Everybody’s Business Is Media


As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q4 2015 Issue


Media is at everyone’s fingertips. On YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, content can be distributed with the press of a button. As a result, every company is in the world of media, and the number of people watching a large company’s social media channels is staggering. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has more than 850 million Likes and followers combined across all league, team, and player social platforms.

“We saw the opportunity with digital and social media to connect in more substantial ways with our fans on a global basis,” said David Denenberg, Senior Vice President, Global Media Distribution and Business Affairs, for NBA Entertainment (NBAE), during a recent General Counsel Studio Executive Dinner held at Il Villaggio, in Carlstadt, NJ. Mr. Denenberg, who is responsible for negotiating agreements and helping manage relationships involving all facets of NBAE’s domestic and international media business — including television, film, radio, music, digital media, photography, and talent —addressed a group of the metropolitan area’s top legal executives. Andrew Zezas, Publisher of CFO Studio magazine and Host of General Counsel Studio, facilitated the conversation; Mr. Denenberg was discussion leader.

The NBA’s focus on social media has helped the organization connect with millennials — the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S. The NBA and its stars are active users of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Basketball is also popular on social media platforms like Vine, YouTube, and Snapchat, where short clips and highlights are shared.

Richard Wingate, Esq., Vice President, Human Resources and General Counsel for LG Electronics USA, said his company uses YouTube videos to promote products like its IPS monitors. LG created a YouTube video of a fallaway elevator floor, using its lifelike IPS monitors.

“We put very large screens on the bottom of an elevator and played a video of an elevator falling. There was also a video camera to capture people’s reactions. It was a clever marketing campaign,” said Mr. Wingate.

Showing the Good You Do

Royal DSM is a global science-based company active in health, nutrition, and materials. A challenge the company has faced is that although it is well known in the Netherlands, where its global corporate office is based, the DSM name is not as familiar in the U.S. “As a result, we implemented a variety of public relations initiatives,” said Jason Stephans, Esq., Senior Counsel, DSM North America. “This was inclusive of a social media campaign by creating DSMTV News, available both internally and externally on YouTube.” Episodes focus on a different aspect of the diverse company every month.

For example, “DSM is heavily involved in causes like Vitamin Angels and the World Food Program. These are groups that help provide DSM-fortified food products to developing countries. Discussing this initiative via social media allows us to show that DSM is not just focusing on profit, but is passionate about making the world a better place. This social media campaign has generated a lot more attention for DSM, inside as well as outside the nutrition industry,” explained Mr. Stephans.

NBA Cares is the basketball league’s global community outreach initiative that addresses important social issues, including education, youth and family development, and health and wellness. “We used to have multiple different things we participated in, from reading programs to staying-in-school initiatives. With NBA Cares we have put them all under one umbrella in order to have a more consistent impact and to try to raise a collective social consciousness,” said Mr. Denenberg.

Spinning a Web

Social media is ephemeral, and that means you must have a strong website to serve as a permanent home. “A website can be a strong marketing tool,” said Jay Sabin, Esq., General Counsel, Grocery Haulers, a third-party logistics operator based inWoodbridge, NJ.

Mr. Denenberg responded that most millennials do not visit websites. They turn to social networks like Instagram and Snapchat to keep informed. “It’s a different world. Kids are not watching television the way we did when we were growing up, although thankfully, they’re still watching sports. There is very little appointment viewing anymore. They watch when they want to watch, and they are consuming our content on a variety of devices,” said Mr. Denenberg.

It’s not just millennials who have made that type of switch. Netflix, not exactly a millennial brand, has more than 65 million streaming members in more than 50 countries. “It is the fastest-growing stock this year,” added Mr. Sabin.

Not all the companies represented at the dinner have social media platforms. “We are an old-school business focused on bricks and mortar,” said Cindy Birnbaum Ronson, Esq., Vice President and General Counsel, Teterboro, NJ–based A&E Stores, Inc., a company that operates Strawberry, Pay/half, and Bolton’s stores. Its shops are in high-traffic areas like Grand Central Station in NewYork City. “We have some of the most beautiful mannequins in the city. People see our mannequins and they draw them into the store.”

