Litton Maintains Its Independence

Apr 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

How has a 20-year-old media company managed to not only survive but thrive in an era of media consolidation?

Dave Morgan, president and CEO of Litton Entertainment, has the answer.

Founded two decades ago with a mantra to keep the business “360 degrees self-contained,” Mt. Pleasant, S.C.-based Litton now is valued as one of the top seven distributors in the country. It pulls an estimated $50 million to $60 million per year, according to analysts.

“Almost from day one, I had the goal of being self-contained, which meant that we wouldn’t be exclusive from working with other companies, but instead would be stronger and they would instead want to work with us,” Mr. Morgan said. “I didn’t realize then that it would help us long-term in being able to compete with the larger studios.”

That 360-degree plan comprises series distribution, media sales, corporate direct media strategy and advanced media. It also includes Litton Studios, which will open a 15,000-square-foot production facility in South Carolina in June.

The company was founded in 1987 and has been shaped by Mr. Morgan’s experience from past executive positions held with Hearst, Taft, Anheuser-Busch and Katz Television. Under his guidance, Litton now creates, produces and distributes its own programming and, as part of a strategic plan to cushion against the shifting media landscape, the company sells national advertising, sponsorships, corporate integration and advanced media.

“My background is in working with advertisers, and I built on that background at local stations by acquiring programming locally for them,” he said. “Therefore, I knew a lot of people when I started with the company and took those relationships to advertisers and made money for everyone involved. The trick to that is that we understand how to turn a CPM into an ROI, and that’s what keeps us going.”

Each of the five divisions of Litton has carved out its own niche while intersecting with each other along the way.

Litton Worldwide Distribution distributes independently produced and off-network/off-cable programming to broadcast, cable, home video and international outlets. As an independent, Mr. Morgan says, Litton has the flexibility to work with every broadcast group, station and network nationwide.

The company represents each of the three things that at least one important local programmer is looking for.

“We are looking for, on the syndication side, consistency, reliability and longevity, and Litton represents each of those,” said Art Moore, VP of programming at WABC, which airs Litton shows such as “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures.” “That makes it easier for me to do the job. In a field that is constantly dwindling, to find a supplier that can produce product that works for me is getting harder and harder, but Litton does what they say and that’s not easy to find anymore.”

Litton Media Sales provides advertising sales capabilities and representation to interface with clients and advertising agencies.

These capabilities encompass national television, including syndication, cable and network; local television; sponsorships; and short-form programming.

Litton also provides all related “backroom” functions, including research, inventory control, billing and traffic.

An example of the company’s multiple ways of working with ad clients: After the company signed Lay’s Potato Chips to work with syndicated series “Hometeam,” Litton inked the snack king to sponsor weekly Litton series “NASCAR Angels” with a “Moment of Joy” campaign. The series recently completed its first season and NASCAR is on board for round two.

“The talented team at Litton has been a key part of the unbelievable success of our first-year television show ‘NASCAR Angels,'” said Odis Lloyd, managing director of NASCAR Automotive Licensing. “Clearing 92 percent of the country and helping to create an integrated Web strategy for our partner stations really helped to launch our program, which strives to help deserving people by fixing their cars. Season two is shaping up to be even better.”

According to Mr. Morgan, aligning the company with powerful brand names has been instrumental in the company’s growth and success.

“I greatly believe in brands, and television is the most powerful medium on earth to persuade, entertain and focus those brands,” he said. “That’s why you see us align ourselves with companies such as NASCAR, Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping and BusinessWeek. On the flip side, we have also been able to create brands such as Jack Hanna through this company. “

As for the future of the company, Litton is in discussions to produce a network prime-time series and is developing a consumer-generated content project with a major corporation and a major network.

In addition, the company continues to drive advanced media projects with companies such as NASCAR and Turner.

“The thing I am most proud of, based on these past 20 years, is the amount of respect we’ve earned amongst our clients,” Mr. Morgan said. “As we head into the future, we’ll continue to focus on brands and keep up with the changing media, and I expect we’ll be around for a lot longer than 20 more years.”

Litton Programming

  • Strips: “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures,” “Baywatch”
  • Weeklies: “Exploration With Richard Wiese,” “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures,” “Home Team,” “BusinessWeek Weekend,” “NASCAR Angels”
  • Litton News Service: “Consumer Reports TV News,” “Good Housekeeping Reports,” “Solutions With Jill,” “BusinessWeek Custom Wall Street Reports,”
    “S&P Custom Market Indices”
  • Specials: Good Housekeeping seasonal specials