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Now National Lampoon is
more than just a funny magazine, focusing on their book publishing while adding a college
television network, internet content and radio programming
National Lampoon, Inc.
8228 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Douglas S. Bennett
President and CFO
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
June 29, 2006
Douglas S. Bennett, President & CFO
Mr. Bennett has over 25 years of experience in managing businesses in the media and
publishing space. He is currently the President & CFO for National Lampoon, Inc.
National Lampoon is one of the most recognized brands in the comedy and entertainment
industry today. Prior to this he was the President of iUniverse, Inc., the largest
independent publisher in the United States. iUniverse produced over 5,000 titles a year
all via the internet. Prior to this he was the Chairman & CEO of EoExchange, Inc., an
internet search engine business from 1992 until 2000 Mr. Bennett worked for Macmillan
Publishing, the largest computer book and reference publisher in the world. He started
with Macmillan in the software and internet piece of the business and eventually became
the President of the entire Macmillan Publishing business.
National Lampoon, Inc. (AMEX: NLN) is active in a broad array of entertainment segments,
including feature films, television programming, interactive entertainment, home video,
audio CDs and book publishing. The Company also owns interests in all major National
Lampoon properties, including National Lampoon's Animal House, the National Lampoon
Vacation series and National Lampoon's van Wilder. The National Lampoon Network serves
over 600 colleges and universities throughout the United States. The network reaches as
many as 4.8 million students, or nearly one in four of all 18 to 24 year old college
students. In addition, the Company operates a, www.nationallampoon.com, the modern-day
successor to the legendary National Lampoon magazine, plus the National Lampoon Humor
Network and www.TogaTV.com, its first broadband, video-on-demand service, on the Internet.
The Company has four operating divisions: National Lampoon Network, Entertainment
Division, Publishing Division and Licensing Division.
CEOCFO: Mr. Bennett, what attracted you to the company?
Mr. Bennett: The gentleman that actually led the
takeover of National Lampoon back in May of 2002 was an acquaintance of mine back in my
days of living in Indianapolis, when I used to run Macmillan Publishers Limited. He told
me that he had the opportunity to take over what was a large media brand that had not done
a lot in the media business in terms of new content for quite some time. I said, well
who is that? He said it was National Lampoon and I said, youve got to be
kidding me. I thought that was a huge company and he said no, they have
basically just done a few movies over the last ten years and have been living off the
royalties. I went down to help them out, get started back up, and develop a
publishing program. Therefore, it was an acquaintance that got me involved with the
company by the name of Daniel S. Laikin, who is now our CEO. He and I formed the
management company that for the last four years have been reenergizing the brand National
Lampoon to bring it back to being the media business that it once was. That is what really
attracted me to it; the chance to use a lot of my experience that I had from my publishing
career back to what was a venerable brand.
CEOCFO: You have
launched a new book publishing division, will you tell us about that?
Mr. Bennett: National Lampoon Press is our first foray
back into publishing since the mid 1990s; the magazine was published up until about
1995 or 1996. At that point, it was only once a year, so it hadnt been a monthly
publishing since the late 80s. We looked at how we started and publishing is what
created the stories that created Animal House, Vacation, and Christmas Vacation. All of
those movies came out of stories that were in the magazine. We thought that now that we
had our feet under us as a management team that we knew where the opportunities existed.
We looked at the magazine business first and found that it was cost prohibitive and that
the market changed drastically since the days when National Lampoon was at its peak in the
1970s and 1980s. However, when we looked at book publishing we saw an
opportunity to do what we wanted to do, which was put out 10 or 12 titles a year much like
a monthly magazine. In addition, this would allow our contributors, our writers and all of
our writing staff the creative opportunity to create content, not only in print but
online, and hopefully act as the impetus for us to do future television and film projects.
CEOCFO: Who is the
Mr. Bennett: Before Dan took over the company, he ran a
brand survey with Interbrand Corporation and found out that at the time, National Lampoon
had a 93% brand recognition with males between the age of 15 and 50. We further progressed
that study and found on college campuses, we had a 96% brand recognition. What was
interesting about that was that 68% of that sampling knew us for general comedy, which
means they remembered our movies. Only 18% even remembered we had a magazine, which means
that is the older demographics. Our primary pursuit today, is the 18-24, 18-34 year-old
audience; college and right out of college.
CEOCFO: How are you
going to reach them with the new venture?
Mr. Bennett: We have several platforms to reach that
audience. We currently have a college television network called National Lampoon College
that features over 600 universities, close to five million students and we will be doing a
lot of advertising on National Lampoon College related to our different publishing
ventures, different books that we have coming out. We also have a really exciting venture
that we just launched called, TOGATV.COM, which is our broadband effort. It primarily is
our National Lampoon College programming or content, ported over to broadband. We have
found that kids wanted to watch our programming at odd hours and this was a perfect way of
doing it. Nationallampoon.com is also featuring the book prominently on the site.
