By Sahil Patel
Believe Entertainment Group, the New York-based producer behind such talent-driven online series as LeBron James’ “The LeBrons” and DJ Tiesto’s “In the Booth,” is launching a studio division to create original programming for digital networks, publishers, and brands.
The move is an expansion on what BE has historically done, which is to fully develop, finance, and create its series in-house before bringing any sort of brand or distributor on board. Now the company is developing a “pipeline” of programming for a variety of media and advertising partners, including publishers, social networks, and over-the-top services.
To run the operation, BE has hired former Yahoo video executive Brian Hunt as its new executive vice president and head of development. In the role, Hunt will focus on developing a “compelling programming” for distributors and brands, and will work with BE co-founders Dan Goodman and William H. Masterson III on go-to-market strategies, the company said.
“Brian has an incredible track record of delivering a great creative product and has tremendous sensibilities when it comes to knowing what content is going to resonate with specific audiences,” said Goodman and Masterson III in a joint statement. “And because he comes most recently from the media delivery side of the business, he also has a keen understanding of how distributors can leverage our content and build successful strategies.”
At Yahoo, Hunt was head of creative development for the company’s original programming team. During his time there, Hunt and his team launched more than 25 original series, including the Emmy-nominated “Burning Love” and Jack Black’s “Ghost Ghirls.” (This was back when Yahoo was heavily focused on premium short-form comedy under the leadership of Mickie Rosen, current Maker Studios chief content officer Erin McPherson, and Hunt.)
At launch, BE’s studio division already has eight media and brand partners on board, including Maker Studios, Mashable, Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Time Inc., New York Post, Reader’s Digest, and Marriott International.
The company did not disclose which projects it’s actively working on for those partners, though it did say that it’s producing an animated series for Marriott and will announce its initial slate “soon.”
For advertisers, the division will also offer its services in creative development, casting, production, and distribution to create custom branded content.
Last September, BE secured an investment from British broadcaster ITV, which has been supporting the company by contributing its expertise and resources in distribution and sales in ancillary, derivative, and international markets. Any content that the studio develops and produces for media and advertising partners will have access to the same resources, BE said.