If there’s one person who knows about the digital business space it’s Gunpowder & Sky’s Randel Bryan. In the past eight years, Bryan has worn many hats, from Digital Marketing Manager at Universal Pictures to Director of Digital Content at Endemol Shine to his current position as Managing Director International for Gunpowder & Sky (and that’s not even the whole list). With so many accomplishments under his belt, who better to gain insight from then the man himself.
VideoInk: You’ve been on the digital side of the business for quite some time. What’s been the most interesting trend you’ve seen unfold?
Randel Bryan: I’m really fascinated by the memification of culture and content. People can often tell hilarious and poignant stories through a simple gif or snap, which is creating a new kind of short-form visual language that’s as exciting as it is scary
Emoji’s are the new punctuation after all!
VI: In many ways, the international market has been behind the U.S., how does this impact how you view G&S’s growth outside the US?
Bryan: I think it presents a major opportunity. International markets are often more conservative than the U.S. when it comes to digital investment. However, I think that we’ve been able to watch the U.S. industry from the sides and are now in a great position to enter a more developed and buoyant market.
In Europe, we’re also starting to see more interest from larger broadcasters in commissioning more digital first content and OTT services like Black Pills and Studio Plus launching this year. I’m hoping to see a similar shift towards more digital-first content studios coming to Europe, and that Gunpowder & Sky International can help kick-start that trend.
VI: Are the economics for digital video significantly behind internationally (and in the U.K.) compared to other markets like the U.S. or China?
Bryan: That’s a tough question. Yes we see less direct spending on digital first commissions outside of the U.S., however I see International players, Europe in particular, as a powerhouse when it comes to developing and exporting global formats. In addition, the larger traditional commercial and public broadcasters across Europe are actually experimenting more with new types of formats and digital-first content than their U.S. counterparts.
VI: Let’s talk China, the new beast in video and entertainment. From your work at Endemol Shine and now at G&S, what opportunity do you see with the Pan-Asian Market and how is China’s position driving programming and business strategy?
Bryan: Pan-Asian was a really interesting market for the group, however the diversity in language, technology and culture, made it hard to create a one size fits all strategy.
China is obviously a big opportunity, and we will explore various ways on how to enter the market once we are a bit further in our development as a company. It’s a very distinct and complicated market, so it needs proper resources and focus. We will also probably only enter the market, in partnership with a top tier local strategic player.
Finally, nodding back to my point on formats, China/Pan Asia could be a great environment to build-out more international hits.
VI: What excites you about Gunpowder’s business opportunity?
Bryan: The fact that we are purely focused on developing the best content, regardless of format, platform or device.
I think that producers can get a bit fixated as to where content will ‘fit’, however we now have so many platforms that cater to all types of storytelling, giving us more creative freedom, whilst also allowing us to reach and connect with our audiences more authentically. I believe that if we continue to experiment and take risks on content, we will start to see more new brands and “hits” being created in this space.
I also really like the simplicity and robustness of the business model. It truly is a 360° digital studio with the ability to produce, market and most importantly, distribute content globally, allowing us to be a key player as the international sector grows.
Finally, from our early discussions I got the sense that Van and Floris want to explore and pioneer new ways of doing business and I think that versatility is going to be key as new players and platforms emerge.
VI: There have been so many orgs that embrace “pond-hopping” for UK talent to US, but that has yet to translate to digital video. Do you see this as a missed opportunity for orgs like BAFTA?
Bryan: Overall, I agree this is an opportunity, and why Gunpowder & Sky is so bullish on the UK market. As an example, we already have multiple development deals with UK based producers/studios in place in relation U.S. projects.
BAFTA has the opportunity to become one of the most proactive organisations in leading the world in digital content support. It’s only a matter of time before digital is at the forefront of their remit and where they sit in the global market and that includes nurturing the best talent whichever side of the pond they work.