October 25, 2010

A New Brand of Television

Christopher Murphy, left, film and TV development executive for MyTV New England, stands with Keith Dorrington, executive producer of the motion picture “The Fighter,” at the MyTV studios in Derry. 
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Christopher Murphy is high on marketing – he's created a model for broadcasting local content that utilizes “branded entertainment” as a way of underwriting independent films or TV programming.
Not only does it remove all kinds of hurdles in the creative and financial process, but will become what he believes to be an industry game changer, putting the humble New England station on the map.
As Film and TV Development Executive for MyTV New England, Murphy has been tirelessly pounding the pavement, looking for independent filmmakers and potential TV producers who will buy in his branded entertainment model, a blueprint for success that includes executive support and how-to workshops.
And he is finding them.
Mike Grosse, for one, who is currently filming a 13-episode TV series on fencing that already has its broadcast premiere set for Nov. 26 on MyTV.
“When I met Chris, I was working on another TV show and he was talking to me about NBC Universal Sports Boston, which is part of MyTV's lineup and the only home of Olympic sports between Olympic games. We were kind of joking around and I said, 'If you ever need a show about fencing, let me know.' He said, 'That's a great idea – let's make it happen.' And so that's what I'm doing,” said Grosse.
A graduate of Timberlane High School and UNH, Grosse, 26, of Newmarket, has quit his day job as a full-time cineplex manager and launched his own production company, 2:17 Studios.
He's also successfully signing on advertisers to support the production cost of his program, which will become a win-win-win situation – he will not go into debt producing a show; targeted advertisers know that their products and services will be seen by viewers most likely to be interested in what they're selling; and viewers will actually have interest in watching commercial breaks, which flow seamlessly in and out of the programming.
His show, a hybrid documentary – half sports cast, half reality TV – will not only give exposure to the local fencing scene, but follow the journey of a novice to the sport learning the ropes of fencing, culminating in entrance into a fencing tournament – sort of like MTV's “Made,” only more in depth.
“Advertising is the engine that's pushing this show forward. The sponsors I'm looking for are businesses that can have some kind of tie in with the narrative arc of an athlete learning a new sport. It's really an exciting opportunity for a lot of businesses that wouldn't get a chance to sponsor a television show, to get their names out to a wider audience,” Grosse said.
Branded entertainment – in simplest terms, strategic product placement by advertisers – is nothing new. But with the advent of VCR and, more recently, TiVO technology, advertisers are losing their ability to reach customers.
Murphy said the same process Grosse has embarked upon is being embraced by local independent filmmakers. They conceptualize a story line, and build into the script certain products or locations. For instance, before production even begins, a filmmaker who knows he wants to shoot a scene in a pizza place can approach a local pizza business and promise them that, if they sign on to the project, their business will seen by potentially millions of viewers.
“So many filmmakers dump money into making a movie that may never see the light of day. This is a way of guaranteeing someone will see see it, and it can be accomplished with no budget, or on a low budget,” said Murphy.
And that exposure will come in two ways – through a new partnership with Red River Theaters in Concord, films made and distributed through MyTV's branded entertainment strategy are guaranteed a film premiere at Red River, followed by a television premiere on MyTV network.
Murphy shows Dorrington around the
MyTV production studio last week
That's no small thing on a network that reaches 2.5 million households on every cable and satellite listing, already broadcasting popular syndicated shows including “The Office,” “CSI: New York,” “The Simpsons,” and “Desperate Housewives.”
In addition, Murphy is in the process of transforming office space inside the studio so that it can be used as production space, including sound stages and green-screen production studios. If all goes as planned, Murphy envisions Derry as the future Hollywood East.
Last week he invited Keith Dorrington to come up from Boston for a look around the studio. Dorrington is executive producer of “The Fighter,” a motion picture starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, due out in December. Getting the word out, particularly to successful filmmakers who are likely to know other filmmakers, is all part of his salesmanship.
Dorrington was impressed.
“It's innovative. It improves on an antiquated model by providing a short cut for return on investment for advertisers,” said Dorrington. “I'm always willing to listen, and what impressed me most about Chris was that he has what looks like a solid plan. It's a unique venue that allows for fast development of a project.”

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