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Realscreen January/February 2019

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018 JANUARY / FEBRUARY '19 THE CLOSE-UP: BRENT MONTGOMERY FIRST LOOK the early days of 2018, when Brent Montgomery announced his intention to launch a brand new media and marketing venture dubbed Wheelhouse Entertainment, it caused a buzz in the non-scripted world. In only a year, the former CEO of ITV America and founder of Leftfi eld Entertainment has pulled off a few major moves for the venture. In the fall, Wheelhouse trotted out two major announcements — a partnership with comedian Jimmy Kimmel to establish a creative content hub, Kimmelot, and the arrival of longtime A+E exec Sean Cohan as president. Realscreen reached out to Montgomery to fi nd out if he's digested the fl urry of activity from this past year, and what lies ahead for Wheelhouse in 2019. In You're coming up on one year since you launched Wheelhouse Entertainment. How has the company evolved from your original vision of what it would be, over the course of this fi rst year? This year has been all about laying the bricks — I feel like a mason — and our ambition has grown tremendously. We are in the process of putting together several partnerships that will help transform us from purely a content company into a full-fl edged media business with a sophisticated model unlike anything in the market right now. Of course, it all begins and ends with fi nding the right people and we are off to a tremendous start. You recently announced a partnership with Jimmy Kimmel. Does this signal a desire to move into other genres — comedy, scripted — and if so, do you see more partnerships with talent as a way in to those genres? Yes, yes and yes. Jimmy mints us in areas that are complementary. He is a unicorn talent with a Rolodex unlike anything I've ever seen and he isn't afraid to use it across both Wheelhouse and Kimmelot. I thought that, with his schedule, we'd get an hour or two a week from him, and it's more like 15-20 late- night emails a day. The man doesn't seem to need sleep. Do you foresee any challenges as Wheelhouse continues to grow and expand? Of course, but we've brought in a great fortune teller in our new Wheelhouse Entertainment president Sean Cohan to steer us around those challenges. Seriously, we think a lot about not spreading ourselves too thin; we're also focused on partnering with best-in-class people who operate in the lanes we aren't as adept in. Any Spoke Studios projects you can shed some light on? I couldn't be prouder of Joe Weinstock and Will Nothacker, as Spoke is crushing it, having sold about a half-dozen series in less than nine months, which we'll look forward to our network partners announcing so we can talk about them. Spoke is also partnering a ton with A+ talent — much more, even, than we were able to do previously in more corporate arenas — and Sean Cohan will help Spoke Studios grow like a weed in 2019. Are there any new areas of content (VR, AR, podcasts) that you are looking to explore via Wheelhouse? Podcasts and experiential are specifi cally interesting for both Spoke and Kimmelot. What do you want to achieve in 2019? I want to have clear examples of our business model working and, most of all, fi nd the early partners who we can work with to grow each other's businesses exponentially in the years to come. Our message is: "Bet on Wheelhouse and we will throw the kitchen in with the sink." Selina Chignall

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