Mark Goldberg, Esq., General Counsel, Bluestar Silicones USA Corporation, a fully integrated silicone manufacturer, based in East Brunswick, NJ, emphasized “the importance of a robust website.” In the case of his company, regulatory and product data sheets are posted on the site.

Financing a Marketing Effort

David Persing, Esq., Senior Vice President and General Counsel, New York City– based Metromedia Company, Inc., a media holding company, shared with the dinner guests his experience working for Major League Baseball in the 1990s. He asked Mr. Denenberg if the NBA has a joint-financing arrangement for its teams.

The NBA has a league-wide credit facility, said Mr. Denenberg. The facility is secured by the NBA’s national media revenues and other NBA-related assets, and allows participating teams to obtain favorable financing.

The NBA’s team marketing and business operations department, or TMBO, is responsible for developing, compiling, analyzing, and sharing among teams ways to drive franchise profitability. “We believe in the sharing of best practices,” said Mr. Denenberg. “Teams compete on the floor, but they don’t compete on the business side.”

“You really work for all 30 teams,”Mark Weller, Esq., former Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Linde North America, a world-leading gases and engineering company, pointed out to Mr. Denenberg.

NBA’s Global Reach

Media helps build a market globally. The NBA operates on a global stage. Tweets, videos, and other posts are available in faraway places. Mr. Weller asked Mr. Denenberg about perceptions of the NBA in other parts of the world. “We recognize the global popularity of basketball and continue to look for opportunities to grow the game and our business,” said Mr. Denenberg. “We regularly play pre-season (and sometimes regular season) games overseas, and there is huge interest in our players and products,” he added. “There are millions of people watching our games in China, which is great, but there are other countries where we’re still trying to stoke interest. It’s hard to believe that in 1983, the NBA Finals were broadcast on tape delay. We are now broadcast in more than 210 countries live around the world.”

Jens Obermuller, Esq., Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary of New York City–based Symrise, a global supplier of fragrances, flavorings, cosmetic base materials and substances, as well as functional ingredients, mentioned the popularity of cricket in India and Pakistan. “We are a little myopic here in the United States. The world is doing other stuff,” said Mr. Obermuller.

The NBA recently entered into a relationship with Tencent Holdings Limited, a leading provider of comprehensive Internet services in China. As the official digital partner of the NBA in China, Tencent will feature a record number of live games and deliver enhanced original NBA programming and highlights, including pre-season and regular-season games, NBA All-Star, the NBA Playoffs, The Finals, NBA Summer League, and the NBA Draft, through personal computers and mobile devices.

Screenshot (64)Streaming Technology Grows

A star of this year’s South by Southwest conference was Meerkat, a live-streaming video app. Another live-streaming app, Periscope, was acquired by Twitter in January. These apps are impacting televised sports. Take the highly anticipated boxing match between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, which sold for $100 on pay-per-view. Many in attendance took matters into their own hands and held up their phones and streamed footage for free to the world via these apps.

“Our media rights are very significant to us, so we’re keeping a close eye on this new streaming technology,” said Mr. Denenberg. Mr. Wingate compared this new technology to music streaming. “We will have to outlaw it or capitalize on it,” he said.

Mr. Stephans asked if the NBA gets involved with the social media platforms of its players. “Our players don’t wear helmets and are easily identifiable. When they connect with fans it benefits us, so we think it’s great that so many of our players are adept at social media,” responded Mr. Denenberg.

By 2016, there are expected to be more than 2 billion social media users. “Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook — that’s where millennials are consuming content. You can’t ignore the fact that they are on their phones, laptops, and iPads simultaneously, so we are very focused on that. … We’re out there experimenting with many different platforms to figure out the best way to reach a diverse audience,” said Mr. Denenberg.

Mr. Wingate agreed. “My son played Little League baseball, which he enjoyed, but it’s hard to get him to watch an entire game on television. He is fine with a video game. My generation is the TV generation, his generation is the interactive generation. They want to be involved in it, not just watch it.”

