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Vox Media Studios dives into premium unscripted

U.S. digital media company Vox Media introduced a rebranded division specializing in television, podcasts and film last April, bringing together previously separate divisions along with the newly acquired Epic Magazine ...
July 3, 2019

U.S. digital media company Vox Media introduced a rebranded division specializing in television, podcasts and film last April, bringing together previously separate divisions along with the newly acquired Epic Magazine under the new Vox Media Studios roof.

The new premium content division marked a focused push to develop new projects and capitalize on existing IP to expand Vox’s slate of, among other content, unscripted series like the popular Explained on Netflix, No Passport Required on PBS, Consider It on Facebook Watch, American Style on CNN and more.

The first major announcement from Vox Media Studios came shortly after launch, when the company signed a massive deal with American streamer Hulu: a multi-year, multi-series partnership with cookbook author and celeb Chrissy Teigen and Momofuku mogul David Chang, whose respective prodcos, Thai Productions and Majordomo Media, are working with Vox Media Studios on a slate of food-centric programming, starting with Family Style, co-hosted by Chang and Teigen.

Various Vox brands will be represented as part of Vox Media Studios’ slate, including the previously announced Eater’s Guide to the World from Vox-owned Eater, along with plans for a yet-to-be-announced The Verge series.

Chad Mumm, SVP and head of entertainment at Vox Media Studios, spoke with Realscreen about the company’s ambitions and plans for the future and the comfortable position of having a major media company on your side.

“The business couldn’t be in a better position to sustain long term,” he says. “We are a journalism company, so we are really well-suited to tell true stories. Unscripted was the place where we could immediately have an impact as storytellers. We’re not an unproven production company, we’re a giant media company. We’ve got data, we’ve got an audience, a story.”

Vox wasn’t starting from scratch. The company had been producing unscripted content for years before doubling down on the dedicated unit. And its early investment in premium unscripted paid off as the reality TV boom began to wane and event docuseries took off. “All of a sudden, we are right square in the middle of this shift in Hollywood where all of a sudden quality matters,” says Mumm.

“Our goal is to be the number one supplier of premium true stories, whether that’s scripted or unscripted, to this next generation of media companies and streaming services.”

What that means, in practice, is that Vox Media Studios is developing projects in-house, working to expand its reach while retaining IP. “We aren’t just a prodco. We’re a media company. We can actually operate at scale. We’ve got 1,000 employees and a bunch of infrastructure and audience know-how and an understanding of the business that goes beyond the work-for-hire,” Mumm tells Realscreen.

That doesn’t mean Vox Media Studios is positioning itself in a vacuum. The company is looking for distribution partners and finding the best home for each project, as with existing relationships with Netflix, PBS, CNN and more, as well as the new partnership with Hulu.

Well-known personalities like Teigen and Chang are very much a part of the equation too, offering name and brand-recognition to projects. Vox is very interested in fostering those kinds of partnerships moving forward, says Mumm.

And while Vox is already primed to develop projects on its own, it’s not shying away from partnerships with independent producers. “We aren’t actively taking pitches for packaging, but we want to hear great ideas. And because we have in-house production capabilities, the sweet spot for us is ideas that need that to come to life, where there’s existing IP or talent attachment. It may be a smaller producer who needs the heft of a Vox,” says Mumm.

“Independent producers, our doors are open.”

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.

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