Indies Spirit Q&A

(Above: “Animated” Paul Gorman and Marie “Maddy” Madison. Source: MaddyGTV)

Last month The Savvy Screener interviewed filmmaker Sophia Eptamenitis about her comedy web series, What Exit?, which is distributed on Roku and Prime via an arrangement with MaddyGTV.

MaddyGTV, a producer and distributor of independent content, programs three Roku channels, offers shows and movies on Amazon Prime, and sells merchandise like DVDs and Blu-rays. We spoke with Paul Gorman, MaddyGTV’s director of programming, about the company’s evolution, its upcoming fall schedule and the future of streaming. (Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)

TSS: Why, how and when did MaddyGTV get started?

Gorman: MaddyGTV formed in 2008 by merging GMD (Gorman Media Design) Films and Marie “Maddy” Madison Media to address two issues:

  1. We were frustrated with traditional (DVD and Blu-ray) distribution – producers would sign over rights for five to eight years, wait a year or more for release, and then charge fees that essentially expensed out first-year profits;
  2. No real retail market for TV and web series existed.

TSS: Who are MaddyGTV’s key people? Where are you based?

Gorman: We are still a very small company, based in Titusville, PA. Maddy and I (pictured left) handle day-to-day operations, working with independent contractors – i.e., graphic designers, composers, editors, camera and lighting technicians, actors, voice-over artists. She’s responsible for scheduling, bookkeeping and budgeting. I oversee production, content partners and marketing. We sought to create a platform where audiences could discover and watch movies and shows for free.

TSS: How has MaddyGTV’s business evolved?

Gorman: In 2008, the economy was in a tailspin. Collecting DVD/Blu-ray discs was a luxury fewer people could afford – especially lower-budget content from a relatively unknown studio. We sought to create a platform where audiences could discover and watch movies and shows for free.

MaddyGTV’s first incarnation was a web-based streaming platform on a computer or device. We moved to Roku in 2014-15.

TSS: What is MaddyGTV’s relationship with Roku?

Gorman: MaddyGTV is a channel developer and content provider through its Roku channels. Roku, a non-exclusive and open source platform, allows developers to try new things and completely manage their presentations. We now serve millions of viewers a month and have positioned ourselves as a top channel among independent programmers.

“We now serve millions of viewers a month and have positioned ourselves as a top channel among independent programmers.”

TSS: What kind of content and channels do you provide to Roku?

Gorman: Flagship channel MaddyGTV updates every week with original movies such as Virgin Pockets and Blood of Ohma, and original series like WISP, Venture and Maddy Burger. We also license movies from top indie studios and filmmakers, including Larry Stanley’s Decisions and Bobby Jones’ Tear. Series include author Jacqueline Druga’s Beginnings, Deanna Meske’s Government Lies and Sophia Eptamenitis’ What Exit?

Sister channel MaddyGTV Late Night provides sexier fare for adults and couples, offering story-driven shows and movies like you would see on late-night Showtime or HBO. Original films include the sexy thriller Fury. Series include Inside Marie’s Play Place, a sitcom set inside a porn studio, and Regarding Jenny, a ‘coming of age’ comedy about a woman in a committed relationship with a doll.

Finally, MaddyMation is a family-friendly cartoon channel featuring the work of up-and-coming animators and animation school students. Many are concept films that became features. For example, Brain Divided became Pixar’s Inside Out.

TSS: What is MaddyGTV’s relationship with Amazon?

Gorman: Amazon distributes our DVDs, Blu-rays and boxed sets, and hosts our original movies and series on Amazon Prime. We have been on Prime about a year now, and are still developing that relationship.

TSS: How does MaddyGTV make money?

Gorman: DVDs, Blu-rays, digital downloads and VOD rentals are revenue streams. On Roku, we are ad-supported, enabling us to provide free programming. We’ve been lucky to build a big enough audience to attract a lot of loyal sponsors.

TSS: How do your content creators make money?

Gorman: We offer them a 50/50 split on all money earned. We do not charge for artwork, encoding, conforming for streaming, closed captioning, and manufacturing of DVDs and Blu-rays. In other words, content creators get no distributor invoice before getting their checks. MaddyGTV sends reports and royalty checks every month.

“On Roku, we are ad-supported, enabling us to provide free programming. We’ve been lucky to build a big enough audience to attract a lot of loyal sponsors.”

TSS: What is GMD Films and Television?

Gorman: It’s our division for Roku development. We work with other studios and businesses to help them build and manage their own Roku channels – for example, My Champion Network channel, produced by Champion Entertainment in Houston.

TSS: What’s next for MaddyGTV?

Gorman: There’s a lot debuting this fall:

  • Beginnings: Outbreak, a prequel to our series Beginnings, starring Daniel Donahue as Ellen, a woman who tries to keep her family from falling apart at the start of the apocalypse;
  • Fury – Redux, a reboot of our 2005 indie film Fury. Marie Madison returns as Laney McCoy, a feminist lawyer who goes on a jealousy-driven killing spree over her much younger lover Michael Pearce, played by Chris Dettone;
  • Gray Agenda, a sci-fi film about the discovery that aliens may have had a plan of their own all along — from Decisions’ director Larry Stanley;
  • Our post-apocalypse drama series, Venture, returns, with Amanda Collins as a lone woman trying to survive the end of the world and the warring clans around her. Season one gained over 1 million viewers last fall. Both Venture and Beginnings: Outbreak are co-productions with Champion Entertainment;
  • New episodes of our animated series Maddy Burger;
  • The Humor Project, a stand-up special.

TSS: What are streaming’s biggest challenges right now?

Gorman: Streaming TV is still in its infancy. The technology is constantly changing. Cable companies are still trying to figure out how to make money, so connection speeds are getting faster, but more expensive. We’re seeing things like data caps, and higher bandwidth costs. As a streaming broadcaster, it’s impossible to guess our needs. We’ve had two server crashes in the last three years. We’ve had to upgrade server access cards to allow more connections, we’ve upgraded video servers, and we’re constantly adding hard drives to store the terabytes we’re streaming. It’s a chase, but an exciting time to be in the industry.

“Streaming TV is still in its infancy. The technology is constantly changing. … It’s a chase, but an exciting time to be in the industry.”

TSS: Where will streaming will be in five years?

Gorman: It will be commonplace. Traditional cable and satellite companies will become bandwidth providers rather than programmers. Major broadcast networks are becoming streaming channels; CBS already produces exclusive programming for its All Access channel. That says something about the future of streaming. MaddyGTV plans to grow right along with it.

 

 

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