Playback 2013 Outstanding Achievement Award: marblemedia

As the mult-platform content creation company turns 12, its co-founders Mark Bishop and Matt Hornburg discuss marblemedia's growing distribution biz and expansion into L.A. and scripted fare.
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Marblemedia co-founders Mark Bishop and Matt Hornburg may have just been self-confessed “young punks” in 2001 when they told a Banff Media Festival audience to keep their heads up, because multi-platform viewership would be the next big thing. But that confidence has paid off, as the company they launched 12 years ago is now enjoying an international reputation for innovation and high quality work.

In the last year alone, the company has pacted with Zodiak Kids and Surprise Bag! in the U.S. to develop new unscripted and animated projects, acquired full control of Distribution360 (it previously shared ownership with Calgary-based Seven24 Films) and expanded to LA with an eye to scripted fare.

The distribution business has bolstered marblemedia’s relationships with international and third-party content partners, Bishop tells Playback, which has led to ever-expanding opportunities to develop, sell and leverage their new and existing slate. Achievements in this area include international success with anchor series like This Is…, coproduced with Sinking Ship Entertainment and sold into over 200 countries, kids game show Splatalot, sold into 120 countries, and the upcoming Japanizi Going Going Gong!, which has been pre-sold into 120 countries.

Expansion into the U.S. and primetime TV is company’s next big step. “We really see content as very much a global production, as we work with our Canadian partners to manufacture for the Canadian market, but always with an eye to sell to the U.S. and globally,” says Hornburg. “It’s a trend more and more as everything has a little less money but everyone expects to have that much higher production values – we need to find ways to partner together to achieve this.”

That strategy involves meeting with Canadian writers in L.A. and in some cases, investing in scripts at the early stages, or inking blind development deals with writers they think can help secure broadcast partners. Moving into primetime, the partners know, will be a challenge.

“Part of the challenge when you start to expand or steer the ship in a different direction is ensuring people start seeing you in that [new] way. You really only need that first success in the genre to help more people see you in that regard,” says Hornburg.

The execs remain steadfast in marblemedia’s audience-first approach to IP development for multiple platforms.

“As a content company, it’s our job to build IP that has a massive audience,” says Hornburg, pointing the Splatalot web game, which has earned 150 million gameplays worldwide.

“We really feel the content will find the audience, and technology will probably find the business model,” he adds.