Warner Music Group is getting into the production business, tapping Evan Prager and veteran MTV exec Jesse Ignjatovic to head a division devoted to creating content for a variety of video platforms.
Dubbed Den of Thieves, the L.A.-based unit will produce programming for network and cable TV, DVD, broadband and mobile. Goal is to devise news ways of promoting and expanding the brands of WMG artists and their releases, though Den of Thieves plans to work with other labels as well.
For years, MTV and other nets have mined the popularity of musicians for programming — with the labels often having little or no participation in the resulting profits.
“I’ve been in many pitches at MTV with talent from record companies, and often the record companies are the last to know,” Ignjatovic said. “We’re hoping to change that a little bit. There’s such a talent pool inside WMG; we want to create around it and be there from the first step.”
Den of Thieves will report to WMG’s U.S. recorded music division, overseen by chairman-CEO Lyor Cohen, along with Craig Kallman, Julie Greenwald and Tom Whalley.
Cohen said the launch of DOT is “an absolute extension of our core business of building brands.
“This is long overdue — we’re not just a sonic company,” he added. “If I had Jesse when I was at Def Jam, we could have shepherded LL Cool J’s entry into Hollywood. When I managed DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince (Will Smith), who knows? Maybe ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ would have been a Zomba property.”
Prager said Den of Thieves isn’t just looking to find the next “Osbournes” or “Newlyweds.”
“We’re not only going to be developing music-based ideas,” he said. “We’re into scripted, we’re into longform, we’re into shortform and reality as well. We’re dabbling in a lot of areas.”
Cohen said Den of Thieves will look to expand upon the ancillary content WMG already produces every time it releases a CD for a major artist.
“If we are doing their photo session talking about their art, and we’re creating their videos, it doesn’t seem like such a huge leap,” he said. “It’s kind of backwards that we would stop there. We’re already talking to artists about aesthetics and how they want to communicate with fans. To not also have someone in the room who could make them think about those things — or (implement) an idea the artist might have — is foolish.”
Ignjatovic comes to WMG a few months after ankling MTV Networks, where he had worked for 14 years. During his tenure at the cabler, he produced or co-created skeins such as “Meet the Barkers,” “MTVIcon,” “Dancelife” and the Grammy-winning special “MTV Ultimate Mash-Ups: Jay-Z/Linkin Park.”
He remains close with MTV, just last week signing on to exec produce this fall’s Video Music Awards.
Prager’s 13-year music career most recently had him at Island Def Jam, where he was veepee of video promotion from 2002-06. He’d previously been at Epic Records and has worked with artists such as Mariah Carey, Shakira, Michael Jackson and the Osbournes.
Den of Thieves has already begun developing several ideas, none ready to be announced just yet, Ignjatovic said. Company is reviving the “Diary” skein created by Ignjatovic at MTV, pacting with sister net CMT to profile artists such as Martina McBride and Gretchen Wilson.
Den of Thieves is repped by CAA.
(Phil Gallo contributed to this report.)