The biggest challenge Millsap faces is saturation in the streaming service market. The giants are already big: Netflix, Amazon, Apple, ViacomCBS Streaming (Paramount+), NBCUniversal (Peacock), Disney, Hulu and WarnerMedia (HBO Max). There is no shortage of niche subscription streaming services for, say, horror (Shudder), Black audiences (BET+, ALLBLK), British fare (Acorn, Britbox) and classic films (Criterion). And there are free streaming services galore including Tubi and Crackle. These companies have already signed many major actors, directors and producers to exclusive deals.
Millsap said he is in talks with big-name Hollywood writers, directors and actors to create and appear in original productions and take equity positions in the company. He said he hopes to streamline the approval process and provide TV and film makers plenty of creative freedom. He admires Quentin Tarantino and would love that type of iconoclastic content creator to shoot a film or series for him.
“The world we are going to create is going to be a mecca for all these creatives who want to be set free to express the fullness of their imaginative minds,” Millsap said, noting he wants to create an “entrepreneurial ecosystem for content creators.”
While Georgia has become a major hub for TV and film productions, most creative talent is still based in Los Angeles and New York. He hopes to change that. Some existing Atlanta-based production companies include Tyler Perry Studios, Crazy Legs Productions and Swirl Films.
“Georgia needs a company like Blackhall Americana to emerge that creates real local wealth like Coca-Cola or Home Depot that might allow the state’s entertainment industry to become self-sufficient,” Millsap said.
Millsap’s goal is to take the initial $300 million investment in Blackhall Americana and build a business to the size of Netflix over five to seven years. Netflix generated $25 billion in revenue last year with $2.76 billion in net profit and has continued to grow this year with hits like “Squid Game” and the latest season of “You.”
Blackhall Americana hopes to begin streaming original content by the first quarter 2023, ten years after Netflix launched its first original scripted series, “House of Cards,” and began changing the way tens of millions watch content.
He doesn’t have immediate plans to buy existing content, which is comparable to the Apple model of creating just original films and TV shows. If he does end up purchasing existing TV series or films, he would want that content to be exclusive, he said.
Millsap opened Blackhall Studios, which has nine sound stages, in 2017. It’s been home to several big-budget movies and TV shows such as HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” “Godzilla: King of Monsters,” “Venom,” Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” and Amazon Prime’s “The Tomorrow War.” He sold controlling interest of the studio in the spring to Los Angeles-based private equity firm Commonwealth Group, providing himself and his investors a strong rate of return. (He signed an agreement that prevents him from saying how much he made.)
The idea of the streaming service came to Millsap two years ago when a college friend, a Navy SEAL who went by a pen name Mark Owen, was producing a successful show on CBS “SEAL Team.” Owen told Millsap that in Los Angeles, a show like that was not well respected, that liberals in town were not big on guns or the military. Millsap thought America needed more shows like “SEAL Team,” “NCIS” and “Blue Bloods,” all hit shows on CBS.
Millsap, a Missouri native who has spent much of his career in real estate, studied which streaming services were out there and felt there weren’t enough action/adventure options. To him, Americans are drawn to rebels, to heroes, to mavericks. He grew up loving “Commando,” “Rambo,” “Top Gun” and “Indiana Jones.” He believes there is a space for a streaming service focused on those types of movies as well, citing more recent films like “Black Hawk Down” or “John Wick.”
Short-lived streaming service Quibi, which drew a whopping $1.75 billion in investments, is a cautionary tale, dying after just six months last year, with investors losing most of their money. Its effort to create 10-minute series for “on the go” commuters didn’t stick, especially as it launched during a pandemic when most Americans were forced to stay at home.