Santa Fe Startup May Change the Way Filmmakers and Content Creators Get Paid
Eric Streeper and his co-founder, former Google engineer, Dan Hathorn, are building a company that very well might change the way filmmakers and video content creators get paid. Holed up in Xerb.tv’s world headquarters at Santa Fe Business Incubator, it’s not immediately apparent that he is on the leading edge of a sea change shifting the dynamics of creators and online consumers. But, just as Netflix upended the way we consume television series, he has seen the future and is determined to breathe life into it starting with filmmakers based right here in New Mexico.
“Netflix is now the largest movie studio,” said Streeper. “They’re out-spending the big studios, because distribution is key. They own the new subscription-based distribution model.”
Xerb.tv has taken its cues from this type of subscription model, and is re-centering its strategy to benefit the creators of the work instead of distribution houses. Streeper and his business partner, Dan Hathorn, is starting first with 10 New Mexico-based production companies that will launch subscription channels on the Xerb platform. These production companies will curate, maintain and operate the content on their own channels. Independent creators will have the ability to upload their own work to the platform, and then reach out to company channels to request inclusion.
Streeper is riding a wave that’s beginning to rise in the world of online content. Medium, a company launched by Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, has recently shifted its entire business model to a subscription-based strategy that rewards the creators of the online content it serves up. Xerb.tv will do much the same, and is centered on rewarding the people creating the content with what hopefully will become reliable revenue and growing audiences for the creators.
The path Streeper took to this point–launching a startup from his hometown of Santa Fe–is a winding one. He’s changed careers several times, after graduating with a degree in Finance during the Great Recession ten years ago. After he completed his CFA exams, he moved to Los Angeles and worked at a business management firm as a royalty analyst for musicians. This job ended up being the inspiration for what he’s doing now with Xerb.tv.
“I was amazed at the huge number of YouTube followers one of our clients had, and how little money there was in it for him,” he emphasized.
As a royalty analyst, Streeper started getting into the IT side of the work and automating tedious spreadsheets. Soon, he became aware of the value of what he was creating and started taking online courses from Stanford to teach himself more advanced programming languages. He admired the interactive nature of Stanford’s classes (they were using the Coursera platform), and soon tried to launch his own video education system online. He ended up going to work for a consulting firm that specialized in IT for a few years as a sales engineer. During his tenure there, he obtained valuable corporate experience at FOX and CBS.
Still, he was searching for something more. At the time, Streeper and his wife were still based in Los Angeles and working long hours. They decided to make a big change, and went to Asia for four months to figure out their next steps. He had been thinking about his startup idea, trying to solve the problem of creators making great content but unable to earn enough money for their projects. Upon returning from Asia, he paid a visit to his mother in Santa Fe and was amazed at how much had changed during his absence.
“It feels like an exciting time to be here,” Streeper said. “Things are changing quickly–for the better. Now we have an entire film industry here in New Mexico.” He settled in Santa Fe with his wife in April, 2016.
Streeper lights up when he talks about his obvious passion for finding a way to bankroll independent filmmakers’ work. He loves the creative, unknown aspect of his young startup.
“New Mexico is an excellent testing ground. We’ll be able to take what we’ve learned here and apply it to other markets,” he said. “The flexibility is exciting, because we can’t predict what will work and what won’t.”
Xerb.tv will be providing a service to people who are willing to pay for more in-depth, independent content. So far, he’s got a children’s channel lined up, along with two indie film channels focused on regional content, a music channel and a film education channel. He is betting that Xerb.tv will fill niches that people are searching for. And, since the company will have revenue starting with the very first user, he will not have to seek venture capital to grow it. Instead, his lean model will leverage established audiences for the creators it hosts, and introduce the content to new audiences via events and film festivals.
The way Streeper envisions the tide turning in independent filmmaking is this: “Production companies will eventually be the movie studio. Xerb is straight to the source, connecting creators with their audiences.”
“Imagine the collective power of all these people, all these creators. Rather than promoting one film, they are promoting their entire bodies of work in one place,” Streeper said. Right now, the way to get an independent film on Netflix is to promote it quite heavily as a one-off piece of content.
“It’s very powerful if you have 100 filmmakers promoting their work together. People will find it on Xerb.tv, and then discover all the rest.”
Streeper is very focused on making sure his interests are aligned with his partners, as Xerb.tv is not in the same position as Netflix which has to negotiate the lowest price possible.
“It’s in everyone’s best interest to have Xerb.tv succeed,” Streeper said, referring to the independent group of filmmakers and creators he has assembled. He’s committed to doing it right, bringing in experts to help the creators he is mentoring through Santa Fe Filmmakers and putting on networking mixers to foster connections between them. A soft launch for creators will happen this month.
To learn more about Streeper’s plans for Xerb.tv, visit the website and sign up for his mailing list.