Former WB Entertainment prexy Jordan Levin has formally unwrapped his new venture, partnering with longtime pal and “Bernie Mac” exec producer Pete Aronson, as well as film and TV producer Mike Karz and talent managers Dave Rath and Kara Welker.
Generate, as the new company has been dubbed, will focus on program development for TV, film and new media — as well as talent management.
“We want to create content that attracts young adults toward multiple distribution platforms,” Levin said. “We recognize there’s a big paradigm shift under way. The lines are blurring, and the walls are coming down.”
Months in the making, Generate officially launches today and already boasts an exclusive pact with MTV Networks to produce content for basic cable, broadband and mobile. That includes programming for MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, Spike TV, Comedy Central and the company’s other properties.
Under the first-look deal, if MTV passes, Generate also can take projects to broadcast or pay TV, as well as film, direct to video or video-on-demand.
“We see them providing incredible fuel for our multiplatform strategy,” said MTV Networks chair-CEO Judy McGrath. “On their own, they have each proven their ability to create content that resonates with young adults.”
Levin pointed out that all five of Generate’s principals have spent time both as creatives and execs. Levin recently dabbled in TV directing after leaving the Frog; before “Bernie Mac,” Aronson headed up Regency TV; Karz has written for TV, served as a studio exec and now produces movies; and Rath and Welker have held various jobs in the comedy world.
In the new company, Levin will oversee Generate’s broadband and mobile businesses and oversee its TV development and production along with Aronson. Karz will handle Generate’s film business, while Rath and Welker will be in charge of Generate Management.
Rath and Welker will operate Generate Management separately from the production division, allowing their client roster to work on both Generate programming and outside productions.
Generate Management absorbs the business of what was formerly known as Rath-Welker Management, a comedy-focused company that helped put together cult faves such as MTV2’s “Wonder Showzen” and MTV’s “The Andy Milonakis Show.” Their clients include Janeane Garofalo, Milonakis and Patton Oswalt.
Levin said the management arm’s focus on alternative comedy acts is a natural for the company given the easy adaptability of laughs from TV and film to the Internet and wireless.
“Comedy has a strong positioning statement in our company,” he said. “Alternative comedy is becoming the mainstream, especially in new media.”
On the film side, Karz Entertainment (“Malibu’s Most Wanted,” “First Daughter”) now will operate under the Generate name. Karz’s development that isn’t yet set up will shift to Generate, which is still evaluating where it may set up a feature deal.
Karz also still has several film projects already in the works, including “Honeymoon With Harry,” from Oscar nominee Paul Haggis.
In developing projects, Levin said the end game won’t necessarily be to turn every property into a TV or movie.
“We’re trying to apply a platform-agnostic approach,” he said. “We’ll hear the idea first and then decide if it’s better suited for broadband, mobile, TV or movies. The chokehold used to be with distribution. But now the chokehold has shifted to talent.”
And given new media’s ability to target hard-to-reach young consumers, Levin said he believes the money will follow.
“Advertisers will be willing to pay a premium to reach this audience in an efficient manner,” he said. “This is a medium that will be monetized in the future.”
Generate will be based in Santa Monica. Levin said the company will be funded through a mix of independent financing, distribution deals and existing business.
“We’re investing in ourselves,” he said. “There was interest from certain parts of the investment community, but we wanted to be able to control our destiny” in the beginning.