Looking Toward the Future

What does the future hold for the NBA? “Our calling, which we take very seriously, is to ‘Compete with Intensity, Lead with Integrity, and Inspire Play.’ So we’d like to be true to that calling, continue to stress social responsibility, fitness, and the global nature of our game,” concluded Mr. Denenberg. Other customer-focused companies, take note.

Bang The Drum Softly


As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q4 2015 Issue


BY JULIE BARKERScreenshot (46)

Glenn Turell works in an entrepreneurial environment. As CFO at Elias Arts Holdings LLC, his role includes looking at potential partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions for a company whose motto is “A more powerful way to use music.”

Turell enjoys the TV show Shark Tank, and when he attended the CFO Innovation Conference & Awards last May at MetLife Stadium, he eagerly took a seat in the audience for the “Piranha Tank” session, where angel investors would judge the viability of four business ideas being pitched.

After that session, he sought out the presenter of one particular pitch for funding, Mihai Dinulescu, and a partnership developed.

Elias, with offices in New York and Los Angeles, composes and arranges custom music for a wide variety of audio uses, including commercials, TV shows, and films, and also houses a world-class library of already prepared music and sounds available for commercial licensing. The company also creates sound identities, such as the “We Are Farmers” audio logo, or the tinkling tones that accompany Columbia Pictures’ logo at the start of that studio’s films. “I’ve always been interested in the effects of music on the brain,” says Turell. Once he and Dinulescu began talking, both of them became intrigued by the possibilities of an alliance between Elias and Sonzia, a company in its embryonic growth stage that Dinulescu and his partners incorporated in December 2014. Their initial work is helping children on the autism spectrum.

Assistive Technology

Sonzia’s core technology is low-cost, large-scale touch screens that enable children with certain sensory disabilities to access and use the digital world. “We’re a software company that happens to make hardware because no one was making it in a way that was accessible and durable,” says Dinulescu. “But we’re really a software company, and we’re trying to provide a safe environment for people to develop and learn.”

The company, which is based in Boston, is creating immersive rooms with floor-to-ceiling projections to help teach young children with autism to, for instance, dine out in a restaurant or cross the street safely.

Someone with autism may become overwhelmed or distressed by loud or sharp noises. Sonzia has therefore seen the need for sensory-friendly versions of the sounds it uses in its interfaces. “If you’re trying to teach someone to cross the street, it’s important to have sounds that signify danger, but you don’t want to make the activity terrifying,” says Dinulescu.

The creative team at Elias is now developing sounds for Sonzia that would be less disconcerting to the children. They are bringing out audio tones’ softer side—which is in fact “A more powerful way to use music.”

The companies have what Turell calls “a nice back-and-forth.” Sonzia has been working with experts at Purdue University, asking, “How could the screeching car sound be modified to be more sensory friendly?” The team at Elias then creates the sound, and it goes through a couple of iterations before, says Dinulescu, “we end up getting something that you would recognize as a car screeching but it wouldn’t be disturbing.” A balloon popping would sound more like a bubble popping.

When Dinulescu met Turell, he realized that in partnership, the two companies could expand the uses of these sounds. Sonzia will work on an SDK (software development kit) that will allow other companies to use Sonzia’s library of sounds, with accompanying visuals, to develop their own applications for people with sensory disabilities. Elias will work with Sonzia to develop the library of music and functional sounds, while also providing the library infrastructure and administration. That company is now building the separate sensory-friendly library that, for instance, video-game producers might tap into so as to expand into the demographic of gamers with autism.

Stimulating WorkScreenshot (47)

Turell came back to his New York office, after his encounter with Dinulescu at the CFO Innovation Conference, excited about the many possibilities of working together. “I always thought that for a company of our stature, it would be great to participate in this field” — that is, the space where music intersects with helping people who have certain diseases. “Music has already been proven to have a positive impact on healing, but there is much more that can be done to expand the utilization of audio within the health field,” he adds. He liked the idea of using music for a higher purpose.

