This month, we welcome Christopher Culver, CEO, Health Media Network , Stamford, Connecticut
- Please tell us how you got into this field? What is your background and what spurred the founding of Health Media Network?
My primary background is media and marketing as it applies to startups, and turnaround of under-performing media companies. I started in the film business at Omnicom Productions and Filmmaker Labs where I worked my way up from grip/gaffer to cameraman and then ultimately was editor and supervisor of the print production division of the Lab. I loved the film business, but I learned early on that I would rather be marketing the media than producing it.
Since then, as an entrepreneur, I’ve tried to espouse a philosophy of creating accessible, forward-thinking, solutions -oriented media properties. This has included both traditional and non-traditional out-of-home media companies that provide bus shelters, mega wall boards, billboards, and sports stadium signage (at Anaheim Stadium  and the New Orleans Superdome ). During this part of my career, I was part of a management team that built the largest transit advertising company in the United States.
In addition to the out-of-home experience, I also built a successful advertising and media agency (Culver Out-of Home, LLC) and worked with clients such as Time Warner City Cable, Arizona Ice Tea, Armani, Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Bordeaux Wines, the Newspaper National Network and others. I also spent more than a year in London tasked with establishing the distribution, sales and marketing to support the launch of the first major lottery in the United Kingdom.
In 2007, after the sale of Culver Out-of-Home, I launched Health Media Network. We are a digital health and wellness, place-based advertising company which currently reaches over 35,000 doctors in more than 6,500 locations in 185 U.S. DMA’s. HMN media is located in doctors’ offices, large group practices and medical centers across the country. We connect patients and prescribers with the appropriate information to make better, more informed healthcare decisions.
I believe that if businesses can help empower individuals to live healthier lives by being more engaged and educated, consumers and their providers will get more value out of what is a highly critical, complex and intimate relationship between patient and doctor. I am really proud to be making that happen through the services and support HMN provides.
- Who owns the company? Have there been any changes in ownership since the company was founded in 2007? Are there plans to take it public?
Currently, I own the majority of the company and have two terrific partners: Paul Theisen, who has been with the company since its inception, and Stonehenge Capital. There are no plans at this time to take the company pubic.
- You now have 25 different health-related networks, reaching the waiting rooms of more than 35,000 doctors. What software management system(s) do you use and why? Do you use the same for all your networks?
We use Broadsign as our service provider and look forward to continuing to build and extend our relationship with that company as we grow. Broadsign provides the report generating capability and structure that we find crucial in supplying information to our clients.
- You claim that all your original content (other than local news, weather and entertainment) is vetted by medical professionals before airing. Is any of this material sponsored? And I understand that advertisers can also run long advertising/videos (up to four minutes). Is there any vetting of their material, too?
All of our networks are sponsored in the sense that we are an ad-supported network. However, in addition to standard advertising, we also offer opportunities to sponsor various segments throughout the year related to relevant and timely healthcare messaging on a seasonal or content basis.
Long form video can be an important education and information vehicle, and we are strong advocates of delivering the most relevant programming to patients and medical staff in our facilities. All content is reviewed for compliance by medical and legal teams.
- With all of your 25 networks advertising supported, do they all run the same amount of advertising (% vs. editorial)? How much is national vs. local? And how often is the content changed?
Since we are an IP addressable network, we have the ability to segment each screen/office with different content. In general, 25% of the content is advertising with approximately 80% national and 20% local advertisers. Each doctor’s office has the ability to customize messages for staff and patients. For the first time, a physician has a communications system that allows quick and efficient communication of important and relevant messages on a daily basis.
- I see that you recently added both Pain Management and Plastic Surgery networks. Are there still other specialty networks that you hope to add? If so, what and in what time frame?
We are always looking to add new networks and expand our business. In fact, we recently launched our Hispanic and African-American networks. This year, we also made it a priority to establish a pediatric and women’s health network to expand our support for advertisers seeking to reach parents, pediatricians and women’s health care specialists.
Why were you interested in the advertising-supported networks of CARE Media Holdings that you bought recently?
Care Media was a perfect fit for HMN’s portfolio. As I mentioned previously, it was a business priority for HMN to expand our ability to support healthcare providers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and physicians serving children and women. We now have the largest Point-of-Care Women’s Health Network and Pediatric Network in the U.S..
- I notice that, this year, you have also acquired Spectrum Health Network  and WAMG TV , as well as making an equity investment in Apricot Hill. What did each of these add to your offerings? Why did you want them?
Spectrum and WAMG TV were strategic acquisitions that added high prescribing physicians to our network in our core verticals of Diabetes, Cardiology, Oncology and high decile writing primary care physicians. (ie. Physicians who write high quantities of prescriptions.)
Apricot Hill is a terrific investment in terms of bringing healthy and relevant lifestyle messaging to consumers in the Point-of-Care setting, where extended dwell times require appropriate and relevant content.
- Do you find it easier to build a network as you like from scratch or by taking over existing networks. Please tell us your thoughts on the pros and cons?
