The trio of filmmakers who launched digital studio WIGS — “Black Swan” exec producer Jon Avnet together with his son Jake Avnet and Rodrigo Garcia — have formed a new venture: Indigenous Media, backed by British broadcaster ITV and global advertising giant WPP.
Indigenous Media will produce original content for digital and emerging platforms worldwide as well as branded content, centered on scripted half-hour and hour-long series. WPP and ITV will contribute advertising and distribution expertise, and Indigenous Media will focus on creating original entertainment properties.
WIGS, one of the first YouTube-funded channels, has produced several female-centric series, including “Blue,” about a mother with a secret life as a call girl starring Julia Stiles. Originally launched on YouTube, “Blue” and other WIGS series have subsequently launched on Hulu and Fox.com.
Joining Indigenous Media as non-executive chairman is Jon Miller, former digital media chief of News Corp., who is a partner with Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital. In addition to ITV and WPP, investors in the venture include Advancit; Steven Tisch; Michael Price; and Dr. Aaron Stern. Indigenous Media declined to disclose funding raised to date.
“Having a distribution entity and production entity under one roof, that’s unique,” Jon Avnet said in an interview (pictured above left, next to Jake Avnet and Garcia on the right). “We think we can build this out into something bigger,” noting that in addition to scripted dramas Indigenous Media will delve into comedy and other genres.
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WIGS will continue to operate its partnership with Fox Broadcasting, while Indigenous Media will contribute additional financing for future productions. “We’ve been impressed with Jon and Rodrigo’s ability to tell compelling stories and the intensity of consumer appetite for the series on Fox verticals, Hulu and YouTube,” Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, Fox’s SVP of multiplatform programming, said in a statement.
According to Jon Avnet, shortly after the launch of WIGS, Peter Tortorici, CEO of WPP’s GroupM Entertainment Global, approached the studio about forming a new studio for scripted content on digital platforms.
Commented Tortorici, “Jon, Rodrigo and Jake have been first-movers in executing at the highest levels of scripted content in this space and have the means, relationships and commitment to take their efforts to scale. We look forward to helping them get there.” GroupM Entertainment oversees intellectual-property development, financing, production and distribution with a global portfolio of more than 120 properties.
Paul Buccieri, chairman of ITV Studios U.S. Group and ITV Studios Global Entertainment, added, “Indigenous is a forward looking, multiplatform provider of premium content, and as such, is a perfect strategic fit for ITV.”
For ITV, the investment in Indigenous Media is its second in a U.S. digital studio in as many weeks, coming after the announcement of its funding in Believe Entertainment Group, which produces digital series like the animated “The LeBrons” and Jay Mohr’s game show “Money Where Your Mouth Is.”
CAA was the adviser on the transaction for the Indigenous founders. The company is based in Culver City, Calif.
Jon Avnet’s producing and directing credits include “Black Swan,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Risky Business” and FX series “Justified.” Garcia (above right) credits include HBO’s “In Treatment” and “Big Love” as well as “Last Days in the Desert.”