In this business, there are a handful of big player production companies, the kind that dominated Old Hollywood because they were simply everywhere and had projects with almost every network. For the video space, Newform Digital is among a handful of companies that can claim the same — two others being Astronauts Wanted, founded by Power Sixer Judy McGrath, and Trium/INE Entertainment, founded by VideoInk’s Creator to Know Eric Day. Newform Digital has deals witih every major player and will likely be a main fixture in the presentations at the Newfront’s next week. Their deal with go90 for multiple series was reportedly a deal that struck in the tens of millions of dollars.
And the man behind Newform’s deals with go90, YouTube Red, and others is JC Cangilla. Not only did he help build and scale Newform Digital from infancy, alongside creative head Kathleen Grace, but Cangilla sold 18 pilots to series since the business launched in Summer of 2014. The industry is white hot for digital-focused content creators and production houses right now. With Newform at the center of the hive, Cangilla and his team are seeing how distributors, creators, and tech platforms are shaping the future. Here he’s shared some thoughts on what that’s looking like.
VI: Is there one deal you’ve seen from afar that you didn’t do but thought was game changing for the business?
Cangilla: I really like the deals that various digital content creators are doing for linear and digital exploitation (Vice’s TV deal, High Maintenance from Vimeo to HBO, Freeform’s new approach). It’s validating the entire industry.
VI: At VideoInk, we harp on the broken measurement system and lack of systemized benchmarking. Do you see that impacting how you do business at Newform or the nature of the renewals and deals you’re getting?
Cangilla: We all benefit from the increased audience on digital platforms and the growth of digital distributors. However, we all need to acknowledge that we can’t support a digital video industry that doesn’t mature over time. Our collective approach to platforms, monetization and standardization of performance analytics has to grow up as we grow out as an industry.
VI: And of the various platforms where you’ve sold shows, do the various business models impact the performance of your content? For instance, are you seeing differences in performance on a TVOD platform like Vimeo, versus an ad supported one like go90?
Cangilla: I get to take an industry-wide perspective on this: we love new ad-supported players (and we think the ad industry investment will continue to grow), we think SVOD grows (general interest and specialty SVOD) and we think TVOD is a promising strategy. I get to place bets on all of these because we have had success in all of these.
VI: Any interesting industry trends you think are really shifting the way we do deals and business in general?
Cangilla: The change from platforms into distributors is really transforming what we’re seeing. More players want quality, professionalism and finish (including exclusives) versus the “we’re-a-neutral-platform, give-us-anything-you-have” approach of 2–4 years ago. We’re moving to “platform-specific”, away from “platform-agnostic.”
VI: We’re asking all our dealmakers what quality is essential for being a great dealmaker — what’s your view?
Cangilla: Listening. Good dealmakers listen to their partners; one-sided deals help no one.
VI: Who in your career has been influential in shaping your path and teaching you to be a dealmaking wizard?
Cangilla: I’m lucky enough to work for a board at New Form that includes Hollywood and media heavyweights, Craig Jacobson, Ed Wilson, Jim Wiatt and Michael Rosenberg. Sean Atkins, now at MTV, was also on the board previously. All these guys have been formative in shaping good deal-making and have been mentors.
VI: What do you think is a current misconception about the business?
Cangilla: I hear repeatedly that the only way to make a digital video business work is to take a project to TV — we’ve proven at NewForm that there is a business in digital distributors.
JC Cangilla is featured at part of VideoInk’s Dealmakers of 2016 special issue.