5Q’s With…My Damn Channel CEO Rob Barnett

/ May 28, 2013

Rob Barnett My Damn Channel Founder-CEO Headshot (Credit Thomas Sobolik)

To earn itself everything from Webby Awards, Streamys and a place among TIME Magazine’s Best 50 Websites of 2011, My Damn Channel fostered a huge stable of extremely talented creators spanning established actors and musicians to up-and-coming talent.

Which might come as no surprise considering its Founder and CEO, Rob Barnett. He’s been a producer and a programming executive in radio, television and film at CBS, MTV and VH1. To maintain one of his favorite metaphors, he’s a sort of life-long talent scout who only focused on the online world in the last six years.

VideoInk caught up with him to discuss his roster and what he sees for the industry’s future.

1. At the Newfronts earlier this month you debuted some pretty remarkable content in partnership with Blip (congratulations on that deal). What does the partnership mean for your presence on YouTube? Do you think moving to other platforms is a primary strategy for My Damn Channel moving forward? 
When we launched in 2007, we decided it was important to have our home base at MyDamnChannel.com – and we always believed it was equally important to create the best business deals and partnerships with major brands and media companies. YouTube continues to be an important partner for My Damn Channel, as it has been since day one. This year, we added MSN and Blip to a growing list of companies tapping us to deliver some of the best original programming with top talent. Our best partners empower more original production and ensure that we double-down on more distribution, promotion, marketing and NOISE to help connect fans and brands with our artists and our series.

2. My Damn Channel has been around since 2007. What stands out as the biggest change you’ve seen since launching? 
When I asked our Co-Founder/COO, Warren Chao, to quit his job in 2006 and join My Damn Channel, we believed that many of the big mommy/daddy portals would have to sign companies like My Damn Channel to produce some of the best original programming. We didn’t predict that it would take until 2012 for these digital giants to take the plunge, but we are extremely encouraged to see the charge into original series finally gaining traction.

3. When was your online video “aha” moment and what sparked you to start My Damn Channel?
Like many, the minute Google bought YouTube was the minute I decided to re-route my own journey on the entertainment highway.

4. There’s a lot of cash flowing into the industry. We saw Awesomeness’s deal with Dreamworks and rumors that Viacom and Comcast will continue to invest in MCN land, is My Damn Channel also eyeing investment? Do you think we’re in bubble territory? 
When we started in ‘06/’07, you saw a lot of major media companies investing in digital: HBO had This Just In; NBC had DotComedy; Turner had Super Deluxe; UTA had 60Frames and that’s a small, partial list. Seven years and a Great Recession later, it’s now clear that major media is taking their second serious look at digital companies who’ve learned how to build smart and scalable businesses online.

5. If the industry is a baseball game, what inning are we in? 😉
I started asking my new favorite question early one morning this January at CES. If online video is a baseball game, then what inning are we all in? I’ve asked as many smart industry leaders I know. A few weeks ago, I was at a book party to celebrate Bob Garfield’s new book, Can’t Buy Me Like. Bob said, “I’m going to guess that just about everyone answered, ‘First Inning.’” He was right. Bob is usually right. He then added his vote, “Batting Practice.” Now, the first read on these answers may be depressing to any entrepreneur who’s been in the online video game since the start. I choose to look at this topic from the positive – everyone of us who are successfully establishing a leadership position in online video are now a part of what I’m believing is the “cable-ization of the Internet.” We’re in the early days of cable now online and what would you do to be on the ground floor of the HBO or Comedy Central or MTV of the future?

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