Digital Dealmakers: Paul Rich

Oct 23, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The player: Paul Rich, CEO of Bennett Media Worldwide, a Los Angeles-based high-definition TV program producer and distributor.

The play: Bennett Media Worldwide, established last year, is a subsidiary of entertainment studio The Bennett Group. Bennett Media WorldWide distributes shows targeted at men 18 to 49, including music concerts, extreme sports and programs like “Bikini Destinations.” The new division was founded to ferret out new media distribution opportunities in advance of developing a new linear channel for men, Mr. Rich said.

The pitch: Bennett’s goal is to launch a satellite channel targeting men, but the company wants to build demand by seeding its shows in new viewing venues. Bennett Media Worldwide plans to announce this week that it’s inked deals with several online video services. That includes agreements to distribute most of Bennett’s library on services including Amazon.com’s DVD on-demand service CustomFlix.com, Google Video at 99 cents per show, online video service Guba.com and long-form Internet TV channel Veoh Networks.

The money guys: Both Bennett Media Worldwide and its parent company, founded 20 years ago, are profitable.

The numbers: The new online offerings are all up and running, Mr. Rich said. He hasn’t received sales figures yet, but said when Google Video first offered “Bikini Destinations” in August, three of the shows ranked among the top 15 in the Google Video store.

Pros: Mr. Rich is bullish on the potential of new media. “The future could be huge for all of us if you get in early, as long as you don’t spend a lot of money getting in,” he said. “Everything we put up on Guba and Amazon we own 100 percent. It’s relatively inexpensive.”

Cons: Mr. Rich is cautious about the economics of the mobile television business. “We have carefully chosen our partners,” he said. “We are getting close to a global mobile deal, but we are finding the ones that make the most sense today are Google Video store and Amazon’s Custom Flix and Guba and Veoh … “I am skeptical about people watching movies, especially long-form on mobile TV. That’s why we chose online video.”

Backstory: Mr. Rich began working in TV production in 1975, when he headed up foreign sales for shows such as “Dynasty” “Charlie’s Angels” and “Starsky & Hutch.” He also worked in film marketing before joining Bennett.

Who knew?

Mr. Rich, 69, was born and raised in Wakefield, Mass. He attended Northeastern University and earned a bachelor’s degree in English. He lives in Bel Air, Calif., with his wife of 45 years. They have four kids and five grandchildren, with a sixth due in November. He’s a diehard Red Sox fan.