Others in his company, from the chairman to the creative staff and the producers, Turell says, were enthusiastic about the idea. Not only is it stimulating to be working on something different, but “all of a sudden we can do something that’s going to have a much different benefit and can directly help many, many people.”

In the first weeks after their partnership got under way, Sonzia provided a list of “experiential stimuli” they needed for their interfaces: a balloon popping, an electric razor running, cars, and sirens, among them, as well as some music and ambient sounds, like rainfall.

Sounds can be visualized on a sound file, where they exhibit sharp pulses that Elias’ team, with some training from the clinical experts, softened. In this way, the sounds would be less distressing for an autistic person to hear.

The partnership agreement has the two companies sharing development costs and revenues. At this point, the agreement is open-ended. The companies are focused on autism for the initial period, but there are various disabilities for which a sensory-friendly library could be useful. “We’re working together in continuing to build this,” says Turell. “The library will have applications not only for autism, but also for other disabilities such as Parkinson’s and possibly Down Syndrome, among others.”

The partners hope someday to see large companies recognize the need to reach people with sensory disabilities. Not only is this a growing population (the Centers for Disease Control cites studies showing that one in 68 U.S. children has an autism-spectrum disorder and that the prevalence of the disease grew 119 percent from 2000 to 2010), it is underserved in terms of available leisure activities.

Turell and Dinulescu hope that by identifying and modifying sounds that are distressing to the autism population, they will make it possible for autistic children to interact rather than retract from society and certain types of media. There may someday be major motion pictures dubbed for autistic viewers, and video games that use sensory-friendly sounds.

Says Turell: “We’re going to continue to build this partnership and explore many other opportunities to help people in the future.”

Andrew Zezas, SIOR, Real Estate Strategies Corporation’s CEO Receives Largest Transaction Award


(Somerset, New Jersey): Real Estate Strategies Corporation, the New Jersey based corporate real estate advisory and transaction services firm announced today that its CEO, Andrew Zezas, received an award from the prestigious New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (“SIOR”).  The award, given in acknowledgment of the Largest Cooperating Real Estate Transaction between two members of SIOR, was for the lease renegotiation and the resulting 115,000 square foot lease transaction, which Mr. Zezas completed in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, on behalf of Belgium based Agfa Corporation. Andrew Zezas was quoted as saying, “I’m extremely pleased that SIOR, an incredibly important organization comprised of some of the finest real estate professionals in the world, saw fit to acknowledge the Agfa project.  We truly appreciate having received the award, and having been given the opportunity by Agfa to accomplish good things on their behalf.” The Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (“SIOR”) is an ethics based organization, and is the leading professional commercial and industrial real estate association, with more than 3,000 members in 580 cities in 26 countries.  SIOR represents today’s most knowledgeable, experienced and successful commercial real estate brokerage specialists.

Real Estate Strategies Corporation is a respected corporate advisory and transaction services firm that provides thought-leadership, decision-making, planning, project management and transaction execution services to financial and senior executives at management team-led public, private, and portfolio companies, and not-for-profit organizations.  Under the leadership of its award-winning CEO, Andrew B. Zezas, RealStrat’s clients engage the firm when acquiring, disposing, renegotiating, or enhancing occupied leased or owned real estate in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and throughout North America. By creating and executing Business DRIVEN Real Estate Solutions and identifying hidden Opportunities, RealStrat drives greater operational and financial performance in support of its clients’ stakeholder objectives, M&A requirements, and exit strategies. In the current economic environment, RealStrat’s efforts are focused on uncovering, capturing, and re-purposing hidden liquidity and minimizing risk in its clients’ leased and owned real estate. The firm provides counsel as to competitive advantage strategies in preparation for the eventual economic recovery. By restructuring existing leases, disposing of surplus property, structuring sale / leaseback transactions, securing new and replacement financing, and acquiring leased or owned real estate, RealStrat reduces its clients’ occupancy costs and risk, and increases their operational flexibility and resiliency. Many of the firm’s clients have realized multiple seven-figure present value cash benefits through the creative planning and execution of these strategies.

Visit www.RealStrat.com.

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