Unscripted

Realscreen’s Trailblazers: Industrial Media’s Eli Holzman and Aaron Saidman

In an industry that seems to be changing on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep track of those changes, and the creative and strategic minds behind them. But we ...
January 15, 2019

In an industry that seems to be changing on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep track of those changes, and the creative and strategic minds behind them. But we managed to catch up with several such individuals and companies for this year’s edition of our annual series. Through their work, these trailblazers have either anticipated change and harnessed it for their benefit, or have served as key instigators of those moves. As a new year begins with more evolution and innovation doubtlessly on tap, Realscreen salutes those who propelled 2018 to fascinating heights.

This edition of our annual Trailblazers list continues with Industrial Media CEO Eli Holzman and president Aaron Saidman.

It’s one thing to bring your production company under the fold of a larger company. It’s another thing to be picked to lead that larger company.

That’s precisely what happened to Intellectual Property Corporation (IPC) co-founders Eli Holzman (pictured, left) and Aaron Saidman (right) this summer, when Core Media Group extended the offer to the team to not only acquire IPC, but also to position Holzman and Saidman to lead a revamped version of the superindie under the new banner of Industrial Media, as CEO and president, respectively.

The move is intended to bring Industrial Media, home to the Idol and So You Think You Can Dance? franchises via 19 Entertainment as well as other prodcos such as Sharp Entertainment and B-17 Entertainment, back into growth mode. It follows a challenging couple of years for the former Core Media Group, in which the company — owned by shareholders Crestview Partners, Tennenbaum Capital Partners and agency UTA — filed for bankruptcy and restructured with the help of current shareholders after transferring its assets from previous owner Apollo Management. It had been without a CEO since the exit of Peter Hurwitz in the fall of 2017.

Enter Holzman and Saidman, who were busy blazing trails with IPC, which they cofounded in 2016. In the span of two years they’ve garnered critical and commercial success with the Emmy-winning Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath for A&E and Active Shooter for Showtime, among other projects. Now, in addition to rolling out new series for linear and non-linear outlets (upcoming series include more projects for A&E and a project with Vice helmer Adam McKay for Amazon), the team will be utilizing its entrepreneurial know-how to expand Industrial Media, with an eye towards acquisitions, start-ups and, according to Saidman, “anything that can increase the capacity of the company as a whole.”

What companies are attractive for acquisition?
AS: In non-scripted, you’re looking for track record, what shows they’re currently producing, and you’re assessing the potential longevity of those shows. But you’re also fundamentally looking at the people that are running it, and in some respects you’re “buying” those people as much as the shows and the infrastructure. Core bought IPC and that was an important piece of their portfolio that was previously missing, but they’re also looking at Eli and myself to be corporate stewards for them. So similarly, we’re looking at reliable, honorable people that do quality work and that we believe have as much of a future for putting hits on the air as they have a robust present.

We’re also looking at future trends in the business, and premium content has been a really exciting disruptor. I think traditional non-scripted companies still have a bright future, but I think we’ll also be looking for people that can execute and produce premium content, to serve that market.

On the scripted side, IPC has a few projects and a particular strategy regarding setting those up, and I think we’ll be looking to increase the scripted capabilities of Industrial as a whole. That might be in the form of a start-up, or an acquisition, but it’s a real part of our strategy.

What trends are you paying the most attention to for the year ahead?
EH: I’ve never seen the marketplace evolve as rapidly as it is doing today. It used to be a big deal when a new cable network emerged, or one would go away. This is the most robust marketplace we’ve ever seen, but it’s also the most rapidly evolving.

There are signs that there’s more of a move towards traditional, larger scale offerings — there’s a lot of emphasis on developing in the live space. Premium, though, doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It takes a lot of effort and hard work, and partnership between the production staff and the network to do great work, but it can come in at a typical price point.

AS: One thing with premium that we’re seeing and will continue to see is a real emphasis on filmmaking and I think directors who weren’t always as significant in unscripted are becoming very important in the premium space. So how you’re going to approach the production is as important as what the idea is or what the ‘sell’ is.

See the rest of our Trailblazers, as featured in the January/February 2019 edition of Realscreen, here.

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