UTA will have a minority stake in the venture to be known as Civic Center Media. The focus will be on offering UTA clients the ability to tap into Civic Center’s resources to develop and package programming and to offer more generous ownership and profit participation stakes on the backend. UTA emphasized that it is a non-exclusive agreement, meaning that UTA will continue to work with other studios and Civic Center Media will seek opportunities with creative talent outside the UTA umbrella.
UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer said the decision to partner with MRC, an established production banner, was more attractive than launching its own in-house production arm. WME parent company Endeavor has made a huge investment during the past year in expanding the Endeavor Content financing and distribution arm.
“As we looked at the landscape of potential partners and content models, our priority was to work with a studio that puts artists and creators first,” said Zimmer. “MRC shares our ‘artist first’ mentality and our belief that the time has come for a new business model that offers more creative control and ownership opportunities to artists. They have one of the best track records in our industry and will bring superb infrastructure and resources to the projects we create. As new distribution platforms fundamentally change the economics of our business and tilt the balance of power towards creators, there is no better partner for us and our clients.”
The launch of Civic Center Media is another example of Hollywood’s largest agencies moving forcefully into ownership of content. That has historically been a big red flag for talent agencies given the potential for conflict of interests in representing clients on one hand while having an economic interest in projects on the other. The Writers Guild of America is hoping to fight the advance of agencies into direct ownership of content by prohibiting such transactions as part of its overarching franchise agreement with talent agencies. The guild is poised to begin negotiating a new agency franchise agreement for the first time in 40-plus years in the near future with the Association of Talent Agents. The process has already been contentious.
Leaders of WME, CAA and now UTA are making the case that the industry has changed so dramatically that agencies are well positioned to become better advocates for clients and to offer stars better potential paydays when the parent company has a bigger stake in the outcome. The agencies are clearly leveraging their broad access to talent to craft high-profile content at a time when the chase for talent has never been more intense.
The partners are in the midst of a search for an executive to lead Civic Center Media.
“We’ve enjoyed a terrific relationship with UTA for more than 15 years,” said Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu, co-CEOs of Valence Media. “UTA sees the opportunities both within and beyond the traditional studio system and prioritizes new business models that protect and advance artists. Even more, they have always had deep passion and an uncanny eye for identifying gifted talent and groundbreaking creators. We’re excited to build this venture with them.”
Valence is the parent company of MRC, Dick Clark Productions, Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, among other assets that include a minority stake in film distributor A24.
(Pictured: Jeremy Zimmer)