The Internet-television network known as ManiaTV! has been based in Denver since its inception -- but not for much longer. A press release issued late on January 9 confirms rampant speculation that "the majority of content operations will be moving to Los Angeles, CA." The item goes on to state that "the relocation of headquarters is part of a TV 2.0 strategy that includes partnerships with major Hollywood producers, production companies and celebrities. The network will continue to shoot broadcast television shows from Denver and Los Angeles over the next quarter until the programming transition is complete."
This move is hardly a surprise, particularly given the evolution of ManiaTV!'s programming under the supervision of founder Drew Massey (pictured) -- developments that have been closely documented in Westword.
At the time of a wide-ranging ManiaTV! profile published in July 2005, the network was essentially a web version of MTV, with cyber-jockies, or CJs, programming videos and interacting with users in real time. Moreover, the net actively solicited user content in an effort to create a YouTube-like atmosphere. "This is something kids can control," Massey said at the time, "and it's coming to them on the medium they spend most of their time on. And they can use it anywhere. Now that all the campuses are wi-fi, students can get out their laptops and watch it in the lunchroom, in the classroom, in the toilet."
This approach got the attention of plenty of major advertisers, and their dollars kept the lights on at the ManiaTV! studio, which filled a sprawling warehouse in a central Denver industrial district. But while viewer numbers remained robust by Internet standards, they failed to reach what chief marketing officer Peter Clemente referred to as "the tipping point." So Massey and company decided to try their hand at appointment programming, brokering a deal with comedian Tom Green to partner on a live talk show he'd been shooting at his L.A. home and streaming on his website, TomGreen.com. Although ManiaTV! spent approximately $500,000 turning the house into a de facto television studio, there were plenty of glitches early on. "The first month, we didn't even have tally lights on the camera," Green noted in a November 2006 Westword interview. "And fixing everything took a lot of trial and error, because we were hooking up so many different types of computers and servers and switchers and compressors that don't normally even work together."
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Nevertheless, the program gathered momentum due in large part to the personalities Green cajoled into guesting -- an eclectic melange that ranged from Ed McMahon and Brooke Shields to Jackass alum Steve-O and the band GWAR. According to an Associated Press report, Green and ManiaTV! have since parted company, but the net retains the rights to stream nearly 200 shows he made during their association, at least for the time being. And as of January 7, a version of Green's opus is being broadcast on the Comedy Network, a conventional TV channel in Green's native Canada.
In the meantime, ManiaTV! began reaching out to other celebs -- a tack that met with mixed results early on. A fundraiser featuring Dustin "Screech" Diamond was yanked at the last minute when network personnel began to fear that something was hinky about it, and a visit to Denver by Vincent "Don Vito" Margera, uncle of Bam Margera and co-star of the MTV reality program Viva La Bam, turned nasty when the Don was arrested for allegedly groping two underage girls at Lakewood's Colorado Mills mall -- a charge on which he was eventually convicted. But the operation had more success with Spread Entertainment, a talk show starring onetime Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Dave Navarro. As he told Westword in an August 2007 piece, he first became aware of ManiaTV! after appearing on Green's program. When the service offered to help him upgrade an Internet radio show he'd been helming, he jumped at the chance. Webcasts of his radio program didn't offer a lot to look at -- "just a guy talking into a microphone," he said. "You get the picture after a few minutes. So when Mania came along, it just seemed like a perfect fit. Because basically they were providing me with the technology to expand on something I was already deeply into."
Navarro's show also originates from L.A. -- specifically a local club -- and the number of web-gazers it attracted only accelerated a shift toward California. In the August 2007 column, ManiaTV! spokesman Jason Damata confirmed that the network was shopping for studio space in SoCal with an eye toward launching more celebrity-centric programming and building upon entertainment reporting about movies and so on. He also noted that ManiaTV! had decided to dump its entire user-gen catalogue, farm out website design duties and cut back on live programming, which had originally streamed 24 hours per day. These moves resulted in the cutting of four production positions and another eight part-time jobs.
In recent weeks, more Denver heads have rolled, spawning the relocation rumors that ManiaTV! has finally addressed. The January 9 press release included the following statement, credited to ManiaTV! chief executive officer Peter Hoskins, who took over the top spot from Massey last year: "Moving to L.A. is part of a growth strategy that will allow us to work closely with leaders in the entertainment industry. Shifting operations and Denver personell to L.A. has been a goal for ManiaTV! for some time and we are extremely excited to be taking the bulk of our staff to the entertainment mecca. Denver has been a fantastic launchpad for this business and we are excited to give many local people the opportunity to continue making history." -- Michael Roberts