Plugged In: Michael Ratner, OBB Pictures
Filmmaker and producer Michael Ratner has been the creator of some of the most widely viewed and shared digital video content in sports and entertainment, and occupies a distinct position at the intersection between the two areas. The founder, president and chief executive of Los Angeles-based OBB Pictures, Ratner directed the short documentary film “Gonzo @ The Derby” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, as well as the mock sports documentary series “The 5th Quarter” for Verizon’s go90 streaming service. Other partners and clients have included Mandalay Sports Media, Vice and the NBA. His most recent project, “Cold As Balls,” on the new LOL Network features comedian Kevin Hart interviewing pro athletes such as Blake Griffin, Draymond Green and Candace Parker while sitting in ice baths, and has been likened to James Corden’s popular “Carpool Karaoke.”
As viewing habits have changed and technology has changed, this has created a real opportunity for 10-minutes-or-less content where there weren’t as many homes for that sort of programming before.
On the emerging over-the-top video industry and new programmers and distributors: It’s a bit of a guessing game. We intentionally diversified the portfolio so that as one goes down, you don’t have all your business parked in one place, and you’re still doing business all over town. Over the next half decade, we’re really going to see which ones have staying power. So we’re trying to make calculated bets on the ones we think will make it.
On the new economic model for digital video: In addition to the wild west atmosphere where the lines between TV and OTT are blurred, there’s the second opportunity that didn’t really exist maybe 10 years ago in terms of back-end ownership. That’s why building some sort of asset and library value for the company is very important.
On building trust with star athletes: It’s earned. I remember singing for my supper nonstop when I started. I think it’s really important to assess how many times there’s a second or a third time you work with somebody. Many producers and directors are out looking for something to get their view counts up. I never really cared about that. I want to go and get good stuff and actually protect these people. That’s not making puff pieces, but walking the line between being respectful, ultimately doing what you said you were going to do, and getting something really good. If you’re honest, you get good performances and make people look good in your content, it’s easy to get the next deal.
On emerging video-watching patterns: You could have a hit show that is one minute long or three minutes an episode. I’m personally betting my kids’ favorite shows in, say, 10 years will ultimately range in length. Some will be six minutes. Some will be 30 minutes. And it won’t really matter. But the one thing that will be constant is the interest in premium, well-done content created by real storytellers.
— Eric Fisher