Relativity Media founder and CEO Ryan Kavanaugh strode onto the main stage here at Mipcom today, providing a run-down of his business model versus the Hollywood studios’ “blockbuster or bust” mentality, declaring that Relativity’s just-announced Limitless TV series “could be one of the biggest shows that’s ever been”, and announcing his intention to build a digital TV Everywhere-style platform within the next 12 months.
Kavanaugh was in Cannes in support of Limitless and Act Of Valor, two new series based on the studio’s own films. Bradley Cooper is executive producing Limitless, which is part of Relativity’s expansion into scripted television. Kavanaugh said some very big stars were interested, adding “Who knows? (Cooper) may be in the first episode.” Relativity also just received a greenlight at National Geographic Channel for its first scripted series, drama Act Of Valor. The company’s unscripted portfolio already has 17 series currently on air including MTV hit Catfish, an offshoot from its documentary feature.
Kavanaugh explained he had an “epiphany” about turning Relativity movies into TV shows after Catfish. Although the film was profitable, it was an underperformer by traditional measures. Yet, young people kept telling him how much they enjoyed it. “Based on what I was hearing, I went back to all of our underperformers” to look at their sell-thru, on demand and DVD numbers as well as the marketing and he realized that if a percentage of the films’ audience could be converted to TV, it would be a win. The same theory could be applied to films that had broader box office appeal, à la Limitless, he said. With 20 million-plus viewers already invested in the movie, “it was the biggest pilot of all time. No TV show has ever had this.”
By collecting “tons of data on the audience,” Kavanaugh said, “We probably have ten times the data of our films than any TV pilot has had in history.” With a high conversion rate from theatrical to home video on many Relativity movies –– Limitless grossed more than $160M worldwide and subsequently sold 2M+ home video units — “We have a built-in audience that is conditioned to watching our programs at home.” Relativity intends to open its Foreign division to take on TV sales, as well.
Turning to what he called a “Theory of Everything” concept, Kavanaugh said, “We as an industry have not kept up with the way people consume content” and that viewers build their own TV experience. So, “What if we could take every film and make them available to viewers in perpetuity? What if we could take all TV shows and make them available?,” he mused, suggesting that “fifty pilots” could be put online to “let the audience decide where (a show) goes next.” We are “ready right now to make all of our movies available,” he declared, saying the company plans to launch a content platform to be “up and running in the next 12 months.”
But, he cautioned, the “theory of everything is not about replacing traditional TV. It shouldn’t be either/or. They should co-exist.” Despite an increasing number of cord-cutters, Kavanaugh suggested, “The cord-keepers are not going anywhere anytime soon… The cord-cutters don’t care about first-run TV. It’s two different audiences with different needs.”
Earlier in his keynote, Kavanaugh commented, “Each time a new platform is invented, we have had to adapt to survive. We are at perhaps the most critical moment in history. It’s important to know where content is headed.”