Today –incredibly, coincidentally– four years to the day it was originally announced, the company I founded (my co-founders were Emil Rensing, Herb Scannell, Tim Shey, and Jed Simmons), Next New Networks, has been acquired by long time partner Google’s YouTube unit, under the umbrella YouTube Next. I’ve been the part time CEO for the past six months (the only actual job I ever had there), but I won’t working there any longer. However… I expect to extend my long and fruitful relationship with YouTube, making it safe (and safer) for animation and cartoon creators of all stripes.
We started Next New Networks as the chaos of online video was exploding, figuring if we could bring a wee bit of order we’d actually create online television. Well, it seemed to work as we ended the year as probably the most successful platform for original web video, with 2010’s #2 YouTube channel and the #1 and #2 videos in the world. Most importantly, over the last four years the company’s been able to work with hundreds of the most talented new filmmakers in the world.
Channel Frederator started it all, but I’m incredibly proud of everything the company’s accomplished over the years, from launching dozens of networks, programming that’s been viewed over 2 billion times, and winning 10 Webby Awards.
A huge engine of our growth in the past year has been the Next New Creators program, where NNN partnered with over 60 independent producers, including popular YouTube partners such as The Gregory Brothers, Hot for Words, and Nalts, to help them hone their craft and grow their audiences. And we continued to grow our own successful networks such as online comedy network Barely Political (home of Obama Girl and “The Key of Awesome”), filmmaking network Indy Mogul, and style network ThreadBanger, in many cases reinvigorating them with creator-owned content.
Everyone at Next New Networks deserves a huge thank you for the incredible work that’s been done; they’ve all been a dedicated group of pioneers inventing and reinventing the way the media world is working. And this intrepid trailblazing group would have to include our investors — Spark Capital, Goldman Sachs group, Fuse Capital, Saban Capital, Balderton Capital, The Pilot Group, Herb Scannell, [the rest here]– and our board members –Dennis Miller, Joel Andryc, Brett Bullington, Jon Miller, Pete Perrone, Craig Cooper, Ross Levinsohn, Roland Van der Meer, Richard Yen and Bijan Sabet– and everyone at their companies. Without their support and vision we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish as much as we have.
For me, it’s been an incredible journey at Next New working with hundreds of people who’ve worked so hard to help define the next evolution of media. I’ve been at this for almost 40 years, constantly looking forward, and I’ve been honored to have the experience.
My great friend, our original CEO and co-founder Herb Scannell recently said it well in an email: “Next New Networks was built with the idea that next generation video was worth championing; the problem was they needed someone to love them. It figured out how to get ‘YouTube power’ with big sub bases for it’s content, made content that was hooked into ‘now pop culture’ to optimize interest and, with good blocking and tackling, cultivated community development to grow loyalty.”
At the end of 2005, Emil Rensing and I thought it might be fun to organize our video passions online. With the visionary help of tumblr founder-to-be David Karp and my colleagues Eric Homan, Mike Glenn, Melissa Wolfe, and Carrie Miller, these took shape as the pioneering podcasts Channel Frederator and VOD Cars.
Looking back they don’t look like that big a deal, but the first month’s downloads (over 1 million) convinced us there might be something to explore. The video world on the Internet was starting to explode with a chaotic frenzy of activity, and my experience with a similar boom around cable television thirty years before foretold an opportunity. If only someone (us?) could begin to form a small island of order in this topsy-turvy world, it would be a great boon to viewers looking to satisfy their enthusiasms. And, as the first MTV boss, Jack Schneider Array, told me on my first day at work in 1980, “New mediums demand new brands.” Next New Networks could provide those new brands to the Internet TV world.
Soon enough Emil and I were looking around for fellow travelers. My first MTV mentor and friend Bob Pittman told me we weren’t crazy, and offered to come in with our first outside angel investment. My former Hanna-Barbera partner, Jed Simmons, started setting up strategy sessions and introducing us to potential investors. Dennis Miller had been our colleague at Turner Broadcasting, and as a principal at Spark Capital, became our lead investor.
Meanwhile, we were spouting our hopes and dreams to anyone who would listen, especially in the creative and technology circles where we traveled. Creators and producers were flowing in and out of my small New York office trying to get a bead on our visions, and soon enough we’d started to amass a group of motivated, talented creative people who wanted in.
Tim Shey was a college friend of Emil’s and an Internet entrepreneur who’d sold his Washington, D.C., company and resettled in New York, working with the likes of Rocketboom. He became part of our founders’ group after our first group conversation in my apartment in early 2006. Herb Scannell and I had grown up together on Long Island and worked together for too many years at MTV Networks, and he joined up as our founding CEO the same day.
Later in the year, out West talking to investors ,we met up with the writer/director, Justin Johnson. Not only was Justin one of the very first video bloggers, but he’d been producing dozens of fabulous Channel Frederator promotional films for over a year. Next New had its very first creative employee. Over the next few months people kept showing up at Park Avenue South and we were able to fill out our roster with creators, network managers, producers, you name it.
I’ve got to save a special shout out to our Frederator/NY producer Carrie Miller. She signed up to work in animation, and attacked Channel Frederator and the production of The Meth Minute 39 and Nite Fite with all the attention they deserved. But, over the summer of 2006 I was out for an operation, and coming back to work I foisted this big surprise of a new company, new partners, and a whole heap of new work on her lap. She took it all in stride worked her tail off to help everyone accomplish everything they were dreaming. We couldn’t have worked our way out of a paper bag without you Carrie.
Soon enough, our team was complete.
Thank you everyone. It’s been a great beginning.