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Fireside chat with John T. Wells, CEO of Dooya Media Group

Who is John T. Wells?

John T. Wells is an experienced digital media executive who has been at the forefront of online video, marketing, and e-commerce. He is skilled in building media businesses, strategic business development, and managing diverse teams of all sizes and successfully negotiated hundreds of contracts with Fortune media, technology, and entertainment companies, launched online channels and specialty web sites.

What’s the story behind Dooya Media Group?

I’ve spent most of my career pushing toward media’s horizon, fascinated by “what’s next?” and asking myself, “Where are the gaps, where do the opportunities lie?” Dooya is interesting in that it’s both a cross-section and culmination of earlier companies I’ve started or been involved with. Many of these involved new forms of distribution or creative approaches to revenue generation.

For instance, back in the day I founded the first company in the Pacific Northwest to offer pre-show entertainment and advertising at local movie theatres, representing all of the Regal Cinemas, ACTIII Theatres, AMC, and General Cinemas in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Texas and Alaska. It almost seems quaint, but that screen real estate time was rarely monetized then.

Subsequently I had other plays in ecommerce and digital merchandising, with online retail storefronts selling movie memorabilia and licensed media merchandise. I launched many online channels and specialty web sites, including solutions for Sony, Spiderman 2 Store, NBC, The Henson Company, AOL, MovieFone, Tribune Media, Viacom, HBO, Paramount and Hollywood Online. 

These models for ad/sales driven channel creation served me well in streaming when I co-founded DAVE Networks, the first IPTV Platform in North America, balanced again on the data side with a founding management role at ShowBiz Data to generate long-term partnerships with Warner Bros., Paramount, 20th Century Fox and other studios.

On the side—because I love this stuff!—I launched Idea Giants to produce and aggregate 3D and 4K content for next generation platforms and location-based entertainment events.  Idea Giants worked with Universal Music Group, EMI, and Sony Music to bring major music acts such as No Doubt, Green Day, and Nicki Minaj to theatrical and broadcast outlets worldwide.

And then at Frequency Networks as SVP of Programming, I dove in further to the nascent streaming sector, creating their digital first programming for AT&T/DirecTV and Liberty Global, partnerships with digital media companies like Tastemade, Cheddar, Newsy, Endemol, Fremantle, Machinima and VEVO along with other top brands and MCNs.

After that the streaming video waters really started to boil. It was clear channel fragmentation would continue, and, more important, that consumer demand would continue to grow, as it has. Covid has accelerated and amplified the growth. But in the meantime, content rights holders with smaller libraries or no relationships with distributors like Roku reached out to me for advice: they were in danger of being left out in the cold. They also didn’t have the budgets, operational inclination or financial incentives to do the technical processing needed to ready their titles for the OTT market. Dooya started with a leg up from Sony’s The Orchard library and a working relationship with Roku.

Hence Dooya was born, as in, Dooya like movies? Dooya like TV? In the very beginning we had a consumer-centric direction, but almost immediately saw the vast opportunity for the current enterprise end-to-end solution we built and offer today.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

We had too much demand! It’s funny, but true. We had so many companies wanting to do business with us right out of the gate that it was a scramble to get operations set to handle it. Nice problem to have, we know. There were also the usual growing pains in deciding the development schedule on the tech side, setting priorities and the like. Some vendors didn’t understand the new ad supported model we’re pioneering.

And with the projected growth we realized fundraising for the leap ahead would have to come sooner than later. That’s always tricky when you’re in market, operating, generating revenue but also needing to be out having those conversations. We’re very pleased to announce that Answer Media made an investment in us this month, and we’re in discussion with others.  

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

Our team of course! Some have been with me from the very beginning, such as my righthand Allison Dollar, our CSO, a recognized expert in advanced television with whom I’ve worked for many years on a variety of projects. We were fortunate to bring on Albert Valerio, our CTO, who has amazing skills and background. Plus among our advisors we’ve a deep bench with experience at majors like Liberty Media and YouTube.  

And in close seconds, our technical workflow platform approach coupled with speed to market. We’ve signed over 60 content partners, such as Legendary, Mobcrush, Nerdist, All3Media, and all the major distributors, over 40 of these, including Roku, Redbox, Cox, Pluto, Tubi, Xumo, Amazon Prime Video and the like.

What is your vision for the future of Dooya Media Group?

This could be a trick question, as in, we can’t reveal too much today. But clearly we plan to keep rolling at speed with the ad supported video on demand offering, and continue to ramp up on the FAST (free access streaming TV) channels creation. We have proprietary IP in how we’re handling our video onboarding, processing and delivery procedure, as well as some other interesting conversations going on around other forms of content packaging.

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

The first thing is to accept that *all* sectors have been and will continue to be affected by the digital revolution, which is no where near finished. Data is king. Speed and flexibility is paramount. Many businesses Covid decimated will never be able to recover in their previous form. And the climate would be uncertain, regardless of Covid, due to these digital forces, not just in media, but in AI and even less glamorous applications of data science. My advice is to be honest with yourself on where the company sits today. Do real strategic planning and to be ready to be very entrepreneurial, very quick in pivoting if necessary.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

Nightstand, as in reading for fun before sleeping? Not happening much!! I do want to check out the Bezos book, and also some recommended to me on building company culture. But frankly in free time I look for balance. I’m on the board of the Gentle Barn, which teaches children kindness, compassion and empathy for animals and all living beings. So books about nature are next up. We’re launching a channel called Beautiful Planet. That’s the kind of thing where all my interests come together.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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