Anthony Christopher - Spotlight Podcast

Where There’s Chaos, There’s Opportunity: Navigating the TV & Film Industry with Anthony Christopher

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Welcome to the spotlight podcast. In our interviews, we feature insightful people in the deep end of TV & film production and distribution. 

Today’s interview is with Anthony Christopher, the CEO of Creative Content 1/Give Me Las Vegas. Anthony has had the privilege of creating television and film content all around the world, as well as the experience of working with some great brands, including Pepsi, Nissan, Monster Energy Drinks, NASCAR, Boeing, NASA, Disney, Showtime, Marvel and many others. 


Matthew: So Anthony, thank you so much for joining us. And can you tell us a little bit more what it is you’re launching at the moment?


Anthony: It’s called Mixady. And the genesis of this project started about a year and a half ago. Actually, a few years before that, Stuart Bishop, a great technologist, I hired him for another media technology company that I ran about 12 years ago, he had just left IBM where he was running about $3 billion in business. Anyway, over the years, he built a really great streaming platform. That platform was used by thousands of churches around the world to do all their e-commerce, education, Bible studies and things like that. And so about a year and a half ago, he said, “I want to do something in music.” And I love music. Come on, amateur drummer, everyone loves music. And I immediately got – because I’ve watched him improve this platform over the years – I immediately got what he wanted to do. 

And basically, it’s not a sexy analogy, but it’s a correct analogy, Mixady is the Amazon of the music business. We feel it will literally transform the music industry globally. And what I mean by that is, in today’s world, consumers are used to getting what they want, when they want it, how they want it. In the music world, if you want to buy concert tickets, you’ll go to Ticketmaster, if you want to download music or listen to music, you’ll go to Apple Music or the likes, there’s a couple of dozen of them out there. What Mixady is, it’s a one-stop shop. So whether you’re a garage band or a superstar, you get a page on Mixady, and from that page, you can play your videos, sell your downloads, sell your merchandise, sell your concert tickets, stream and do pay-per-view events, all from one location. Now, the page is free, but if you have a business transaction, then Mixady gets a piece of that transaction.


Matthew: I love it. I can’t think of why any artist wouldn’t want to be there.


Anthony: Exactly. Just shifting over to Give Me Las Vegas, we’ve filmed about 210 episodes all up and down Las Vegas, including quite a few bands – not garage bands, not superstars, you know, they’re all in between. Some of them tour, some of them are based in Las Vegas. And I mention what I just mentioned to you and they just flip out. 

And then we have some music people on our advisory board that when we shared this with them, they were blown away, literally blown away. So we’re very anxious to get it launched. We’re in the fundraising stage; we’re in advanced conversations with one company that’s actually based in London. And hopefully, we’ll launch August 1st of this year.


Matthew: Excellent. That sounds really exciting, actually. And as I say, it sounds like a platform for the artists in many respects, giving them one site, but actually giving a consumer somewhere they can come and get everything that they’re going to need.


Anthony: I mean, it’s for everyone, and also concerts and festivals. Anything that’s related to the world of music should be on Mixady, including a lot of the residencies here in Las Vegas. 

You know, Las Vegas years ago, you played Las Vegas if your career was on the way up or on the way down. Today, some of the top stars in the world have residencies here where they do extended stays, anyone from Taylor Swift to I mean, you name it, they’re all here, and they should all be on Mixady.


Matthew: Sounds really great. And actually, if you want to talk to me another time about the financial back end to that, then we’re absolutely the right people to talk to about that.


Anthony: That can be a whole other segment because of streaming, both in music and television, it really has disrupted the business models. And I could go on and on about that. But on the music side, it’s still a little hazy. A lot of the artists are not happy with the deals that a lot of the platforms offer. I think Mixady can be a solution for pretty much every group, but what I call the ‘legacy bands’, you know, the REO Speedwagon is Pat Benatar, a friend of mine manages a lot of them. They don’t have record deals, but they still create music, and they really make their money on touring and selling merchandise, you know, selling their downloads and stuff that they produce on their own. Mixady is perfect for that group. Absolutely perfect.


“Streaming, both in music and television, it really has disrupted the business models.”