Therefore, we will be using these vehicles to advertise our first book coming out called,
The Saddam Dump; it is a satire or parody of Saddam sitting in his jail cell doing a blog.
We have a dancing Saddam that we are putting out on the web in a viral nature, but then we
will also be doing a version of that on TOGATV.COM. We will use our broadband effort, our
websites and of course we also have a National Lampoon radio, which we are putting
together two and three-hour segments; it runs on XM satellite and other terrestrial based
radio stations. We will advertise our books there as well.
CEOCFO: Will the books
be in bookstores or for sale online?
Mr. Bennett: Both. We will be in Barnes & Nobles
(NYSE: BKS), Borders Group, Inc. (NYSE: BGP), Hastings Entertainment (NASDAQ: HAST), and
hopefully Target Corporation and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) as well as in
independent and college bookstores. We will be in the traditional method of purchasing
books, but also have it in Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) etc. We will also have it on our
website, so there will be plenty of places to find our products.
CEOCFO: Will you tell us
about your new philosophy?
Mr. Bennett: In the 1970s, National Lampoon was
known for its irreverent cutting-edge comedy in taking on institutions,
anti-establishment, very 70s as well as a lot of nudity. It had its place for its
time. In all of our research, we have found that National Lampoon today is more known as
general comedy, more college based humor. There is some nudity but only as an accident as
opposed to a girls gone wild situation. We are more about Chevy Chase and the
comedy of Vacation movies. We are still irreverent satire but not always trying to take on
everything and everybody. College kids today go for that sophomoric humor. We will take on
institutions, but we are going to have fun with it. The fact that we have our first book
coming out of Saddam blogging in a jail cell is very National Lampoon. The comments that
he makes and so on, are not trying to take on every political establishment and every
cultural event, it is more just comedy.
CEOCFO: You just
announced an alliance with Ckrush (OTC: CKRH), will you tell us about that and what you
see in the future in terms of partnerships?
Mr. Bennett: We are hoping to work together on
developing and producing some films together. We plan on utilizing our content and outside
content. We have several partnerships like this, but this is one we are particularly
excited about. We will continue to put together these kinds of relationships whereby we
have outside parties that we partner with that have more experience in actually producing
and developing different products such as films, but then we will enhance it by adding the
creative element of our creative writing staff. We will be involved in that creativity
aspect and will bring expertise to the production assets of any venture that we do. That
is what this one is.
CEOCFO: How large a part
of National Lampoon will your book publishing be?
Mr. Bennett: There are three primary elements that we
believe are going to drive National Lampoon now and in the future. There is one that has
not been launched yet and we are working on it and that is that we hope at some point to
have our own 24-hour cable channel; something along the lines of Comedy Central. We think
there is room for more than one comedy channel. There are multiple mens channels,
multiple outdoor channels, but there is only one comedy channel, and we feel that National
Lampoon has a very strong brand that we feel could carry a second channel. Publishing is
another major deal for us because it relates to what we are trying to accomplish and
getting content, giving a creative outlet for our writers and contributors, and hopefully
use it as a basis to come up with new ideas for new products. Finally, there is media,
which relates to our efforts on broadband, and nationallampoon.com as well as our National
Lampoon College as it relates to our college television. Media to us is business that is
supported by ad and sponsorship dollars. Those are our three primary drivers for the
CEOCFO: Will you tell us
about the financial picture?
Mr. Bennett: We are still a small company and very
proud of the fact that we have doubled our revenues every year ever since new management
has been in place. We have a long way to go in terms of being where we want to be and
making a presence in the media stage. When you consider the fact that we are not a big
conglomerate, we are doing it on resources that have been provided by our secondary
offering as well as funds that have been generated from our initial investors that helped
buy out the company, which is even more of an accomplishment. We are excited about what we
are doing. We now believe that we finally have the basics in place that will allow
revenues to grow at a faster clip than they are today. The proof is in the pudding.
Between publishing what we are doing on the internet today, and hopefully what happens on
the cable channel; all of those things bode well for our financial picture.
CEOCFO: In closing, why
is this a good time for potential investors to be interested and what should people
realize about the company that doesnt jump off the page?
Mr. Bennett: What investors may not know is that the
last four years we have spent a lot of time and effort with our heads down, building the
basic building blocks for a business. We put the organization in place, we believe we have
the products in development; the products coming online that all the hard work we put in
over the last four years are going to finally start to pay off. We are not using our
dollars any longer to build out infrastructure, we are using our dollars now to build out
new product and that is not easily recognizable as it relates to our financials. Again, we
have a lot of work to do and there are a lot of good things going on. As far as a new
investor in our company, I think you have to have a long-term approach to us. We have a
lot of great things, but in the entertainment industry and the media space in general,
sometimes some of these movies and television products are coming on line but you dont
really start seeing the revenue for 12-18 months afterwards, so this is a long-term
investment. Long-term, I believe in the next 3-5 years, we are really going to see the
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