There’s a new TV studio on the block, and this one is run by David Ellender, former CEO of London-based FremantleMedia. On Thursday Ellender announced the launch of Slingshot Global Media, an independent television studio to be based in Los Angeles. The company is financed entirely by investment platform TPG Growth.
Slingshot will develop and produce television programming for the multi-platform U.S. television market and will also identify globally appealing projects for international co-financing, co-productions and pre-sale deals.
Ellender, who will be still commuting from his hometown of London for the next couple of months, is hiring a head of Creative in the next few weeks. After that, he’s looking to hire someone to run Legal and Business Affairs and an executive to head up international sales.
Slingshot’s initial focus will be on dramas. “If you look at the proliferation of channels internationally, drama is very much in need. “We’ll be focusing on everything from OTT to basic cable platforms. And limited run and returning series will initially be our focus. Obviously, the direct-to-series model would be ideal,” he said. Ellender added that the company might dip its collective toe into reality a little bit down the line.
There are certain genres Slingshot won’t be covering — specifically kids, sports and theatrical film. “Of course, that doesn’t mean we won’t be working with companies in the feature film business,” Ellender added. “We’ve all seen the convergence of the two industries and we will embrace any talent — either behind the camera or in front of it — that want to be involved in dramas.”
Ellender emphasized that his new company is not just about creating and selling programs for traditional television. “We’re talking about content on many new platforms — cellular, branded entertainment, online entertainment and more.”
And, he added: “In my time at FremantleMedia and at PolyGram, I’ve learned that being talent-friendly is the key. We want to let people into the tent, we want to make deals with them and we will share our knowledge of the market. This will be about joint-venture partnerships more than a traditional relationship between writer, producer and, even, actors.”
Because no two deals are the same anymore, Ellender said the key is remaining flexible. “That’s the great thing about starting a new venture — you have no baggage, and you have a blank piece of paper to do what you want.”
Aside from administrative challenges of starting a new company (e.g. finding suitable office space), Ellender said, “the key challenge for our business is to really have a dialogue with all the distribution platforms — both domestically and internationally. On the talent front, it’s about working with and engaging third parties. And it’s also about figuring out our competitive advantage.”
Ellender expects MIP-TV to serve as a kind of soft launch for his company, with an official launch happening at MIPCOM in the fall. He’s hoping to announce at least one project by MIP-TV and several hires. And at MIP, he’s planning to meet with third parties — writers, producers and other production companies, and “embrace pure acquisitions to fill our distribution pipe.”
On his decision to relocate to Los Angeles, Ellender said: “Creatively so much happens in L.A. Being based in London, the umbilical cord has always been attached L.A. and New York. The only feasible way of setting up a company like this was being here in California. We will, I’m hoping, in future look at having an office set up in London, but that’s a ways down the line. For now, it’s all about L.A.,” he said.