Matthew: Sounds really exciting. Actually, I don’t think I’ve seen anything out there like that.


Anthony: We’ve looked, and there is nothing remotely like that. And Stuart and I went to NAB for two meetings about six months ago here in Las Vegas, and we went specifically for these two meetings. The first day, we met with Oracle. We did a two hour presentation on streaming technology, and to make a long story short, at the end of the two hours, we met with four of their top programmers and engineers. The head guy said this is the best streaming platform he’s ever seen. The next day, we met with five of Apple’s top people. and they said, “We’ve had 100 programmers and engineers working for over a year trying to do what you guys have done. And we can only figure out 50% of it.” So we’re very bullish that we’re going to bring something very exciting to the market.


Matthew: I think with statements like that, you shouldn’t have an issue trying to secure funding.


Anthony: I’m very optimistic. You know, these are ‘interesting times’. There’s a lot of money out there, but it’s a little bit of nervous money. You know, people are wondering where everything’s going, what direction with inflation and all that stuff. But we actually have two companies that we’re in advanced conversations with, I’m hoping to close a deal in the next 30 days.


Matthew: That’s really exciting. And actually, it’s nice for me to hear that on this podcast with you. Because hopefully, we can help get the word out there and everything else like that. 

And so obviously, you work in a pretty exciting industry, but exciting can sometimes mean turbulent. So what gives you the most headaches right now in terms of trying to drive all of this?


Anthony: That’s a great question. And it’s really a fast-changing world. And, in my opinion, everyone’s searching. I’ll give you a specific reason why I say that. Creative Artists is arguably the biggest talent agency, the most powerful talent agency, Endeavor is probably right up there with them. Over the last several years, they’ve all become diversified. Endeavor owns UFC now, and PBR, which is the professional bull riding, and lots of other companies. CA is diversified. Now CA is a talent representation company. But could you guess how much of their revenue last year came from talent representation?


Matthew: 60-70% you’d have thought?


Anthony: 19%. Yeah, it’s a fast-changing landscape. And I would say the biggest challenge for myself and a lot of people is trying to figure out what’s coming next. How do we leverage the opportunities, and actually, how do we find them? 


“I would say the biggest challenge for myself and a lot of people is trying to figure out what’s coming next.”


I think I just read that Paramount lost a billion dollars on their streaming platform so far. A billion. That’s crazy. Everyone’s trying to figure it out. We’re no different. We find a niche and then we work to grow it, monetise it, support it. And we also like to do a lot of cross-promotions. We’re very good at putting the cross-promotion deals together. 

So here in Las Vegas, there’s a property on the strip called Treasure Island. In Treasure Island is a very cool two-storey, highly interactive exhibit called the Marvel Avengers Station. And it has all the memorabilia from the movies. And I went to them and said, “We love the exhibit, we’d like to do a mini documentary”, this was before COVID. And I said, “We’ll underwrite the cost, with the provision that we can have access to all the brands.” That conversation went well until I said that last statement, because everyone’s protective of their brand. And so we went back and forth for two or three weeks, and finally, I said, “Maybe what we should do is revisit this next year and see if we both have an interest in moving forward”, because it’s not like we don’t have a tonne of content to shoot every day on the strip, because new shows open, new exhibits, all that kind of stuff. Anyway, to make a long story short, they eventually agreed. And we added some other cross-promotional partners, totalling 52. And we spent less than $500 in paid ads, but we reached 199,730,000 people online. And I’m really looking forward to taking that business model and applying it to Mixady. You can imagine, even the legacy bands, they all still have three 400, 500, 600,000 followers. So you put all those together, it could be really an enormous endeavour.


“And we spent less than $500 in paid ads, but we reached 199,730,000 people online.”


Matthew: And I think it’s also a very global type of platform, isn’t it? I think that that’s really the key here, isn’t it? How transferable this is going to be across countries, across genres, against age groups, everything else like that. 


Anthony: No question. David Bowie played in Brazil years ago. 2.1 million people in the live audience. And that was Brazil which speaks Portuguese. He’s British, you know, sings in English. So a lot of music transforms all around the world. But we’re bringing management in from Asia and different parts of the world, because we really do see it as a global entity.