We built Health Media Network from the ground up for several reasons. First, our vision was to help transform the industry. Four years ago, the category was very fragmented with a proliferation of small companies that lacked operating experience. We wanted to be the first company to build a 100% IP addressable organization comprised of vertical networks. We didn’t want to become another primary care network, but rather, we had our sights set on becoming the largest Diabetes Network, Cardiology Network, Oncology Network, Allergy and Immunology Network. Our goal is to become the largest network for other verticals as well. Second, the industry fragmentation spawned dozens of small and mid-size companies that lacked consistency, continuity and structure.
- Our plan has always been to build organically and acquire companies that compliment and add to our core mission of offering advertisers the most cost efficient and targeted media at the Point-of-Care.
I think the last relevant point is content. The fact that we own our network establishes our unique position and ability to offer content predicated on a best-of-breed mentality. We either produce or acquire the most relevant content for each of our vertical networks. This is extremely important to doctors and patients. No longer are offices forced to run soap operas, cable or network news, programs promoting prime time television or celebrity doctors giving their often-biased opinions. With HMN, we deliver relevant content at the Point-of-Care where consumers are most receptive to it.
- At the moment, I believe that all your networks are in the U.S.. What is your expansion strategy? Do you have plans for Canada, Mexico or beyond North America?
Currently, all of our networks are in the U.S., though we would like to expand into other countries in the future. The short-term goal is to maximize the number of offices and doctors we support within the U.S. and then look at opportunities outside the country. It makes sense presently to focus in the U.S. because this is where the majority of the pharmaceutical brands are, though we do recognize that there are other areas of the world that would benefit from our content and the education we provide.
What kind of analytics/metrics do you use? Is the medical community more or less demanding re metrics, do you think? And are the advertisers on your networks looking for numbers who is watching, for how long, and ROI? Please discuss.
We currently use IMS, MSW, Arbitron  and other research companies to provide very detailed and specific research on ROI and media engagement. We are also differentiate ourselves from our competitors by developing new and innovative research that provides better real-time data on advertising effectiveness, consumer interaction and medical professional acceptance.
For years, advertisers (both pharma and non-pharma) have been eager to develop new analytics/metrics to better measure media efficiency and both qualitative versus quantitative analysis. In the third quarter of this year, we plan to announce the first phase of an improved, qualitative approach to analytics and performance measurement in the point-of-care advertising space.
- How many actual locations and screens do you have? What is your largest network? Are you in hospital waiting rooms as well as doctors’ offices and medical clinics?
We have over 35,000 doctors in 6,500+ locations in 185 U.S. DMA’s. We are in hospital waiting rooms as well as doctors’ offices and clinics. In single office practices, there is only one screen in a patient waiting area. Practices with multiple locations could have many screens. This is also the case in our hospital system installations. Primary Care Network is our largest network.
What network have you found the hardest/slowest to build? Why?
We don’t see it as networks being difficult to build. What we do encounter are fewer medical products in existence for a specific category of clinical care. Often, there are limited numbers of doctors’ offices across the country for certain medical specialties.
- Can the doctors or clinic administrators add content to (or remove from) the screens? If so, how much, how often and who manages?
We give 10% of screen time back to the office to display their own content, and we provide them with an easy-to-use template which allows them to enter their own specific, information. They can update the information as frequently as they like, and they have ultimate control over this capability.
- Are all your networks controlled from one central source? If so, where and how?
All of our networks are controlled internally from our system. Our IT team can access any of our TV’s in any of our locations at any time, so we can make sure that we are constantly providing the most up to date content for our viewers.
- If I’m not mistaken, the networks that you bought from CARE Media Holdings  have content supplied by Saddle Ranch Digital. Do you intend to equip your other networks with content from Saddle Ranch? How does that affect your vetting by medical professionals?
Phil Cohen is the proven leader in providing relevant content in the Point-of-Care space and we look forward to working with him and his team to supply content for our networks serving many different verticals. It’s a real benefit to be able to discuss our extensive capabilities from a content perspective with medical professionals.
- What kind of advertising do you carry? Is there a sector that has never advertised on your networks that you feel is missing the boat by not being there?
We run both endemic and non-endemic advertising. This includes content from retailers, television networks, insurance companies, financial institutions, of course, pharmaceutical companies, and others. Clients like Walmart, HBO, Merck, Target and CVS are some of our typical national advertisers. Local restaurants, insurance companies, credit unions and others represent categories of local and regional marketers that currently benefit from advertising with us. As the business grows, we know the endemic side of the industry will continue to find great value in partnering with us. I also believe that non-endemic advertisers will benefit greatly from the realization that Point-of-Care is a primary influencer in the consumer purchase decision process.
- I believe you install your screens free of charge to the doctors’ offices. Do they pay, e.g., a monthly licensing fee for the content and/or share a percentage of the ad revenue?
We do install all of our screens free of charge, and the doctors do not pay for anything at any time. We handle all the maintenance of our screens and will repair or replace them free-of-charge. Our doctors feel that having our screens in their office enhances the patient waiting room experience, and also helps alleviate concerns about wait time. There is no revenue sharing.
Why do you think that the health vertical is one of the most successful verticals in terms of revenue in the digital out-of-home sector?
The healthcare industry is a huge market and one that is growing rapidly. Reaching consumers at the point-of-care is one of the most effective ways to market. Consumers feel that the brands they see while in their doctor’s office are more reliable and trustworthy because the information is delivered to them in that trusted environment.