I love interviews because you can ask pointed questions and you either get a very concise answer or you have an eyebrow raised on one person (typically the interviewer) and a tilted puppy dog head on the other (typically the interviewee). In the latter, you’ve most likely encountered the classic ‘failure to communicate.’ I know this reference from the song Civil War, by Guns N’ Roses, though some of you may know this from the classic 1967 prison drama, Cool Hand Luke – for the rest of you, you’re welcome.
About five months ago I joined Wazee Digital (and I will tell you all about this invigorating adventure in a future blog). One of my preferred ways to better understand an area of a business is to simply go straight to the source and gather a “State of the State.” Being inquisitive by nature, I not only love to interview people but I love to read interviews – and hopefully you do as well. You may or may not know that there are effectively three key areas to the Wazee Digital solution: Wazee Digital Commerce, our eminent licensing business, Wazee Digital Core (which now powers Commerce), our cloud-native Digital Asset Management platform, and our Live Event Services, (also powered by Core) – a specialized service that captures live moments and makes them immediately available for global distribution and syndication, at broadcast quality with the option to take the assets through workflows and conversions to digital, as well as making those moments available for advertising and sponsorship.
Given that licensing is the foundation of how Wazee Digital originated in 2003, I started with Commerce.
So, I had a conversation with Mark Pougnet, the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer for Wazee Digital who oversees the Licensing business. To gather the “State of the State” (or “State of the Nation” as Mark would say, being from South Africa), I decided to have our conversation in the form of an interview.
1. Mark, at a high-level, how do you feel about leading this area of the business?
I am excited! I am excited to be leading the business because it (licensing) is how Wazee Digital was born – finding ways for content owners to grow their revenue. And, every day Commerce becomes more integrated with Wazee Digital Core. See, we were born a Licensing business and have evolved into a Digital Asset Management/Media Asset Management company where Licensing is one of many things we offer on our cloud-native platform (Wazee Digital Core).
2. In layman’s terms, what is the licensing business?
At the heart, what licensing does is monetize valuable content in a collaborative manner. We (Commerce) represent iconic content from major studios like Sony, Paramount, and Discovery, sports organizations like College conferences and the NCAA, news organizations such as CBS, and military archives – most notably the U.S. Department of Defense. Our licensing business stores a moment… a clip… a segment… footage… and makes it alive again.
3. What do you think makes Commerce unique?
Our high-touch approach differs from the generic mass produced content offered through a website only approach. We incorporate careful risk management that manages the maze of potential legal issues around rights ownership. We are the only company who can offer the efficiencies and cost savings of cloud content management AND revenue generation while licensing that very same content.
4. Could you talk a bit more about how we incorporate risk management?
Rights and Clearances is deeply involved and often challenging to navigate – our Rights and Clearances team secures the necessary permissions from all rights holders involved. Our team simplifies and manages the process from creative development through production, saving people a lot of time and money. Our expertise is the blood that pumps through our licensing veins, we have incomparable experience working on multifaceted projects involving multiple copyright holders, talent agents, and music publishing rights, including A-list actors, elite athletes, and the world’s leading movie and television studios.
5. What are some other incentives for rights holders who work with Wazee Digital?
We constantly seek new ways to generate additional revenue for rights holders and recently have extended the reach by managing sub-distributors and content claiming on various channels such as YouTube. We work to place this content with Agencies, Brands, TV & Film productions, Documentary & Education filmmakers, as well as Sports organizations.
6. From what I have seen, there aren’t many licensing companies that provide this type of support – at scale, what distinguishes Wazee Digital from other content licensing providers?
We believe there are business needs for input and provocative thought as organizations search for content and distinguish ourselves from competitors who are playing a volume game by offering a mass of content on an impersonal website that still requires massive dissemination to determine its relevance. We use a high-touch approach that is extremely collaborative. Two-heads are generally better than one, we work with clients to understand their needs to locate content that is relevant to their project.
7. Is there anything else that you want people to know about Wazee Digital?
As part of buying technology services, we understand that it’s an important decision and can be a bit uncomfortable. “How do I know I picked the best partner?” “How do I know I am being quoted a fair price?” Those are questions we too face in running our business. We are not naïve that some well said things in the course of the negotiations process should alleviate any personal risk potential clients are feeling. There are a set of commitments we make in order to establish an honest, transparent, productive, and collaborative relationship together.
8. I love this. Can you talk a bit more about these commitments?
Sure, and they can be thought of as Our Promises…
- We ask a lot of questions and challenge assumptions. We believe and teach our team not to guess. This means we listen more than we talk
- We tell you where we can be helpful and where we cannot. Some things potential clients ask us to do are simply not a good fit and we won’t have a client-relationship with those businesses. When these situations arise, we will do our best to give them referrals to our Preferred Providers.
- We tell clients’ honestly where we disagree with them in a professional manner. We will not always agree and believe those differences create a better dialog between ourselves.
- We will quote fair fees. We believe we need the correct balance between being market-competitive and remaining profitable. If we lose money, we lose the ability to invest in the Product and Services Roadmap and to enhance the clients’ overall experience. And for that reason, we can also reasonably assure them that we are not the lowest cost option available.
- We will not to let problems fester. We will deal with bad news quickly and forthrightly. We own our mistakes.
- We seek our clients’ input into our Roadmap but do not agree to develop every feature request. If a client is the only one asking for a feature, then we have not done a good job of understanding their requirements.
- Lastly, we visit our clients often and ask them to visit us often.
Thank you Mark! Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am proud to be part of this talented group!
A few photos from Mark’s recent vacation to Japan. The trip included stays in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka with visits to Mt. Fuji, Kamakura, Arishyiama, Kobe, and Hiroshima.
9. Ok, one FINAL (selfish) question… Is there a book you have read recently that made an impression on you?
“Sapiens – A Brief History of Mankind” by Yuval Noah Harari. It was terrific.
With that I will wrap up this post. So, whether you learned a bit about content licensing, Wazee Digital, or Mark Pougnet.. or jammed out to Guns N’ Roses… or ordered Sapiens – A Brief History of Mankind – I certainly hope this post was of value to you or at the very least… entertaining.