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 Propagate Content.
Founded in 2015 and led by co-CEOs and former colleagues at Reveille, Howard T. Owens (pictured, left) and Ben Silverman (center), Los Angeles-based Propagate Content has made the pursuit of new opportunities an integral part of its mission from the get-go.
While the world waits to see what tech giant Apple has in store for its content slate going forward, Propagate got in the door early with its Planet of the Apps series, which featured Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba as judges, among others. And while prodcos are chasing podcasts and their creators for IP, once again Propagate has “been there and done that,” via Lore for Amazon Prime.
That forward thinking attracted Greg Lipstone (pictured, right), another previous colleague of Owens and Silverman and a founding partner at ICM Partners who most recently served as CEO of All3Media America, to the company. In September, he came on board as president. Approximately a month later, Propagate announced the acquisition of Electus, the global producer/ distributor originally launched by Silverman with backing from IAC. “I think the process was three to four weeks, which is practically unheard of, and that’s a testament to how great a fit it was,” says Lipstone of the deal.
Kicking off the past year with boutique merchant banking firm The Raine Group joining A+E Networks as a primary investor in the company, Propagate also penned development deals with European mediaco Antenna Group and Brazil’s Formata Produções — further moves into an international content strategy that has been part of the company’s key players’ DNA through their careers. “We were thinking internationally when people weren’t really thinking that way,” says Lipstone. “Our philosophy is still very much the same.”
Let’s talk about the acquisition of Electus, as that was a fairly major move.
HO: We thought it was an opportune acquisition for us for three obvious reasons and one larger, more holistic one: it’s got a great physical production platform with shows like Running Wild with Bear Grylls, Chopped , Adam Ruins Everything… it felt like there was a diverse portfolio that fit well with our creative sensibilities. It also has a robust international distribution platform, with 4,000 hours, deals, relationships and talent from countries from around the world. On the third note, they have positions in some of the best talent companies in North America [Electus purchased a majority interest in talent management firm Artists First in 2017; Propagate now owns that interest]. We look at talent as a great starting point for premium IP. So those three dynamic capabilities were incredibly additive to our portfolio.
Finally, across the board, none of that would have worked if we didn’t think there was a strong cultural fit between our companies. They’re all people that we’re excited to work with.
Bringing Greg on board also fortifies the top line at the company. Tell us about how that came to be.
HO: We could think of no more suitable partner for us — he’s someone who understands international content, multi-platform distribution, and the business of IP. Ben and I had worked with Greg many years ago at William Morris, and had a profound relationship throughout our careers working together as business partners of shows like The Office and The Biggest Loser… Also, there’s our friendship, and ability to speak the same language, and the most important thing — trust. We don’t need to be with each other at every meeting, or we can be on different coasts, and we can trust that we’re all working hard in lockstep on our mission.
GL: My goal was to get into business with entrepreneurs, and people who are incredible creators with great relationships and a view not just on America but on the global marketplace. Frankly, there is nobody else who has built businesses over the years like Ben and Howard have, so as I spent my summer talking to the guys, it became more and more evident that it was a match for me and what I wanted to do.
See the rest of our Trailblazers, as featured in the January/February 2019 edition of Realscreen, here.