Announcement comes after the YouTube multichannel network announced an $18 million investment led by Warner Bros. earlier this month. Machinima, which focuses on a young male demo with videogame-centric content, had been searching for a new CEO since chairman and co-founder Allen DeBevoise announced he would give up the chief executive role last November.
“Machinima is ready for the next level, and Chad has all of the unique qualities we were seeking in a new CEO to bring us there,” DeBevoise said in a statement. “His fresh and respected outlook, deep knowledge of the TV and digital business, and proven track record will all benefit Machinima as we enter our next phase of growth.”
In an interview, Gutstein said he jumped at the chance to lead a company with an established brand that reaches “the most valuable audience you could possibly reach” — men 18-34 — across multiple platforms. “You have to say ‘yes’ when someone hands you the keys to that automobile,” he said.
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Machinima, which has seen a dramatic drop in its audience on YouTube, is hoping the Warner Bros. strategic investment can help it develop new content and establish new forms of distribution. Earlier this month the MCN laid off 30% of its staff, essentially eliminating its ad-sales department, and would shift ad-sales strategy to rely on YouTube.
Gutstein said Machinima, which he claimed “virtually invented” the MCN model, is profitable. But he said as CEO he will work to position the company for sustainable growth. “We are focusing to get to the place where we understand the levers of our business, and control that in a way to take advantage of the opportunity but in a way that doesn’t put our company at risk,” he said.
As part of that, Gutstein said, he’ll be focusing on revenue diversification — meaning Machinima will be looking for new distribution avenues off YouTube.
In the near term, Gutstein also will need to fill the holes in Machinima’s executive team. The MCN currently is in need of a head of programming, head of marketing, general counsel and head of HR.
Tom Gewecke, chief digital officer of Warner Bros. Entertainment, said in a statement, “As Machinima’s newest investor, we are impressed with Chad’s experience leading a premium content business which built a brand with value to both audiences and advertisers. He brings great energy and dedication and we’re excited to partner with him and the team at Machinima.”
As Ovation’s COO, Gutstein helped the cabler’s distribution grow from 5 million to 55 million. Prior to Ovation, he had founded media-focused consultancy Entertainment Media Advisors. Gutstein also served as senior VP of BuyTV and principal at media investment fund WaterView Advisors. Gutstein started his career in investment banking with the firms Alex Brown & Sons and Rothschild.
L.A.-based Machinima investors include MK Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Warner Bros. and Google Capital.