Matthew: And I was going to ask you really what’s on the horizon in this industry? And how do you anticipate the technology is going to address the changes in the industry? But I think you’re already ahead of that. And I think you’re already doing that with this adventure that you’re on the road with now. 

So what do you think the biggest challenges are going to be to you though?


Anthony: I’d like to answer the first part of your question, because it’s a good question. And I think it’s something that we all need to really, really look at. And that’s AI. AI is coming in strong, it’s going to permeate our entire society. And I don’t know if it’s good or bad or indifferent, but it’s a powerful, powerful technology that could be used in a myriad of ways. So we’re looking at a lot of different technologies related to AI and how we can actually use it in all our businesses. 


“And I think it’s something that we all need to really, really look at. And that’s AI.”


Matthew: I can see AI literally in your new business model, because if I want to buy tickets for a band, let’s say that is a certain genre that plays a certain type of music, AI suggests other bands within the local area that I might want to go and see that play that genre becomes very powerful then, doesn’t it?


Anthony: Yes, but AI goes way beyond that. But I’m glad you made that statement because I forgot something about Mixady. When you register for Mixady, you put in your name, your email address, your zip code and your three favourite genres of music. From that point on, we can really serve you. But we’re looking at AI applications in addition to that. 

On the other side of the coin, if Universal Music Group comes to us, and picks one of their major stars, like Lady Gaga, she’s going to do a concert in Cleveland or Paris. Well, we could go to our database and tell Universal Music, or the concert promoter or whoever’s in charge, okay, in the Greater Cleveland area – because we have that zip code – we can speak to 290,000 people that put Lady Gaga’s type of music in their top genre, and another 187,000 people that put it in their second genre. So if you’d like to talk to over 400,000 people in that demographic market, we can do that with your EPKs, advertising, sponsorships, promotions behind the scenes, because we have that data. So it’s dual purpose. It helps the consumer so that we can either deliver the kind of music they’re interested in, or point them in the direction of the music that they’re interested in, while we’re also serving the artists, the concert promoters, the record labels, publishers, anyone that intersects in the world of music.


Matthew: It is incredibly powerful. I’m with you. This becomes a game changer.


Anthony: We really believe so. And, you know, I’ve been in some form of the television film media business for 40 years. And in a lot of ways, everything I’ve done has led me to Mixady, because other than the technology, which is Stewart’s company, we’ve already done pretty much everything that we plan to do with Mixady in terms of social media and production and promotions and cross-promotional partnerships. We’ve already done it with Give Me Las Vegas, and actually, I’ve done it on and off for 30-40 years. 

Someone once said, and I’m probably going to misquote this, but: “Wherever there’s chaos, there is always opportunity.” And I think in the media world, we’re in a little bit of a state of chaos. We read a lot of journals and press updates, and I get about 350 emails a day. So we really monitor what’s going on in all things media. And everyone’s searching. A lot of companies, they’re just throwing money at the wall and seeing what sticks. 


“‘Wherever there’s chaos, there is always opportunity.’ And I think in the media world, we’re in a little bit of a state of chaos.”


Matthew: There’s nothing definitive about that, though. Whereas, I mean this conceptually, as I say, I really feel it if you pull this off, it really is a game changer.

And I was going to ask you, generally in the production industry as it is, and the distribution and TV industry as it is, there is technology, but what frustrates you currently about the technology in the sector?


Anthony: Netflix spends billions of dollars a year on production. And in my opinion, Netflix has done a great job. Other than this year, they’ve had growth spurts year after year after year, but you know, they’ve been producing content by the bundle. So it comes and it goes, but if you look back at legacy television, you know, I’m going back to the 60s and 70s, even up to the 80s and early 90s, if they put a new show on, if they believed in the show, they’d keep it going even if the ratings weren’t very good initially. And there were a lot of hit shows that were not overnight successes, but the networks stayed with them, promoted them and tweaked them. Netflix doesn’t have that model. They’re producing content everywhere. 

A lot of my friends talk about Netflix and they say that they could go on Netflix and spend 20 minutes looking for something that’s worth watching. And the shows come and go in a blink of an eye. Whereas Apple took a different approach. And I’m not saying one is better than the other, although I think maybe one is better than the other. And I think Netflix is starting to see that. Less content, more quality content. 

