William Neal | Sr. VP Original Content, KoldCast TV
William Neal has Executive Produced an extensive amount of reality-based series, including �E! True Hollywood Story�. He is the Sr. VP of Original Content for KoldCast TV, an internet TV Network developing original productions for distribution and syndication via the web and conventional TV. Scott Manville, Founder of the TV Writers Vault sat down with Neal for some insight on the ever-expanding digital web series genre, and the industry related.
Scott Manville : Thanks for taking time out from your projects to chat with us. How are things going in development at KoldCast TV?
William Neal: We currently have several projects in development through KoldCast Studios, including an edgy talk show featuring a popular syndicated columnist and a provocative �reality� series, the latter a co-production with an acclaimed Hollywood filmmaker. A number of other promising original productions are in the pipeline. We are also in dialogue with Documentary and Independent filmmakers, along with several established production companies from around the country, to acquire and distribute their content.
Scott Manville : Can you give us an overview of KoldCast TV? What are some activities and goals of the company?
William Neal: KoldCast TV is all about choice and flexibility � providing Viewers with compelling content, delivered on-demand, in an easy-to-navigate and entertaining environment. In terms of original productions, we believe there are some very talented people out there who simply never get the chance to squeeze through the dime-sized Hollywood pipeline. We can provide at least some of them with that chance. Further, we�re accessible and highly-responsive. And, unlike other ITV portals, we provide a number of value-added services, without cost, to our Content Partners which, we� re told, are highly-valued and greatly appreciated. We�re completing the first phase �Beta: Take One� release of KoldCast this month. Our �Take Two,� release, which follows relatively soon thereafter, brings additional and more immediate monetization opportunities to KoldCast TV and its partners. Our primary goal at this time is simply to increase Content, Viewers and Cash Flow! Easy, huh?
Scott Manville : You come from the world of Network producing. What has the jump been like to web-series production? Are the challenges similar? Benefits?
William Neal: Don Hewitt, former EP of 60 Minutes, had a mantra he repeated over and over to his producers and reporters: �Tell me a story!� He was right then and I believe he�s right now � regardless of the medium. That�s not to say there isn�t a place for off-the-wall user generated content � clearly YouTube and others have proved there is � but we think viewers still crave professionally produced product and that�s our model. Still, there are some fundamental differences between conventional TV and Internet TV. Here are two major differences: (1) production costs, at least for the foreseeable future, need to be substantially lower for Internet TV; and, (2) TRT is also vastly different � the sweet spot for Internet TV still seems to be in the 3-5 minute range vs. 30-60 minutes for conventional TV. However, like conventional TV, the competition is fierce, so the concept better be unique and entertaining.
Scott Manville : We�ve seen an influx of web-based projects getting picked up by mainstream media. Is getting a web-series sold to NBC, for example, the end all be all?
William Neal: If a deal can be done with a conventional television network that furthers our goals and benefits our viewers, that� s an exciting proposition. The TV networks are, and will remain, a powerful force in the industry. But it�s not simply about bragging rights, it�s about making the right choices. An end all be all? Not at all!
Scott Manville : Advertiser support is obviously something you try to wrap around any web distributed content. Do you have those elements in place for projects at KoldCast TV, or are you more focused on the development and production of content to be handed off to other outlets.
William Neal: As you know, advertising comes in many shapes and sizes. We�re predominantly interested in series and show sponsorships and certain forms of product placement and branded entertainment. We have just now reached the point where these elements have become important to us. We�re working on several projects where we believe we can provide such Sponsors with genuine and measurable benefits. �Relevancy� is critical to advertising success, so matching an advertiser to the right property is our primary objective. We are about to begin pre-production on a new KoldCast TV series that offers an incredible opportunity to the right advertiser/sponsor; from the get-go, we�re highly confident that we�ll be bringing several million viewers to this respective series. We believe we have the right elements in place to affect such a valuable sponsorship, but the next month or so will tell us if we�re on target.
We also just began work on finding a sponsor for a KoldCast distributed show, but we are challenged by the cutting edge nature of the show�s content, despite the enormous attention the show has received in mainstream media. That said, our business model, much of which the market has not yet seen from us, brings other material revenue-generating opportunities to bear. These new revenue sources are likely to far outpace conventional advertising for the next few years while the major advertisers continue their move into Internet TV.
Scott Manville : Here�s a very broad question for your very broad opinion. What do you think the Internet has done for the creative community, such as Writers and Idea people?
William Neal: As mentioned earlier, the Internet is giving voice to many talented artists who would otherwise never get the chance to strut their stuff. KoldCast was initially founded to widen the pipeline in Hollywood and we remain vigilantly committed to this.
Scott Manville : You’re not only a Producer, but a member of the Writers Guild of America as well. How do you feel about the strikes resolution and the role writers have in new media?
William Neal: I believe the WGA negotiating committee did the best they could and the deal, while certainly not perfect, was fair and reasonable. I voted �yes� and most of my WGA friends did as well. The web, of course, was one of the primary points of contention leading to the strike yet the studio execs were right in describing it as the �wild, wild west� and therefore nearly impossible to quantify. The Internet picture will undoubtedly be much clearer when this latest contract is up and we, the writers, may need 301 Spartans to fight that war!
Scott Manville : What makes good content for a reality series?
William Neal: Great characters, a compelling story, and plenty of legit drama. Some sort of competition element is also a plus, depending on the concept. And, of course, every show needs the creative touch of a talented writer and story-teller. I recall a print ad featuring the iconic scene from I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethyl were manning the assembly line in a chocolate factory. Suddenly, the machine went haywire. In an effort to keep up, they frantically began stuffing their mouths with chocolates. The caption read: �Remember, somebody wrote that.�
Scott Manville : Although we see many reality shows that are derivative of others, how much of today�s reality TV is driven by original �idea�?
William Neal: There are very few truly original ideas. For example, old reliable Regis Philbin is back with Million Dollar Password on CBS. The concept dates back to the early 60�s. Go figure! The gems are certainly out there � they�re just really tough to dig up.
Scott Manville : If you�re creating a new show, as a Producer, what is the most important element needed for it go the distance and survive the development and pitching stages?
William Neal: A great concept, the right people to execute it, and persistence with a capital �P.� It also helps to be a little crazy, and for all the stars to align!
Scott Manville : What�s your opinion of a service such as the TV Writers Vault? Do you believe in �virtual� Hollywood?
William Neal: I have been perusing the Vault for talented writers/concepts. I believe it�s a valuable service that we intend to mine on behalf of our Viewers. I look forward to the addition of the web-based category. As for a �virtual� Hollywood, I think we�re already there.
Scott Manville: What�s your view on the multiplatform entertainment world, say, five years from now?
William Neal: Television and the computer will be interchangeable � and content will be shared among many multi-media devices. I heard a recent talk by Eric Schmidt, Google Chairman & CEO, in which he said the greatest challenge for Internet-based companies over the next five years will be to cut through the myriad of choices (i.e., the crap) and present the �good stuff� in an organized, accessible format. At the risk of sounding self-serving, the KoldCast management team that recruited me said the same thing more than two years ago and that�s what we�ve been doing all along.
Scott Manville : Thanks again for your time and thoughts. Good luck with new developments at KoldCast!
William Neal: Thanks, Scott. Very thoughtful questions! And best of luck with TV Writer�s Vault � nicely done.