comment on the nature of the deals.
And, since inking terms, go90 has already greenlit almost a dozen shows including the recently-released thriller “Snatcher” from Stage13. For go90, a partnership like this presents an opportunity to develop IP based on existing Warner Brothers-owned titles and serves as a complement to go90’s library deal with Warner Bros. Television announced earlier this year at MIP TV.
But with these three deals alone, and an assumed volume that spans upwards of 30 projects in total, the new issue go90 may have to conquer is whether, or not, it has the in-house development staff to support that many projects.