Apple is very strategic. They’ll spend a lot of money on a project and then they’ll promote it, nurture it, you know, sort of like an older model of television. And maybe that’s because Apple hired a lot of ex-television guys. So I see the commoditization of content, the cheapening of content. And in terms of a producer like myself, I’m very careful about what we produce. Because on streaming, there’s really very little revenue. So if you can’t make something for a broadcast network that will eventually go to streaming, recouping your investment is tough. The independent world is really decapitated in terms of, if they can’t find a broadcaster, and they’re forced to go to streaming, it’s a tough road to get your investment back,


“I’m very careful about what we produce. Because on streaming, there’s really very little revenue. So if you can’t make something for a broadcast network that will eventually go to streaming, recouping your investment is tough.”


Matthew: You made a really good point there as well about when something is deemed to have been a success or not, and whether the series should be carried on or not. And that’s interesting for me, because sometimes when I’m consuming programmes on Netflix, I may well not be watching it until it’s three, four or five years old. And by the time that I’ve caught up with it, actually, someone’s already made the decision to bin production of that. And actually, there may well be a secondary lot of people, like myself, who are picking it up for the first time, but a few years down the line. And actually, that base of people is pretty substantial. So these shows may not have been watched the first time around, but sometimes that growing base of people to consume that content takes time to bring to the table.


Anthony: Exactly. It’s not to say that Netflix doesn’t make some quality programmes, because they do. But of the thousands of television shows and movies that they have, I feel it’s a small percentage.


Matthew: I was going to ask you as well about the change management process, because a lot of the technology programmes that we do with people in terms of introducing new systems involve a real big change management process. I guess one of your biggest challenges is actually change management. But it’s in a different way, isn’t it? Because when you launch your new platform, this change management process becomes about the users and the bands, right? It’s going to be about changing our mindset about how people consume, how do you feel that you’re going to address that?


Anthony: If I understand your question correctly, any new product coming to the market, even if it’s great, there are so many other elements that can damage or kill the launch, no matter how great the product is. And there are a lot of reasons why that could happen or not happen. What I find, at least from the media side, because I consult or have consulted historically with a lot of Fortune 500 companies, is management gets entrenched, and whether it’s media or technology, companies have cultures, and the people that run divisions or the whole company have egos. And it’s often challenging to get acceptance. Even when something’s great. 

I remember I was always interested in technology. I don’t know if you remember LaserDisc, but I was the first producer to cut the show on laser discs. And it was really weird at the time because prior to that, it was all analogue, and we’d go into an editing room with numbers related to different edits and the tape would have to shuttle back and forth. So you had anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute and a half while the tape was shuttling to think about the next edit, put the number in, whatever. 

When digital came with laser, it was instantaneous. And I remember sitting in that editing room, and I was a little bit put off, you know, because I’ve been editing for 10 or 12 years with analogue before that. So it was different, even though it was much better. And now no one uses analogue. So bringing anything new to the market, even if it’s really good, usually has challenges.


“So bringing anything new to the market, even if it’s really good, usually has challenges.”


I don’t know if you remember Myspace? But Myspace was sold to Fox for $345 million. Fox pretty much destroyed it, and sold it to another company for $35 million. And I think part of the financing came from Justin Timberlake and other people. And it was bought by a tech company. And my good friend sat on the board of that company at the time, and when I heard they bought it, I said I want to meet with the owners. And they were tech people, they knew nothing about marketing, or videos or music or whatever. So I met with them like two weeks after they bought it. And they were asking questions like, “Well, how much does a video cost?” And I knew I was too early in the game. But what I did tell them was you didn’t buy Myspace to buy Myspace. You bought Myspace, because it has 800 million emails in its database. And they said, “Well, not all of them are good”. I said, okay, fine. There are 500 million emails. And what I told them, and this is going back five years, what I told them was they had 500 million emails, they should be doing concerts and putting merchandise and just be everything music. Just take the whole world and put it all into that database of 500 million people. 


Matthew: And did they? 


Anthony: They didn’t listen. And nothing ever happened with it. As far as I know, it’s dormant. 


Matthew: Wow. That’s crazy.

