Thom Beers, who ankled as CEO of FremantleMedia North America a year ago, has formed a new TV production shingle, BoBCat, located at an office-studio complex in Burbank, Calif., part of which used to house the 50 cars for “Monster Garage,” the show he produced for Discovery Channel a decade ago.
Now he’s wearing another hat, too: landlord. Beers has established Digiland, which he describes as combining the shared office-space business model of WeWork with the production facilities of Google’s YouTube Spaces.
“I’m not looking for people who just need a desk,” said Beers. “I wanted to turn it into a creative, shared workspace — to find people doing some cool things, and hang out.”
One reason he launched Digiland: His new production company simply doesn’t need the entire 45,000 square feet of space, which he owns. Beers said he had received two offers from large tech companies to lease the space; but that, he claims, “kind of took the fun out of it.”
He formed BoBCat this spring with Jeff Conroy, formerly president of Original Productions (which Beers sold to FremantleMedia in 2000), along with Sarah Bernard, previously an executive with AOL and Huffington Post. The name reflects the first initials of their last names (“BBC was taken,” Beers deadpanned). BoBCat has landed three unscripted TV projects, including one currently in production; Beers declined to provide details on the shows or which networks ordered them.
But BoBCat has just six full-time employees, so Beers thought he’d utilize the space by opening the doors to other creative professionals in a content-incubator atmosphere. “We’re looking for synergies with the people who come to Digiland,” he said.
Current Digiland tenants include Business Rockstars, which produces radio and TV shows featuring CEOs and entrepreneurs; over-the-top network developer Every Day Networks; BNV Recording Studios; tech consulting firm 25 Ventures; and MMH Creative, a social media and marketing business.
The facility includes a 5,300-square-foot sound stage (the original warehouse where Beers kept the “Monster Garage” cars), another smaller 3,500-square-feet studio/performance space (pictured below), as well as the BNV recording studio, editing bays, a conference room, lofts and industrial kitchens.
Digiland membership is $499 per month, which includes a dedicated desk space, Wi-Fi and Internet, and other amenities. The two sound stages rent for $1,500 per day, but that’s negotiable because “we want to support new businesses,” said Ki Ki Lee Herr, G.M. of Digiland.
Beers said he left FremantleMedia last August after three years in the CEO job because he got “a little bored of being a manager.” Then for the next several months “I f—ed off after working for 32 straight years,” said Beers. Among his excursions: riding a bicycle 500 miles across Cuba, hiking the mountains of Myanmar, and running a Spartan race in Hong Kong.
There’s another project the 64-year-old is hatching: “Thom TV,” a subscription VOD service that would include some of the 3,000 hours of TV shows he’s produced over the years like “Ice Road Truckers,” “Ax Men,” “Monster Garage,” “Black Gold,” “Storage Wars” and “Coal,” along with original content. That will require Beers to secure the streaming rights for the productions; he noted that FremantleMedia owns about 500 hours of the programming. Ideally, Beers would like to launch Thom TV next spring.
“That’s my dream thing – I want my own channel,” said Beers.