Pilot Season

Wainy Days, Horrible People, You Suck at Photoshop, — New York-based My Damn Channel is on a roll. The brainchild of founder and CEO, Rob Barnett, a veteran TV exec who spent more than eleven years as a programming exec at MTV and VH1 and time as president of Programming for CBS Radio. Rob has worked with some damn talented people like Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Carolla, and countless others, and now Sam Seder.

On April 20, Sam Seder’s original web series Pilot Season premieres on My Damn Channel. The show originally aired in 2004 on the now defunct Trio network. We talked to Rob Barnett to find how Pilot Season is being repackaged from the original six episodes into a thirty episode web series and we grilled him for details about running a damn good new media platform.

Rob BarnettTubefilter: So you came up with the idea for My Damn Channel?

Rob Barnett: Yeah after losing my eight millionth old media job. I worked in radio and television and film for a long time. I was used to the old system, where if we came up with a good idea for a show like Pilot Season or Wainy Days, we would go to a meeting and in that meeting there would be five senior VPs, five executive VPs and sometimes more than one president and we would have the first of maybe six months worth of meetings. And at the end of six months, the idea would maybe have some original version of its flavor, but it would be turned into nineteen versions of itself.

Tubefilter: How does My Damn Channel work against that old model?

RB: We started with a couple of really simplistic ideas. We had this idea that the first thing that we wanted to do was to have the audacity of HBO. We came up with a smaller number of projects with really great talent in front of the camera and behind the camera. We offered a smaller amount of work, but tried over time to build a brand so that people would start to feel they could count on the stuff that you saw on My Damn Channel being great.

Tubefilter: The material being curated in a sense.

My Damn ChannelRB: Almost everything we have done, Pilot Season being an exception, is original productions. We created three businesses all at once. We are a studio because we have made over five hundred original videos. We are a network, because we have our own destination that we can control. That’s where we can make the most advertising dollars. And then like everyone else we are a syndicator. Just throwing your video out around the web is not that great of a business model. So we put all three things together. We are twenty months old now. It took a little bit more than a year to get enough cred built up, so that we could walk into the door of our first advertisers and bring them really quality content, guarantee them a large number of views, and deliver for the brands they are representing.

Tubefilter: Is the advertising primarily in the form of commercials running at the beginning of the videos?

RB: It’s a variety of things. At the top of the food chain is creating custom branded entertainment campaigns for sponsors. We have been doing that for people like HBO. We have had four or five campaigns in a row for them. The last major one that we did was a couple of months ago for the new season of Flight of the Concords. We built a custom channel for that on My Damn Channel and we went to some of our artists like David Wain and A.D. Miles and Kerri Kenney-Silver and we created a video just to relaunch Flight of the Conchords and put that into a channel that had other clips from the show and exclusive clips from Kristen Schaal who stars on our soap opera series called Horrible People.

Pilot SeasonTubefilter: Pilot Season was originally a six part series on Trio. How are you reworking it to be a web series on My Damn Channel?

RB: The first thing for us is always about the talent. The first guy I hired at the start of My Damn Channel was Harry Shearer. There’s not a very long list of people you can put into a group and call them the best and the smartest political satirists in the land. Harry was out first hire. The second person we brought it was Don Was because we wanted to have a music channel. We didn’t want to be lumped into the bucket of being just another yuck yuck site. David Wain was the third person because we felt David was going to bring us our dirty Seinfeld. Wainy Days is about to launch Season 4. So that has been amazing.

So to answer your question, it has always been about talent. In Wainy Days so far, Elizabeth Banks has appeared in four episodes. Jonah Hill. Paul Rudd. The list of people has been amazing. David introduced me to Sam Seder. Sam started talking to me about Pilot Season. He started mentioning the cast: Sarah Silverman, Andy Dick, David Cross, Isla Fisher and before he could finish the sentence, I said, “Yes”. Then we figured out how to recreate this as a web series. On April 20th we will launch thirty episodes. They will roll out every Monday.

Tubefilter: Is it all the content from the original six episodes repackages into a web series? Is it the same material that was aired on Trio?

RB: Yes and we have been talking about adding some additional content.

Tubefilter: How are the six episodes transformed into thirty web episodes?

RB: Well Sam’s vision for this was a perfectly episodic series. There are 120 days in pilot season. So episode one starts and it really moves well. He did not create this material for this purpose, but it happens to work perfectly.

Tubefilter: What reaction have you gotten from the actors who are in it?

RB: We sent notes out to them. The first test is: are they happy that this is coming out as a web series? Will they talk to the press? And the answer is yes and yes. They are supporting it, which is great.

Rob Barnett - quoteTubefilter: What else will you be doing to promote the show?

RB: We announced it last week. On one hand My Damn Channel is flipping the bird at old media on the other hand there are a few rules that I think can be reapplied and one of them is promotion. When we decided to bring Pilot Season here, we created ten different sneak previews. We have been showing them and syndicating them around the web. It’s getting really great response. There is passionate profanity coming back when people realize that this is a cast that is now appearing in a web series. The emails that I am getting usually start with OMFG. That is the way it is actually hitting people. It’s cool. That is because we are spending the time and the effort to promote instead of just tossing it out there and hoping it does well.

Tubefilter: Absolutely. Then people will get to see Andy Dick rake cat poop out of his zen garden box.

RB: And stick it very, very close to his nose. I am not sure what the prop was made out of, but I will stop there.

Tubefilter: It is interesting too because since Pilot Season aired on Trio in 2004, people Sarah Silverman and Andy Dick were already pretty well. Since then Isla Fisher has really taken off and some of the other people who are involved.

Isla Fisher got Wedding Crashers off of this project.

Tubefilter: What else should we know about Sam Seder the shows creator and star?

RB: Sam is one of those amazing guys like David Wain. He is the modern day Woody Allen; writer, director, producer, actor, comedian, talk show host. He does it all. He has a live talk show that he does on the web every day called Break Room Live with Mark Maron who he works with a lot. They do a live web cast at 3pm (EST) everyday. Sam has been on CNN and MSNBC. He’s really an amazing guy. He works on so many different levels whether it is comedy or politics or acting.

Tubefilter: What else is coming up on My Damn Channel after the Pilot Season premiere?

The next big one is Season 4 of Wainy Days. We’re launching with all new episodes in early May.

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