Matthew Frank, formerly of RDF and Zodiak Rights, introduced his latest venture at Mipcom 2015. The RightsXchange, or TRX, is an entirely digital platform for the buying and sale of secondary TV rights – a sort of B2B eBay for TV content. K7 Media sat down with Matthew in Cannes to find out more.
K7: What was it that prompted you to develop a digital solution for TV distribution?
MF: My background, before I became involved in TV, was working in the City as a trader, and we went through exactly this transition in the late 80s. Within 12 months, it all moved to screen-based trading and all those guys in stripy jackets lost their jobs. Now pretty much every exchange in the world is traded on the screen, whether it’s finance, commodities, you name it. So the question was could we try and do the same for TV and move it to an online, much more efficient, system? The problem in the current market is the speed of transaction. What is so dreadfully archaic about it is that it takes forever to do anything. Both buyers and sellers are frustrated by the time it takes to do a deal.
The problem in the current market is the speed of transaction. Both buyers and sellers are frustrated by the time it takes to do a deal.
K7: So let’s say we’re a distributor. What do we need to do to get TRX up and running for our company?
MF: There are three stages that as a seller you have to go through. You need to sign up and be verified. It’s a B2B site, definitely not B2C. First thing you do is upload your metadata, which is often moving it across from your websites. We’ve done some trials of this with major rights holders, it’s very quick to migrate it and put it into the correct fields in TRX.
The second part is rights availability. We did think about interfacing with rights systems but nobody trusts them. Literally no distributor trusts their rights system, so there’s no point in ingesting duff data. We’ve said to our clients, you need to do an audit to ensure its clean data going onto the system, and we’ll offer help to do that because it is the painful bit. There’s no easy way around that, but once it’s done, it’s done.
The last bit is the creation of a standard licence agreement. We’ll have a boilerplate one that TRX will have created, but if individual sellers want to use their own paperwork we’ll work with them on that. From the buyer’s side, you just need to sign up and be verified. It’s free. You don’t have to pay anything to be a member.
K7: There’s a 21 day period built into your negotiation system. What’s that for?
MF: If at the end of that time you haven’t managed to complete a deal, both sides have the automatic right to pull out.
They can also extend that period, for a short time, if they both agree to do so. But if it looks like a deal is going absolutely nowhere, the rights go back onto the system at that point. The buyer and seller transact directly with each other. We take a single digit percentage transaction fee off every deal. The more you use TRX, the lower that will become.
K7: When do you expect TRX to launch?
MF: We’re now about 85% of the way along the line. We’ve still got some building to do, add some features, but we’re ready to start beta testing. Our aim now is to be tested and up and running by MipTV next year.
K7: Can you tell us who is involved in beta testing the service?
MF: Turner, PBS, Discovery in the US. In the UK, the likes of Cineflix and Sky Vision. Argonon are on board. TCB, Paul Heaney’s company, are going to do some testing with us. So there’s a fair few players who are prepared to give it a whirl.
Our job is to build a community of buyers and sellers, for both sides of the fence to meet each other and then use our platform to transact on.
K7: You’ve been introducing TRX to the market here in Cannes. What sort of reception have you had?
MF: The response we’ve had has been overwhelmingly positive. We had one distributor who was less keen on it, because they felt threatened by it, I think. That’s why we’ve gone out of our way to say we’re not a distributor, we’re a platform. Our job is to build a community of buyers and sellers, for both sides of the fence to meet each other and then use our platform to transact on. We’re not interested in becoming a distributor again. That’s not our purpose. Our focus has been on sellers, to get the content on there, and we think buyers will come to it more naturally.
At Zodiak, when I left, we had between four and five hundred registered buyers on our rights management system. We estimate now there’s approximately 14,000 content buyers in the world, so a lot of them aren’t even on the radar of distributors. If we can deliver half of those new buyers to the sellers, that’s a real calling card.
You can find out more about TRX, and sign up, at www.trx.tv.