So you’ve been in the industry a long time. So what one best piece of advice would you give to someone at the beginning of their journey in the TV and film industry?


Anthony: It’s a good question. And it’s one that I’ve been looking forward to answering. 

Years ago, UCLA Film School would call me in to give a lecture to their graduating students. And the reason they called me in was their students had this dream that once they graduate, Steven Spielberg is going to be at the backdoor to give them $5 million to do their first movie. So my lecture that I would give each year is you must hunger and thirst.


“So my lecture that I would give each year is you must hunger and thirst.”


And what I meant by that is, wherever you are, entertainment is glitzy and exciting, but it takes 12-14 hours a day to be in production, five, six days a week. And what I would tell the students is you must hunger and thirst because you’re gonna get far more nos than yeses. And if you have thin skin, find another business. 

My job was to give them a wake-up call. In reality, I myself started working in the industry while I was still in school for free because I wanted to learn and I wanted to know everything. And I parked cars on weekends to stay alive and worked for free. And then someone decided to pay me minimum wage. And, you know, I would do production during the day and sit with editors at night. 

I think every industry is competitive, but it is a really competitive business. But it’s unlike any other business. And sometimes I say it’s not really a business. I think it’s becoming more of a business as these companies diversify themselves, because they’re forced to – you can’t spend billions of dollars on the UFC and not have a team of financial and business experts. But in terms of new people coming in, like I’ll meet people that live in St. Louis, Missouri or Florida, and they say, “Well, I’m an actor” or whatever. And I ask, “Do you live in LA?” And they go, “No, I live here”, and I go, “Well, there are 30,000 actors in LA, trying to get 200 jobs a week. So if you’re not in LA, doing everything you can, your chances of success are diminished.” That’s just my opinion. 

I spent 27 years in LA running production and distribution companies. And it’s a very competitive deal. When you have a movie that is called ET with Steven Spielberg behind it, and it gets turned down by a studio. And then another studio picks it up. You know, you’re Steven Spielberg, with one of the biggest movies of all time. And one of my favourite comedies, Arthur, was turned at least once down by every studio in town before it was made. 

So you have to hunger and thirst, in my opinion. And at any level. Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, you know, they can pick and choose whatever they want. But that’s two or five or 10 people out of 1000s.


Matthew: Sounds to me that you need a little bit of luck as well along the way.


Anthony: A lot of luck. You know, I can’t tell you the rhyme or reason. I mean, it’s not science, for sure. You know, if it were science, you’d have a formula, you’d do the formula, you’d get a result. In the world of entertainment, a lot of people don’t know this, but the first Batman movie was pulled out after the first week, it was literally pulled from theatres after the first hour. I didn’t know that, a lot of people don’t know it. It did so poorly. And the audience’s reactions were so poor. It took them two to three weeks to quickly re-edit and re-launch the movie.


Matthew: I didn’t know that. 


Anthony: So it’s a crazy business. One that I love. It’s the only business I’ve ever been in the world of media. But I don’t know if anyone has a true formula, especially today. I mean, you have major companies losing billions of dollars trying to figure it out. And I think they’ll figure it out. I don’t know what the timetable is. I don’t know what it’ll look like. But the thing I’ve really been researching the last six months is AI. And it’s going to affect everything, not just entertainment and television and film. It’s going to affect every aspect of our lives. And it’s coming soon.


“But the thing I’ve really been researching the last six months is AI. And it’s going to affect everything, not just entertainment and television and film.”


I think it could be a very exciting future. Technology is moving so fast. I just bought a camera, a still camera that shoots video. I think I paid $2,500 for it. And that camera a few years ago would probably cost $20,000. The world is changing. And it’s changing faster in the world of media than I’ve ever seen it.

When I started there was no cable television. Cable came out about five years later. There wasn’t VHS and DVD, there was nothing, just regular broadcast and a couple of syndicated channels. And that was it. Now, kids can buy a camera, go to school, or go on YouTube and figure out how to use it and practise and learn and whatever. But to your point. If you want to even be in this industry, you need to have a work ethic and a commitment. Because without it, I think you’re fooling yourself.


Matthew: Thank you so much for joining me today. I’m really grateful.