Crypt TV Wants to Build Marvel for Horror Fans By Scaring People on Their Mobile Phones
October 28, 2020
Jack Davis founded Crypt TV as part of a fun stunt on the long-defunct video platform Vine. Since then, with the help of Hollywood studio Blumhouse, the entrepreneur amassed a big audience of young horror fans who are more than comfortable watching scripted, scary content on their mobile phones. After conquering Facebook Watch and YouTube, Crypt TV has its sights set on TV, and Davis wants to build a stable of characters in the vein of the mega-successful Marvel.
Mike Shields (18s):
Hey Guys. This is Mike Shields. And this week on Next in Marketing, I spoke to Jack Davis, Co-Founder of the horror content start up, Crypt TV, just in time for Halloween. We talked about how Crypt got the attention of producer, Jason Blum, of Blumhouse, the folks behind “Get Out”, by making six seconds scary videos for Vine, back in the day. We also talked about how his company has built an audience for original scripted content at both YouTube and Facebook and how Crypt is able to balance its revenue model between advertising and selling shows to streaming platforms, like Netflix. Let’s get started.
Mike Shields (50s):
Hi everybody. Welcome to the Next in Marketing. I’ve got a really special guest this week. It’s sort of a special Halloween episode. Jack Davis, who is the founder of Crypt TV. Hey Jack.
Jack Davis (56s): How’s it going, Mike?
Mike Shields (57s):
Good to see you. We have not talked in a while. This used to be an annual tradition, we talk around this time of year, but I’m excited to reconnect.
Jack Davis (1m 4s):
It was an annual tradition and its back. That’s all that matters.
Mike Shields (1m 10s): Perfectly timed for the season.
Jack Davis (1m 12s): We are starting a new streak.
Mike Shields (1m 13s):
Yeah. I feel like I see you though on, on Twitter with a lot of your [inaudible] anxiety, your hairline anxieties. So, I feel like we are connected, but I’m glad that we’re here today.
Jack Davis (1m 21s):
You know, I don’t want to speak too confidently, but I don’t think I’ll ever get canceled on Twitter, because the only thing that I do on Twitter is self, is self deprecate. So, you know…
Mike Shields (1m 33s):
You hurt only yourself. That’s true.
Jack Davis (1m 34s):
I’m telling everyone what my flaws are. I’m not trying to conceal them. I’m being very open about them.
Mike Shields (1m 39s): No, you are helping people, if anything, I feel like.
Jack Davis (1m 41s): Yeah.
Mike Shields (1m 42s):
But anyway, I have known you for a while or I don’t know if everybody knows Crypt TV, but give me your origin story, how you got into this business. And then maybe let’s talk about the company.
Jack Davis (1m 54s):
Crypt is like Marvel for monsters. Marvel started building iconic superheroes in the comic book because that’s where young people were digesting their content. And of course, Marvel has turned into the most culturally relevant brand in America, perhaps on TV shows and movies and theme parks, and t-shirts. That’s what Crypt wants to do, but we do it with monsters. And we start building our monsters on YouTube, because there’s obviously a huge young audience there, really digesting and falling in love with IP and Instagram and Facebook. And yes, we’ve done some Tik Toks. So, we create monster IP to try and be the leader of scary for Gen Z. And then we’ve turned our monster IP into TV shows and t-shirts, and in non-COVID times, at live events and theme parks.
Jack Davis (2m 39s):
So, long way to go to be Marvel, but that’s sort of the vision. And the reason we started on the internet, versus the comic book is because of the ability to reach young people, who hopefully fall in love with these characters forever in the millions.
Mike Shields (2m 53s):
The Marvel framing is really helpful for people to understand your company. But like, let’s go back to when you, when do you, when do you have this idea, what are you doing? How does it become something?
Jack Davis (3m 3s):
So, I started Crypt like…
Mike Shields (3m 5s):
I feel like 11 or something.
Jack Davis (3m 6s):
Yeah, well, I had hair when I started it, so, I can probably get away with different age, age ranges. But I started Crypt less than a year after I graduated college. And the real inspiration was, I’m from Los Angeles. I moved elsewhere for college. Came back to L.A. and I had seen that the industry, in my opinion, hadn’t really recognized the gravity of the trend towards a younger consumer consuming content on their phone. To consuming YouTube or Instagram as endemic entertainment vs just a marketing channel. So, I was like, wow, this is really a way young people are consuming content and no one’s doing it for scary.
Jack Davis (3m 47s):
And scary, having just grown up in the entertainment business, is a huge genre. And you know, it’s kind of become very fancy lately. I’m very grateful for the Jordan Peele’s and Jason Blum’s of the world, who have helped bring scary to prominence in a critical sense, but it’s always been there in an audience sense, in a box office sense. That was, that has always been true, even when it’s been less fancy. So, I was like, there’s a real lane to kind of own this young consumer for this genre via these platforms. And I think I just saw that lane because entertainment can be very, a bubble. And its funny living here now, that you have to kind of remind yourself not to get too lost in the bubble. But I spent four years in North Carolina, going to college, where you really saw that the big changes in consumer behavior weren’t being talked about in Los Angeles.
Mike Shields (4m 33s):
So, okay. This is when? Around?
Jack Davis (4m 35s):
I was in college, 2010 to 2014. So, fall 2010 to May 2014 and Crypt officially launched April 2015. So, just under a year after I graduated.
Mike Shields (4m 46s):
Surely, Hollywood I’m sure is at that time, grasping that people are using social media for, to communicate and it, and it’s usually to see, or they think of it as UGC or creators, I guess, but they’re not thinking about it.
Jack Davis (4m 57s):
I think, yes and no. I think yes and no. I think, yes people realize it, but it’s normal. I mean, this is ultimate, you know, Clayton Christensen innovator’s dilemma, it’s normal for people to only prioritize the thing that’s making the most amount of money, that also is what got them to where they are today. Right? So, I think that, what gave us white space in the beginning, and obviously we have incredible investors who saw that vision early and some of them are in the entertainment space, like Blumhouse is a fantastic company and an investor in NBC Universal So, they invest in it, they saw it, they deserve credit, but I just think even still people don’t necessarily recognize the gravitas of how to, the gravitas of the internet and what it can be used as in a powerful tool.
Jack Davis (5m 43s):
And obviously there’s the difference between us building endemic content with an internet fanbase than Netflix. But even in 2014, 2015, when I moved back, the focus on streamers and [inaudible] wasn’t as high, I mean, you know, the truth is cable TV and network TV is still a really good business. I think that now everyone acknowledges the paid TV decline, and it’s so obvious, but back then, you know, it’s, you can forget how things change in six or seven years and how different the attitude was.