Television industry veterans and brothers David and Matthew Frank have announced their next move — launching Rocket Rights out of the UK.
Billed as a “next generation, multi-genre distributor that works hand-in-hand with producers and rights-holders to identify valuable IP to take to the worldwide market” the goal isn’t merely to be one more wheel in the cog, but to disrupt the distribution biz entirely.
“I’ve always felt that distribution commissions are way higher than they should be; there is no logic as to why distributors should charge 25-30% for international distribution,” David Frank (pictured) explains while on the phone from his home south of London. “What we’re looking to do is reimagine and reorganize the whole way that distribution is done.”
To that end, Frank says Rocket’s starting point will be 19% commission — perhaps lower with certain clients because the founders believe they can generate the same bottom line margins as bigger distributors due to a significantly lower overhead. And Rocket won’t be using the traditional model of sales teams with divided regions and territories — rather, the approach will be to classify the customer base by whether they’re premium customers paying significant sums of money for premium drama, or lower budget buyers who just want to know what’s available, at what cost and for how long.
The Franks’ strategy continues along the proprietary tech path they developed during the last five years with their previous venture TRX. “The genesis of Rocket comes from our experience at TRX, an online marketplace that we initiated with the intention of it becoming a platform on which deals in the TV distribution market could be done online,” Frank explains. “Everything from discovering content all the way through to closing deals.”
But by the end of 2019 what was becoming obvious to the Franks was that it was a much tougher task persuading market participants to embrace a new way of doing things.
“We were spending our time in the latter stages of TRX trying to persuade bigger distributors to use our tech to service their clients both on the buy and sell side,” he says. “We thought what we should be doing, rather than trying to persuade others to use our technology, was to use it ourselves which would become a major pivot.”
And pivot they did; rather than providing the software as a service business, the brothers chose to re-enter the distribution landscape, employing the technology they’d built and developed at TRX to compete against former customers with the goal stated above, of doing a better job for a lower price. “We’ve got the weaponry at our disposal to make that happen,” Frank maintains.
As for TRX, the Franks have put it on ice for now. The tech stack is still there but the outward facing portion of the site is switched off, meaning buyers and sellers can no longer engage. But the brothers have the ability to restart the engine at some point in the future.
While former RDF and Zodiak CEO David, who is chairman, is in charge of finance and strategic direction at Rocket, Matthew, who also served as head of Zodiak Rights before TRX, runs the day-to-day operations as CEO, which includes managing the team, acquisitions slate and sales effort.
As for Rocket’s factual entertainment acquisitions, the slate includes such titles as Billion Pound Cruises: All at Sea, a one-hour film about the impact the pandemic has had on the cruise industry and how it was instrumental in the spread of the virus in its early days; No Go Zones, a six-part series on the places and cities where even the police fear to tread; Prince William – A Monarch in the Making, about the future King of England as he prepares to take on the role in the modern era; and Around the World in 80 Days, a two-hour series about endurance cyclist Mark Beaumont, who set the world record for cycling around the world in just 80 days, breaking his own record by 20 days.
While to the outside eye the launch of Rocket may appear out of the blue, the reality was that planning for the company began in early 2020 but progress was slowed due to the ongoing pandemic. Currently the core group at Rocket includes a sales executive roster that includes former Beyond Rights exec Anne-Marie Pardoe, former Endemol Shine exec Katie Stephenson and TRX team members Gemma Patel and Zoe Wilson, as well as legal and financial staff. The newest addition on the team webpage is Rocket, Matthew’s 14-week-old black lab/German pointer cross who is the company mascot.
As for the Frank brothers’ future ambition, David is clear: “Our strategy is that we believe in the next three years or so we can become a highly disruptive force in TV distribution.”