Red Arrow Studios’ Kinetic Content is capping off its first decade of business with huge unscripted franchises on various platforms, and the company says it’s just getting started.
With the calendar year closing on the first decade of the new millennium, Chris Coelen was left to ponder his next move.
The media veteran began his career at Fox Television where he worked as a producer before joining United Talent Agency to launch and run the alternative and international packaging department for the next 15 years.
Then, in 2005, the executive left UTA to lead the American division of one of his UK-based clients – RDF Media Group – where he’d spend the next four years of his working life.
But it was time for a new challenge.
Coelen had served as a producer, an agent, and had run a large-scale production company, but had never created his own studio. So when Paris-based Zodiak Entertainment acquired the RDF Media Group, creating one of the largest independent production companies at the time, Coelen saw an opportunity to take the plunge.
That opportunity came to life as he launched Kinetic Content in March 2010, with a focus on the development and production of unscripted series. Red Arrow Studios, part of German media giant ProSiebenSat.1, took a majority stake in the Los Angeles-based studio six months later.
“I wasn’t looking to sell a stake in the company, but Red Arrow was at the beginning stages of really trying to broaden out and establish an international footprint,” Kinetic’s Coelen tells Realscreen as the company marks its 10-year anniversary. “We had a meeting of the minds and it felt like the right time to actually do something a little bit bigger than what I had imagined originally.”
In time, Red Arrow ultimately bought out the entire company. The partnership over the last decade, Coelen says, has allowed Kinetic to focus on its prime objectives while exploring creative possibilities with its international sister shops.
“If there’s anything that I would strive for as a brand, it’s to be the best producers and partners that we can be for the people that we work with, and to have a good batting average when it comes to delivering shows that are buzzworthy and loud, which I think we do,” he offers.
It’s that long-standing partnership that has allowed Kinetic to diversify its programing portfolio over the last 10 years, from focusing on staples in the reality docuseries and dating spaces to expanding into social experiments and reality competition, and now a concerted push into scripted entertainment with colleagues across the Red Arrow group.
RISKS AND REWARDS
“We definitely are known for provocative relationship social experiments, but are always trying to think of programming that could work for the male skewing networks, the big broadcast networks,” says Karrie Wolfe (pictured), who previously worked with Coelen at RDF USA and currently serves as EVP and head of development & programming at Kinetic Content alongside Katie Griffin.
That fruitful strategy has helped Kinetic break through the clutter of a very competitive unscripted environment, even if their big swings don’t always connect.
Discovery’s unscripted competition series Man Vs. Bear, for instance, headed to a Utah animal sanctuary to follow the action as three human competitors took on three grizzly bears each week in five distinct challenges testing speed, strength and stamina.
A loud concept, but one that brought forth strong complaints from global animal rights organization PETA.
And while the risqué competition series did not return to Discovery for a sophomore season, Nancy Daniels, chief brand officer for Discovery & Factual, believes that both the network and producers “did a great job” with Man Vs. Bear.
“To be honest, it didn’t have a big breakout leading success,” says Daniels. “But what it did do for us was it made a lot of noise and was very splashy and showed that we’re doing different kinds of shows, and that’s just as important.
“When you partner with Kinetic, you know that they’ve been able to pull off big, loud, splashy formats, and that they have a track record you can depend on.”
But for every swing that doesn’t connect, there are plenty that have sailed out of the park, such as brand- defining series for FYI and Lifetime including Married at First Sight (pictured, top), Seven Year Switch and the enduring Little Women franchise, and Netflix’s recent breakout dating hit, Love Is Blind.
“Kinetic always delivers thought-provoking creative concepts and thoughtful, intelligent, experienced production expertise to bring them to life for their brand partners,” says Gena McCarthy, EVP of unscripted development and production at A+E’s Lifetime, and head of programming at FYI.
“Married at First Sight was my premier show for FYI, and from the smallest network in the portfolio came some of the most impactful, trendsetting, escapist entertainment,” she notes. “That’s quite an impact.
“And Little Women is just a brilliant twist to the docusoap genre – it’s authentic, it’s wildly entertaining and it’s a hallmark for Lifetime.”
NEW PLATFORMS, NEW POSSIBILITIES
If Married at First Sight, adapted from a format out of Scandinavian prodco Snowman, served as the series to establish Kinetic as a company with expertise in the relationship social experiment genre, then Love Is Blind has placed the company in another stratosphere altogether.
In the weeks following its release, Netflix’s steamy relationship series had spent a number of consecutive weeks on the streamer’s Top 10 list across the U.S. and Canada, including reaching the top spot, and has resonated with audiences worldwide as they self-isolate due to the enduring coronavirus pandemic.
That the concept played well for Netflix was no surprise to the team at Kinetic, which built Love Is Blind with the Los Gatos-headquartered streamer in mind.
“It felt like an idea that just made sense for Netflix from top to tail,” Coelen states. “It certainly was different than anything
that had ever been done. Obviously, we’re thrilled about the partnership with Netflix and the success that it’s had.”
“Its impact has been global, which is amazing,” says Wolfe. “It was one of those shows that people loved because it was cast really well and it held a very loud premise.”
New platforms create new opportunities, and Kinetic is looking to further develop its content for digital players, having projects in various stages of development with various buyers and streamers including Netflix and Amazon, as well as the recently launched HBO Max and Quibi, according to Coelen.
“I’m excited about the continued possibilities of those platforms, and if you have some success it creates the good fortune that everybody wants to have a piece of that success,” he notes. “We’re in a fortunate place right now.”
Kinetic wants to magnify its production portfolio by expanding into the scripted space with substantial backing from its partners at Red Arrow and ProSieben. The company also hopes to simultaneously grow its non-scripted roster with what Coelen anticipates will be “big, healthy” franchises that can stand the test of time.
“Chris knows how much we value, respect and love Kinetic,” says McCarthy. “And they’ve earned every step of their success.”
This feature originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of Realscreen. Not a subscriber? Click here for more info on how to subscribe.