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Global Media Exchange facilitates program transactions online

Ascent Media Group is funding a new B-to-B Web site dedicated to helping streamline the processes and communications involved in buying and selling television programs in the United States and overseas. Users include major film and TV production studios, independent companies and single producers looking to buy and sell programs worldwide.

Called the Global Media Exchange (GMX), the new password-protected site launched on Oct. 1 and is set up like a traditional programming trade show (like the annual NAPTE convention), where much program buying and selling is accomplished. There’s no submission or registration fee for users who sign up, but the company does charge sellers a small percentage of the gross value of each deal closed through the site. A variety of other business models are also being explored, including the ability to screen full-length TV episodes and feature films shown at festivals around the globe.

“The idea is to replicate a conference experience online,” said Mara Sternthal, senior vice president of business development for GMX. Sternthal, a 20-year veteran program buyer and seller for several major production studios in the past, is using her vast experience to oversee the design of the site and how it works for users. “These days people are traveling less to these trade shows, so we see an opportunity to reach out to those people all year long and help them make the deals they need to make.”

More than two years in the making, the site allows visitors to search and browse content based on genre and other criteria in a way that is difficult to do when walking a trade show floor. Short clips and “screener” reels will be available as will detailed information on a particular program, such as cast, crew, rights holders and contact persons. A direct link to the contact person makes communication quicker, while primary deals can be initiated and programs ordered online.

“Over time we intend to develop more complex deal templates that will accommodate more complex transactions,” Sternthal said, who hopes to generate new licensing opportunities for thousands of media companies and professionals from around the world, at a fraction of the cost. The goal for the site, according to Sternthal, is to allow content distributors to monetize their libraries, reach new markets, market to broader audiences, and acquire market intelligence to support new and existing sales strategies.

Thus far the site has signed up about 150 individuals representing film and TV program buyers and sellers. Among the U.S.-based companies are Lifetime TV, Disney Channel, Broadway Video Entertainment, Image Entertainment and The Food Network. Foreign distributors planning to use the site are NBC Universal Global Networks France, London-based ContentFilm's Fireworks International, and U.K.-based On Demand Group.

Ascent Media Group’s portfolio of services, such as fulfillment, program storage and VIIA asset management platform, will also be part of the GMX strategy going forward. As a wholly owned subsidiary, GMX is located at Ascent Media’s headquarters in Santa Monica, CA, and can take advantage of the company’s significant resources.

“GMX is a bit of a departure from Ascent’s existing ‘back-end’ services,” Sternthal said, adding that the new site is available to any program distributor, not just Ascent Media clients. “But it fits in with its overall strategy of managing content in the most efficient way.”

The GMX platform offers a virtual marketplace that provides content buyers and sellers a year-round opportunity to search, discover, market and close transactions for professionally produced film and television programming.

Sternthal is now focused her efforts on developing the site’s user base to ensure a vibrant online marketplace.

“We want to bring efficiencies to the program buying and selling industry is a way that hasn’t existed before,” Sternthal said. “We want to enable content sellers to market and cost-effectively promote their content to buyers worldwide, and allow buyers to find titles and related information more quickly, while efficiently managing and controlling the acquisition process.”

She said studios could find incremental revenue by “up-selling” programs to fill available spaces in network schedules or new channels while buyers could find the site useful for searching through hundreds of titles to populate newly launched VOD services.

The site includes more than 4000 film titles committed for licensing, representing all forms of content genres.