A bad week seems to have gotten worse for multiplatform mediaco Ozy Media.
The Mountain View-based firm, headed by co-founder and CEO Carlos Watson (pictured), is reportedly closing its doors following an explosive report in the New York Times that called into question the company’s business practices and claims of audience reach, while also reporting on a fundraising conference call with a Goldman Sachs representative in which co-founder Samir Rao impersonated a YouTube executive.
The company’s board of directors, which announced it hired an outside firm to investigate the company’s business activities, issued a statement on Friday (October 1) which read: “At Ozy, we have been blessed with a remarkable team of dedicated staff. Many of them are world-class journalists and experienced professionals to whom we owe tremendous gratitude, and who are wonderful colleagues. It is therefore with the heaviest of hearts that we must announce today that we are closing Ozy’s doors.”
Board chairman Marc Lasry stepped down on Thursday (Sept. 30), saying in a statement “I believe that going forward Ozy requires experience in areas like crisis management and investigations, where I do not have particular expertise. For that reason, I have stepped down from the company’s board. I remain an investor in the company and wish it the best going forward.”
As Ozy Media made efforts to ramp up its television production ambitions, it had also increased its engagement with the unscripted and non-fiction screen content industry at large. In 2019, former BBC, TLC and A+E executive Jana Bennett briefly acted as a senior advisor to the company.
Ozy’s television arm, Ozy Studios, is headed by former Discovery and Viacom executive Chris Rantamaki, who joined the ranks of the multimedia company in October of 2020. A few months earlier, Ozy and A+E had announced an expanded partnership intended to result in the development and production of myriad specials and series.
In April of this year, the Ozy Studios division bolstered its ranks with several hires, including former World of Wonder exec Matthew Vafiadis as senior executive, current & branded, and former BET Networks and Releve Entertainment executive Allison Simmons as senior executive, development.
On Monday (Sept 27), A&E pulled from its schedule a special that was set to air as part of its “Voices Magnified” multiplatform initiative, coproduced by Ozy Media and hosted by its CEO Carlos Watson (pictured).
The special, titled Voices Magnified: Youth Digital Crisis, was slated to air on Monday night at 10 p.m., one day after the Times story broke. A previous instalment in the “Voices Magnified” initiative, Mental Health Crisis, was also coproduced by Ozy Media and aired on the network on September 20. Category 6 Media produced the special with Ozy Media.
While confirming that the network did pull the special from its schedule, a spokesperson for A&E said the network had no further comment.
Sister network Lifetime was slated to air Torn From Her Arms, Ozy Media’s first foray into scripted entertainment which is, according to Lifetime, “based on a true story, originally covered by the Ozy editorial team,” on October 30.