By Jim Probasco
Do you believe you could have helped prevent The 13th Warrior from becoming the number 1 box office flop of all time? Do you wish you could have personally enjoyed some of the profits from the Star Wars stable?
For any average movie and TV fan who ever wanted to “own a piece of the Hollywood action” or have a say in what movies, TV shows and other entertainment projects get made that day has finally arrived.
Emmy-winning technologists, Paul Scanlan and Jeff Annison just announced the world’s first fan-owned entertainment company to be called Legion M. (The “M” has a bar over it, the Roman numeral for 1 million – the number of fan/shareholders the duo hopes to sign up.)
Fans can register at www.joinlegionm.com and be among the first in line when shares become available later this summer. In the meantime, Scanlan and Annison will host the official launch of Legion M at Silicon Valley Comic-Con (booth # 713), March 18-20.
Benzinga spoke with the Legion M co-founders to gain insight into the new venture.
Benzinga: Why a fan-owned entertainment company?
Paul Scanlan: Based on past experience, we’re very confident that a close relationship between the fan and the creators can make unbelievable magic.
Because of that, we wanted to partner with Hollywood, allow regular fans to own a piece of the venture, get behind the scenes and share the profits when we’re successful.
With our first venture, MobiTV, any time we wanted to raise capital we were limited to accredited investors. Even our friends and family, if they weren’t accredited investors, couldn’t invest.
What changed to make what you’re doing possible now?
Jeff Annison: The Securities and Exchange Commission adopted new rules under the JOBS Act. The JOBS Act changed security laws that have been on the books for last 80 years. This is literally the first time in history you could execute on an idea like this.
We had a head start thanks to our involvement with MobiTV and the New York Rock Exchange and based on our experience raising money. You couldn’t have done this 6 months ago.
Scanlan: The timing was perfect. Crowd funding as an industry has had phenomenal success. With the massive amounts of money being donated, people want to be part of something just getting started. The JOBS Act allows equity crowdfunding. What could be better than helping to start a company that’s going to create amazing content that you get to be involved with?
What role will fans play with Legion M?
Annison: As a fan you will be investing in Legion M. It’s kind of like buying a share of Apple stock. We’re working with top tier creative partners to help us develop a slate of projects.
Those creative allies plus the Legion itself (fans/shareholders) will help us find the projects that we want to fund. When you invest, you’re getting a part of that.
Scanlan: As a fan/shareholder you’re now part of the community that goes behind the scenes. You’re engaged, throughout the process, in the development of that project.
You’ll always have some inside access. There will be circumstances, for example, where we have the talent, celebrities on a conference call the shareholders can participate in and be able to ask questions.
We’re really opening the gates to Hollywood. We want to let fans engage well before the project comes to market.
As a shareholder you would have a secured place where you could log in and engage with us. As an investor it’s kind of like getting a double return. There’s the financial return if we’re successful, but there’s also the emotional return of being part of the entire process.
What will the investment package look like?
Scanlan: There’s going to be a minimum to invest but it’s going to be as low as we can possibly make it. We’re also considering having a maximum.
Annison: For us, what’s important is growing a broad, engaged fan base and that we don’t have Wall Street investors buy up all of our stock.
Scanlan: This is about the fans. We’re true to that, to the end.
What types of projects will Legion M get involved in?
Scanlan: Movies and TV are our primary objective. We’re also really interested in the intersection of entertainment and technology.
As Emmy-winning technologists from Northern California partnering with Emmy-winning creators from Southern California, we see an opportunity to really push the boundaries on virtual-reality, augmented reality, interactive television and augmented reality. It may also include games as well.
Who are some of the creative partners so far?
Scanlan: We’ll be working with Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, the award-winning shop behind “Robot Chicken,” and Sony Crackle’s “SuperMansion.” Also, Gaston Dominguez-Letelier and Meltdown Entertainment and Animal Repair Shop.
As I said, we’re looking for people who like to push the boundaries. We are also looking at diversification. I can tell you, we’re talking to some pretty heavy hitters.
This is a whole new way of doing business.
What about pushback from the entertainment industry?
Scanlan: We’ve found this to be a win-win-win situation. When we talk to creators, there’s no question they absolutely love this idea. The opportunity to get closer to fans and engage with them on the creative process is a no-brainer for creators.
When we talk to the fans, of course, it’s the same thing. We started this company because we’re fans like everybody else. We wanted this opportunity.
What’s really interesting is that when we talk to the networks and distribution partners, they also really like it. It reduces risk for them. When you can bring a show to a network or distribution partner that already has a fan base before you even start marketing it that’s good for everyone.
That said, Hollywood, like any industry has stalwarts who might be reluctant to change. Progressive minds in Hollywood, however, get it.
Is there a connection to MobiTV?
Scanlan: There’s no direct connection. Our goal, over time, is to grow a block of programming. We’ll be looking at all possible forms of monetization and distribution platforms, not just MobiTV.
Annison: It’s platform agnostic, actually platform opportunistic. There are so many platforms out there from MobiTV to Netflix to Verizon and others, all looking for content. Interactive TV is a whole new frontier.
Virtual reality is kind of the next frontier of story-telling. One of the things creators like is that we bring that kind of technological innovation background. We were the first, after all, to put live television on a cellphone back in 2004.
The great thing is that once we have our Legion, we’ll have a million fans behind us which means all of this innovation is possible.
This article is original to Nasdaq.com.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.