He may be best known to the public as co-creator and executive producer of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, but Mark Koops is known in his industry as the creator of a virtual mini-empire of independent production. Now managing partner of the global independent production company Trium and executive producer of Everyday Health's YouTube programming, Koops has, in his career, produced more than 750 hours of television, including 11 seasons of The Biggest Loser. Under his leadership, that show has become a stand-alone health and lifestyle brand by developing tools and products—including books, exercise DVDs, and protein supplements—that have, to date, generated more than $150 million in revenue at more than 25,000 major retailers. At Trium, he is responsible for creating and developing prime time–ready health and wellness programming for television and online audiences. Here he speaks to NYER’s executive editor Daria Meoli about the pleasures of being entrepreneurial in an era of vertical consolidation.
Daria Meoli: What were some of the challenges you faced starting up on your own in the entertainment industry?
Mark Koops: I first started an independent company called Reveille in 2002 with Ben Silverman, which at the time was backed by Barry Diller. Since then, I also started a new company, Trium, in 2011. In the decade that has passed, there has been a lot of change, a lot of vertical consolidation. Everything has become part of a much larger organization. That offers exciting opportunities for independent companies. You have lots of chances to be entrepreneurial and nimble and fill in needs, which larger organizations aren’t able to do.
DM: Since this is your second go-around, what is it about the more nimble environment that attracts you?
MK: For us [being independent] is an ability to focus on what we’re passionate about and make choices on a creative level, as well as a commerce level. Our work is not just about numbers and spreadsheets and budgets, it’s about what fuels our excitement on a daily basis. You have to be passionate, work hard, and get lucky in equal measure, and sometimes at different stages, different factors can play a more important role.
DM: What are some of the new projects you’re working on?
MK: We have a much larger focus on digital than most television production entities have. There are real opportunities and innovation possible in the digital marketplace that didn’t exist 10 years ago in the television marketplace. There’s been a maturation of the reality shows and changes to the scripted business in primetime broadcast cable. We’re focused on becoming a larger player in the digital space, as evidenced by our partnerships with MSN, Yahoo, and YouTube.
DM: Can you tell us about your new venture with Everyday Health, Inc.?
MK: EverydayHealth.com is now the largest health site in the world, and I’ve known those guys for a number of years through The Biggest Loser. We’ve developed a smart strategic alliance with them, combining their incredible marketing, reach, and access to talent with our ability to create content—evidenced by our YouTube channel, which had over nine million views in its first three months. And then we carved out a television opportunity on Saturday mornings on ABC to create an Emmy-nominated show, Everyday Health. The show really speaks to who we are and the passion we have. We entertain, but also educate, motivate, and inspire. And that’s core to our DNA, to who we are as a company. We’ve always been aggressive in working with incredible partners who can market the projects as well as execute them. It’s a program we’re proud of in its own right, but also a business model that we stand behind.
DM: Was The Biggest Loser and all of its product spinoffs a unique experience for you, or are you used to producing shows with similar empires?
MK: With The Biggest Loser, we had the philosophy from day one to create a kind of Weight Watchers for the twenty-first century by starting first with the television, and then reverse-engineering the brand. I think it remains a unique case study of a brand that was born initially on television but became a lifestyle brand, providing solutions and tools, as well as motivation. It speaks to the power of what television can create.
DM: What are some of your goals for the next two to five years?
MK: To continue to innovate and be inspired by what everyone else is doing and not be intimidated by it. We want to be motivated by other people’s successes—that’s when doors and opportunities are created and opened to you. As the way people consume media changes, we are always challenging ourselves to innovate and push envelopes. But we also have to recognize that many people still consume media in the traditional way, so you can’t be too cool for school. Innovation and the ability to motivate and entertain the viewer would be a legacy we would all be proud of.
Daria Meoli is the Executive Editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at email@example.com