It takes moxie to swim with the sharks, but thanks to ‘girl power,’ that’s exactly what Manhattan Beach, California-based MXG Media is doing. Literally, the company sent camera crews to the Island of Bimini in the Bahamas recently to shoot an episode of X-Girls, featuring Gen Y athletes scuba diving in shark-infested waters. Figuratively, the three-year-old start-up company has plans to go big-time by launching its own cross-media network ‘built for girls.’
Just a gleam in the eyes of Harvard Business School grads Stuart MacFarlane and Hunter Heaney a few years ago, thanks to a US$5-million cash injection from Urban Outfitters in 1997 and a US$26-million investment from USA Network last November, MXG Media is fast becoming a multimedia mini-empire. MXG magazine, which doubles as a mail order catalog, started things off and has now reached a 500,000 girl subscriber base in the U.S. MXGonline.com launched next, with MXGtv.com finally getting the girls on the air (via the Web) last January.
Rob Swartz, who was hired away from Touchstone and Walt Disney Television last November to head up the on-line venture, says the four-minute streaming video shows spring straight from the magazine. Content will focus on extreme sports, music, celebrities, fashion and general lifestyle information-delivered with playful confidence and an irreverent style. For instance, the first show, Fashion Junkies, will steer away from asking stars such as Carly Pope (Popular) what it’s like to work on the set, focusing instead on what MXG girls really want to know, such as: When she eats the junkiest of all junk foods, what does she like to pig out on?
X-Girls, the second show launching on-line, will take the regular magazine feature starring athletes such as world champion mountain boarder Jen Romans and professional traditional longboarder Belén Connelly to streaming video. In each episode, four girls go on an extreme adventure-from rock-climbing to skydiving. Other upcoming shows include Cipher’s animated series Stick Girl and Pseudo Network’s 88HipHop and Lilith and Eve.
Right from the start, MXG has fused business with pleasure, mixing ads for its mail order girl gear with the articles in the magazine, and the on-line venture is no different. In X-Girls, the stars are decked out in clothing and accessories from the MXG catalog, as well as sporting logos from on-line advertisers such as Kodak, L2 and Billabong. When on-line moxie girls see something they like, they can just scroll over and click on the desired item to buy.
MXG has already shot a 30-minute X-Girls TV pilot and is currently shopping for a TV distributor. While Swartz agrees that USA Network is an obvious choice to air the upcoming series (given its minority investment in MXG), he stresses that there is no obligation on either side to hook up. Swartz says he expects to announce a distributor ‘relatively soon.’