Turner’s Super Deluxe Developing Edgy TV Comedies With Stephen Gaghan, Other Partners

Wolfgang Hammer Super Deluxe
Courtesy of Super Deluxe

Studio has more than 25 shows in development, including half-hour series 'Magic Funhouse'

Super Deluxe, the digital content studio Turner quietly revived last year, has already racked up millions of views for its offbeat, youth-skewing short-form comedy on social networks — with bits skewering Donald Trump ranking among its most popular content.

But Super Deluxe isn’t just aimed at delivering short yucks: The L.A.-based studio is also planning to produce half-hour comedies for TV networks or subscription VOD services.

Super Deluxe has teamed with writer-director Stephen Gaghan (“Syriana,” “Traffic”) as an ongoing executive producer, and signed a development and production agreement with Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim and Dave Kneebone (“Tim and Eric Awesome Show,” “Great Job!,” “Nathan For You”). Other partners include Dean Fleischer-Camp (“Catherine”), Jen Tullock (HBO’s “A Lot”), Hannah Utt and Hye Yun Park.

“The big difference between us and other video publishers on the Internet is we cover, organically, all formats,” said Wolfgang Hammer, founder and president of Super Deluxe. “We are also a TV company.”

Super Deluxe has more than 25 long-form series in development, and Hammer said the studio has already had early conversations with potential distributors. The exec declined to identify the shows except for one: half-hour series “Magic Funhouse,” a show for adult audiences that goes behind the scenes at a fictional kid’s TV show, created and written by YouTube creator Brandon Rogers.

As Variety first reported, Turner resurrected the Super Deluxe comedy brand last fall, bringing on Hammer, formerly co-president of CBS Films (pictured above), to run the operation.

Super Deluxe’s focus is on “eccentric, subversive comedy that’s challenging and substantive at the same time,” Hammer said. “It’s about the tone and a certain kind of style.”

In addition to Hammer, Super Deluxe’s executive team includes Jesse Pearson, former editor-in-chief of Vice magazine, who now serves as creative director for the Super Deluxe Network and branded content; chief marketing officer Arthur Wang, formerly with CBS Interactive; and Ryan Likes, who serves as general manager after previous stints at Televisa and Lionsgate.

Other key staff include CTO Shahruz Shaukat, formerly with BuzzFeed; network heads Dimitri Simakis and Hillary Levine, who also both hail from BuzzFeed; and TV execs Winnie Kemp (formerly with CBS Films), David Sigurani (previously with Televisa) and Mia Di Pasquale.

All told, Super Deluxe now has 55 full-time employees and another 50 freelancers.

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Turner has set up Super Deluxe as an independent unit, with Hammer reporting to Kevin Reilly, chief creative officer for Turner Entertainment and president of TBS and TNT. “Our belief in the value proposition of ‘premium plus personalization’ now extends into the emergent ecosystem of mobile-centric consumers and next-generation creators thriving in that space,” Reilly said in a statement.

At Fox, Reilly launched another studio-within-the-studio: Animation Domination High-Def, which produced a range of shorts and series for digital and late-night block on the broadcast network before moving to FXX. Hammer said the Super Deluxe strategy is very different, because it is not producing content for Turner’s networks (although it’s possible some of the long-form series may find a home there). “Companies that are adjuncts to a large behemoth tend to get either forgotten or lost in the massive corporations,” he said.

Super Deluxe’s social-media channels, since launching in December, now reach more than 35 million viewers per month across Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo, Twitter and Snapchat. The studio’s website, Superdeluxe.com, is not designed to be a video destination.

Its content spans political satire, parodies, animation and scripted series and targeted to viewers 16-34, according to Hammer. So far Super Deluxe’s audience is split 50-50 between male and female. On YouTube, Super Deluxe’s biggest hit is a BuzzFeed-like sketch called “When You Have Big Boobs.”

For now, Super Deluxe is not generating any revenue, though at some point it expects to sell advertising and delve into branded content. “We just want young folks to like us, and think we’re fresh and funny,” Hammer said. “The way you monetize an audience on mobile is through branded content. For us, it’s an important part. But for folks who do only that, it’s a struggle. So we’ve added TV licensing and production to the mix.”

At its downtown L.A. offices near Pershing Square, Super Deluxe has studio space with capabilities for live video production. “We’re doing it in a very ambitious, startup way,” Hammer said. “It’s not a lavish operation, but we do have the financial means to pull the trigger on bigger projects.”

There’s no shortage of original humor on the Internet. To a certain extent, Super Deluxe is competing with outlets including the Onion, CollegeHumor, Funny Or Die, Comedy Central and NBCUniversal’s Seeso. “In the general category, any creator is a competitor,” Hammer acknowledged. But he maintained that Super Deluxe is unique with its combination of short- and long-form content, and said other comedy destinations could be potential customers. “Anybody who will pay us money, we love, and it also means money for our creators,” Hammer said.

The original iteration of Super Deluxe launched as a website in January 2007, and like its successor was geared toward edgy humor aimed at a younger demo. But 18 months later, Turner combined the unit’s operations with Adult Swim, its programming block on Cartoon Network.

Watch Super Deluxe’s “Batman v Trump” trailer:

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