By Sahil Patel
In March, Machinima announced a major content deal with RSA, Hollywood filmmaker Ridley Scott’s production company, to produce a series of 12 sci-fi short films for its video network. The goal was to canvas ideas from RSA’s stable of directors to create new, original sci-fi narratives. If any of the films were successful enough with Machinima’s audience, RSA and Machinima would then develop longer series and maybe even feature-length projects based on them.
It was a major deal for Machinima, which has made its OTT ambitions clear in the past several months.
It’s also a deal that no longer exists.
Multiple sources close to the deal confirm that the project has been shuttered. The reason for RSA leaving the project, according to these sources, had do with things like aligning schedules with potential advertisers and director availability.
There is some confusion, though, over how the films would get funded, and how much of a role that played in the deal falling apart. For instance, a source tells us that RSA believed brand sponsors would be on board to help underwrite production costs for the films. When the production company realized that there would be no financing coming in from advertisers, it opted to remove itself from the project. Other sources claim that’s inaccurate, that there wasn’t any expectation on RSA to help finance the films.
In any case, this was a major project, and one that received its fair share of interest from potential sponsors. Multiple sources tell us that Machinima had spoken with multiple advertisers, with some even ready to commit to sponsorships.
Separately, we’ve learned that Machinima did indeed have an agreement in place with a major global marketer, which signed up to sponsor the entire film slate. We’re told the deal was in the multi-million dollar range, and that it was a media buy.
So what to make of all of this? Whether the decision to call the deal was due to scheduling concerns, or it had to do with the actual financing of the films, it’s definitely a setback for Machinima, one of the top video networks on the web.
As of now, all sources agree that there are no immediate plans between RSA and Machinima to collaborate on content.
It’s been a rough couple of months for Machinima, at least in the public eye. In September, the company shed close to 10% of its workforce (22 employees) for the second time in the past year. Since then, the network has also announced that it would be parting ways with two top executives, president Philip DeBevoise and EVP of network programming Aaron DeBevoise, by the end of the year. There is also the matter of current Machinima CEO Allen DeBevoise* looking for his own replacement.
Would this partnership with RSA have changed that? Tough to say.
Although the fact that Machinima was able to secure a big commitment from a major advertiser indicates that it’s not exactly finished. And remember, while RSA’s stable of filmmakers include Oscar winners like Kathryn Bigelow and Martin Scorsese, these films were going to be created by those whom you probably haven’t heard of. Even then, Machinima was able to generate interest for the films, which were supposed to roll out in early 2014.
It’ll be interesting to see how the company responds. Machinima still wants to create a premium video network with high-quality content. The company is still looking to raise more money, and an industry source confirms earlier reports that the amount will most likely be in the $20–30 million range, after initially hoping for a mega-round north of $70 million.
* Full disclosure: Allen DeBevoise is an investor in VideoInk.