From the ashes of the Relativity Media bankruptcy comes … Critical Content. That’s the new moniker for the Relativity Television division that was acquired in October by Relativity’s major creditors as part of the parent company’s bankruptcy brawl last fall.
Critical CEO Tom Forman and president Andrew Marcus have spent the past three months re-engineering operations after the detachment from Relativity. The process has been greased by a $75 million equity influx from the new owners, led by Anchorage Capital. Although Anchorage is a major investor in MGM, there are no plans to meld Critical with the Lion’s television operations.
“We have been plotting out plans for 2016 and 2017, and figuring out how we’re going to deploy a tremendous amount of capital,” Forman said.
Among the priorities for Critical is revving up its scripted series development. In the past few weeks, the company has set up a drama prospect at Epix with Cary Fukunaga attached to produce and direct, as well as separate development projects with directors Oliver Stone and Nick Cassavetes, and producer Mike Medavoy.
Marcus is focusing much of his energy on the scripted ramp-up, including recruiting an exec to oversee development and production. Critical won’t be in the business of deficit-financing series, but will be able to support a fair amount of development. “We will be making our investments in strong intellectual property and talent,” Marcus said.
Critical has also bolstered its core unscripted series business by expanding its roster of overall deals with seasoned reality TV producers to include George Verschoor, Gunnar Wetterberg, Alex Demyanenko and Israel’s Create-IT Studios.
Wetterberg, who divides his time between Los Angeles and Sweden, and the Create-IT Studios partnership are part of Critical’s effort to expand its reach in international markets. Wetterberg and Create-IT will scout for properties for Critical to import to the U.S. and look for openings in overseas markets for Critical’s U.S. productions.
Acquisitions are also a possibility for Critical, thanks to its $75 million war chest. Forman’s eye is on up-and-comers rather than established companies.
“We will look for next-generation companies with growth potential where with some capital we could help them become what we know they could be,” Forman said.
All of this activity takes money and resources, for which the former Relativity Television was starved amid the drama surrounding Relativity Media and its leader, Ryan Kavanaugh. Now, Forman and Marcus are enjoying the ability to start over — but with the profitable foundation of the shows produced under the Relativity banner since the division was formed in 2008. The TV library and current shows, which include CBS’ promising drama series “Limitless,” migrated to Critical in the split (Relativity Media remains a profit participation in the show based on its 2011 Bradley Cooper movie of the same name).
Critical is returning to the TV battlefield at a time when many of its competitors have been bought up by larger entities such as ITV Studios, All3Media and Endemol Shine Group. Forman contends that Critical is in the enviable position of having enough resources to be aggressive, but without the corporate ties that can complicate dealmaking with nonaligned cable networks.
“There’s rightfully some fear of doing business with giant production entities that comprise some 10 to 15 of their suppliers,” Forman said. “Nor are the networks comfortable with doing shows made by a couple of guys in a garage. What we are is exceedingly rare: a truly independent studio of scale.”
High on Forman’s to-do list this year is to find new office space for Critical, which is outgrowing its existing digs in Hollywood. The company needs sizable square-footage to house its post-production facilities and hundreds of production staffers on various shows.
“I dream of the day when I can fit all 500 to 600 people who report to work for us each day under one roof,” Forman said. “We have some of our best idea meetings in the hallways as we pass each other. I’d like to have more people passing each other every day.”
(Pictured: Tom Forman, Andrew Marcus)