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‘Black Swan’ Producer Jon Avnet Launches Indigenous Media With Focus on Premium Digital Content

”Monetizing digital content is not yet fixed,“ Avnet tells TheWrap in an exclusive interview

Filmmaker Jon Avnet thinks the way to monetizing digital is premium content. To that end, Avnet is launching Indigenous Media, alongside his son Jake Avnet and filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia to bring high-profile half-hour and hour-long programs to the Internet.

The new venture’s principle investors include WPP, the U.K.-based advertising and PR firm, and ITV, the largest unscripted producer in the U.S. and the largest and oldest broadcast network in the U.K. WPP will provide advertising expertise and access to brands, allowing Indigenous Media to focus on creating content that will attract brand sponsorships. ITV will assist with global distribution on multiple platforms. The company will operate out of Culver City, Calif.

“We’re a fully integrated digital studio, and we’re also nimble,” Avnet told TheWrap. “We hope that combo can crack the holy grail.”

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And what is that holy grail? Monetizing content. The “Justified” director appears to be taking a page out of cable TV’s playbook, namely great production values.

“We want premium content,” Avnet said. “Premium quality monetizes well. And we want great creators.”

While Avnet is open to working with young talent and wants diversity in front of and behind the camera, he’s also intent on attracting name talent to his latest venture.

“We’re nervous filmmakers and want people to like our work,” Avnet said.

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The funding will be used for production original content on digital and emerging platforms. The focus will be on scripted half-hour and hour-long episodic series, but funds also might be used for acquiring existing YouTube channels. While the financial details of the deal haven’t been disclosed, WPP is the world’s largest communications services group, with revenues of $17.3 billion.

Avnet hopes this venture will finally crack the code to compensating creators well for their efforts.

“Monetizing digital content is not yet fixed,” Avnet said. “The person who establishes that is going to have a great business. … It’s the Wild West. We like the Wild West.”

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Avnet (“Black Swan,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Risky Business”) has already seen success in digital with his WIGS, a female-centered YouTube channel launched in May 2012 that can claim that women make up 50 percent of its directing credits. The channel features female-led stories like “Blue” starring Julia Stiles and Jeanne Tripplehorn and “Lauren,” starring Jennifer Beals. WIGS has more than 280,000 subscribers and a programming, marketing and distribution partnership with Fox Broadcasting. The channel will continue to partner with Fox, and Indigenous Media will contribute additional financing for future productions.

Jon Miller, former CEO of Digital Media for News Corp, will serve as non-executive chairman for the new venture. Creative Artists Agency (CAA) served as advisor on the transaction to Indigenous. Steven Tisch, Advancit Capital (Shari Redstone, Jon Miller and Jason Ostheimer), Michael Price and Dr. Aaron Stern are additional investors.