Finding the way to make internet content pay off

ALMOST every Brit has heard of Kelvin MacKenzie: the opinionated, controversial editor of the Sun newspaper in the 1980s and early 1990s who went on to become a succesful media entrepreneur. His son Ashley’s story however is also interesting – and comparatively little known. Unlike the rest of the MacKenzie family, he did not become a journalist. “Everyone in my family is a journalist: my grandparents were journalists, my mum and dad met working on a local newspaper, my sister and brother are journalists, even my cousins – they’re all journalists. I’m not gifted in writing though, so I never thought about it,” he says.

Ashley went into business, working his way up to director level in marketing and advertising, only to be poached by his own dad to become the sales controller for Talk Radio UK, before moving up to become the general manager for Talksport and then managing director for Independent Local Radio, the firm that grew into the Wireless Group and was sold to UTV Media.

Ashley’s cut of the profits gave him the capital he needed to start his own venture in 2007: MyVideoRights, recently rebranded as Base79. The idea no doubt sprang from the experiences of his family: “People who create video media, the content creators, get nothing. As soon as they produce something, it ends up online, on YouTube, being viewed for free.” Base79 hopes to change that. Working on behalf of big hitters like the Football Association and Ministry of Sound, it monetises the video content that ends up online for the creator by reclaiming the rights to the footage and placing advertising around it. “It’s based on the basic belief that the guy that came up with the idea and created the video should get paid for it.”

The sum he got from the sale of the Wireless Group was not enough to make the start-up process easy. “My father made lots of money, I made some,” he laughs. To expand to America, where Ashley and his family now live, he had to pull his kids out of school and earn nothing while the company launched out there. “Starting a business is impossible unless you have a really supportive family,” he says. The gamble has paid off, however. The company has attracted £2.75m of investment for its expansion plans.

Bluntly, Ashley says he’s glad he moved for the business. “There’s a very different business culture in the States: the speed in which you can attract investment is extraordinary and the market is so much bigger because the BBC isn’t there to halve the market – the BBC is a commercial media killer.” He might not have gone into journalism, but he’s certainly as opinionated as his father.

Company name: Base79

Number of staff: 30

Company revenue: below £10m per year

Job title: Founder and chief executive

Age: 39

Born: Dartford, Kent

Lives: Old Greenwich, Connecticut, USA

Studied: Biology & geography, Bristol University

Drinking: White wine

Reading: Lord of the Rings

Idol: Simon Cowell

Favourite business book: Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Groves

Motto: “Jump, you might just fly.”

First ambition: “It was to play cricket for England.”