Months after its $1.85 billion acquisition of Time Inc.’s stable of magazines, media conglom Meredith is ready to make its mark on the company’s TV production arm.
Time Inc. Prods. will be rebranded as Four M Studios, which will look to continue to expand its television footprint in areas like food, home, lifestyle and entertainment by capitalizing on existing brands as well as developing projects independent of those brands.
Prior to the merger, what is now Four M had produced shows like “People Magazine Investigates” for Investigation Discovery, the documentary “The Story of Diana” and documentary miniseries “The Story of the Royals” for ABC, and the Emmy-winning doc “A Year in Space” for PBS among several other projects across multiple networks. Four M will also expand their relationship with Investigation Discovery, recently announcing two new shows: “People Magazine Investigates: Cults” and “People Magazine Investigates: Crimes of Fashion.”
The production company has also made a push into over-the-top subscription video with the November launch of Sports Illustrated TV, available for $4.99 a month on Amazon Channels. In addition, its free, ad-supported online video network PeopleTV, which launched in 2016, recently inked its first pay TV deal with the internet streaming startup FuboTV.
Bruce Gersh — Meredith’s president of People, Entertainment Weekly and People en Español and head of Four M Studios —said that he and his team have developed a synergy between the magazine side and production side of their business.
“We have the ability to market our projects, and we’ve built an internal development team that works alongside the editorial people,” Gersh said. “As we explore projects tied to any of our brands, we’re consistently working with our editorial staff to make sure it’s truly organic and complementary to the brand.”
Gersh went on to say, however, that the shows Four M produces will be more than ways to simply promote magazine brands and that the company will look for any opportunity to produce high-quality content.
“This is a business,” he said. “This group was formed to create a business around development of longform storytelling. The great thing is we’ve had a lot of success in a short period of time and we’re excited about the future.”
Gersh specifically pointed to the example of “Home,” a documentary series recently ordered by Apple as the tech giant pushes more into original content. The series will offer viewers a look inside the world’s most extraordinary homes, and delves into the minds of the people who built them. Apple has ordered 10, one-hour episodes. The project is not specifically tied to any Meredith brand, but continues the company’s long-standing presence in the lifestyle space.
And while Four M’s focus is currently on unscripted fare, Gersh does not rule out the possibility of getting into premium, scripted programming. To that end, it has announced a partnership with the Disney-ABC Television Group network Freeform to develop multiple scripted original movies based on stories from Meredith’s magazines, such as those in People’s “Heroes Among Us” franchise.
The sky is the limit though, Gersh says, as the breadth of Meredith’s available IP will allow Four M opportunities to explore a wide range of formats.
“If you look at the history at what we’ve done with brands like People or Southern Living or Entertainment Weekly, we’ve had a lot of success in a few different categories,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success in categories like crime, developing new formats, obviously in high-end docs. But as we look at some of the new brands … there are a lot of opportunities in those categories to develop content that can live in many forms. We could develop game shows; we could develop formats that cover the lifestyle space. So we’re really excited to dig in.”