Gary Kleinman – WHAM Network – Creating a 24/7 OTT Esports channel

Cinedigm and The WHAM Network Inc announced earlier this month that “The WHAM Network” is set to be a 24/7 streaming channel centered around esports and gaming.  

Cinedigm is a North American company headquartered in Los Angeles, California. It’s a leading content distributor in the US with direct relationships with thousands of retail stores and digital platforms, including Wal-Mart, iTunes, Amazon and Netflix. It also operates three over-the-top digital networks, which include Docurama, CONtv and THE Dove Channel.

WHAM is most definitely a move away from the more traditional media that Cinedigm currently push and produce. The initial programming module provided to Esports Insider showcases 23 original content products, raging from Celebrity Gaming all the way to a morning, gaming and esports news centric show to run in a morning slot akin to a traditional breakfast T.V. show.

If one thing’s for sure, the WHAM project is an intriguing one. We spoke to Gary Kleinman, Founder of WHAM to find out more about his ambitious new venture. 

Esports Insider: Congratulations on the partnership with Cinedigm – How did it initially come about?

Gary: Gaming and esports are a long way from some of the other content that they push. Is this always an area they considered? Maybe not. The timing was fortuitous – we were in the process of expanding programming on CONtv to cover esports and gaming, and we had met a mutual friend of the company that introduced us to the team. When we spent time reviewing their needs and vision for an OTT channel and it became clear we would be good partners on the project.

Esports Insider: What’s your personal background? How did you get an interest in esports/gaming and how did it manifest itself in WHAM?

Gary: For the past 15 years I have owned an experiential marketing agency specialising in entertainment and sports. Experiential marketing is about creating stories and understanding the emotional connection and passion points between brands, products and services and the consumer. Esports and gaming both have those emotional connection and passion points and showcase them on a global basis, therefore providing fertile ground for a lifestyle and cultural approach to the entire gaming world. 

Esports Insider: What can we expect to see from the company and the partnership over the next year?

Gary: What you will see from WHAM is an integrated approach to covering the news and information as it pertains to gaming while creating engaging original entertainment programming as well. 

Esports Insider: Gaming and esports are intrinsically linked yet also very different; how do you plan to best serve each market?

Gary: It is the intrinsic link and differences that create powerful content and stories. Professional esports players are also casual gamers. Casual gamers are competitive and aspirational as well. As such, the content of how gaming impacts lifestyle and culture is a natural crossover. 

Esports Insider: The esports market is traditionally a tough nut to crack. The communities that surround each of the games tend to be very critical of anything that doesn’t portray their beloved esport in the best of lights. Do you see that as a challenge to what you’re trying to create?

Gary: No, in fact we see that as an asset. Our team includes native gamers, and we have created and are expanding our “Gamer Council” which gives us great insight to the needs, wants and interests of professional gamers, whilst also serving the interests and needs of competitive and casual gamers. 

Esports Insider: What sorts of content will we see WHAM pushing out? How big do you think the market is for a channel like the one you’re set to provide?

Gary: We have produced an Initial Programming Module in addition to providing a distribution channel for third party created content.

“Wham is quite frankly the Switzerland of gaming”

We have found excellent content being produced that has no home. WHAM is quite frankly the Switzerland of gaming and as such, we are independent and agnostic – providing a sound basis to cover all aspects of gaming. 

Esports Insider: Do you have any arrangements with esports talent from within the scene and/or tournaments to bring esports content to the channel?

Gary: Yes, we have extensive relationships that will be quite evident on launch. In addition, we are supporters of the entire gaming industry which will and does provide a wide spread forum to disseminate all things gaming across all of the many players in the esports/gaming space.