Beers keeping an OPEN mind with new venture

Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers exec producer Thom Beers (pictured) and his team will explore the worlds of short-form scripted comedy, branded entertainment and animation when the digital platform Original Productions Entertainment Networks launches in September. (Photo: Rahoul Ghose)
July 17, 2012

Original Productions will move into the world of short-form scripted comedy, branded entertainment and animation when it launches Original Productions Entertainment Networks (OPEN), a digital platform that will act as a lab for the Deadliest Catch company’s passion projects.

Expected to soft launch in September, the venture is being run by president and executive producer Philip D Segal and signature series producer Gayle Gilman and will stream 16 to 20 hours of short-form content per year, as well as past Original-produced series such as Monster House, Monster Garage and Monster Nation.

Although Original is best known as a producer of testosterone-fueled unscripted programming, company founder Thom Beers wants to use OPEN to take the company into new genres with original online content aimed at the same young, male demo that tunes in to its programs on cable nets such as Discovery Channel and History.

“There are a lot of things that we’d love to do that we just haven’t been able to sell to commercial television,” Beers said in an interview with realscreen. “I’ve got a 14-year-old son and I see where the world’s going for him right now. He doesn’t watch commercial television – ever. I can’t even get him on a football game. He’s going straight to his computer for entertainment so there’s a big curve there and we want to be riding that.

“A perfect example is something like a claymation strip poker series – something that the guys at work here developed years ago,” he adds. “So all of a sudden we’re going, ‘Let’s have some fun here.’”

OPEN will be comedy-centric but also include spin-offs and entertainment segments based on the company’s network shows. One example, Thom TV, is an interview series that will delve into the back stories behind some of the talent starring in its reality series.

Beers is looking to invest US$2-3 million per year in the platform. The company is in the process of negotiating with distribution platforms such as iTunes and YouTube, as well as sports personalities and major brands.

At the moment, OPEN has a staff of three and is hiring seven more people, including someone to oversee branded entertainment programming. Beers envisions brand-funded projects such as challenges and contests that pair surfers, skiers, and extreme sports stars with menswear and outerwear companies.

“The world of brand integration is really fascinating to me,” he says. “We’re actually looking at not just extending brands but creating programming for brands.”

Will unscripted have a place in OPEN?

“The unscripted world, I mean, we do that,” he says. “[If] I did anything in that world it would be more of an incubator for our clients. We do pretty well in that world and we’ll continue to do what we do for our clients so I’ll stay out of that. What I want to do is explore stuff we haven’t had a chance to experiment with.

“If you ask me my perfect world [for OPEN], it’s somewhere between explosives and Jackass,” he adds. “You know, the kind of stuff that’s really hard to get production insurance for.”

(Photo: Thom Beers at realscreen’s Factual Entertainment Awards. Photographer: Rahoul Ghose)

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