The five-year-old venture, the brainchild of entrepreneur Angelica Nwandu, runs one of the most highly engaged accounts on Instagram: @TheShadeRoom, which has 15.3 million followers (referred to as “Roommates”), generates upwards of 5 billion to 6 billion impressions per month.
Now Nwandu’s TSR is diving into original programming, with three shows set to debut exclusively on the Instagram account later in 2019.
The series are: “Petty Court,” a court show for guests to air their petty grievances, hosted by Instagram star Landon Romano (1.2 million followers), who will act as judge; “Struggle Chef,” a cooking competition series featuring celebrity guests including Ray J, Joseline Hernandez (VH1’s “Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta”), and Tami Roman (VH1’s “Basketball Wives”); and “F-boy Chronicles,” an investigative show kicking off in New York City about guys known as F-boys (which, according to one Urban Dictionary definition, are “a specific type of male millennial douchebag”).
The bread and butter of The Shade Room — which the New York Times once called “Instagram’s TMZ” — has been curated viral posts. By contrast, the new shows will be longer-form video exclusively produced by the company.
“The goal of the new programming is to give our audience what we feel they are lacking,” Nwandu said. “We want to give them curated digital programming that is tailored to their interests. “The series reinforce our commitment to providing entertainment that caters to black culture and allows us to collaborate even more closely with our Roommates, who truly make TSR feel like a family.”
TSR’s shows are being produced by a two-woman team of veteran TV producer and Daytime Emmy-nominated showrunner Tarvenia “T” Jones (“Upscale with Prentice Penny,” “Divorce Court”) and Judith Nwandu, who is Angelica’s sister.
Angelica Nwandu (who goes by Angie) will serve as executive producer on the three series, marking her latest foray as a writer and producer. Previously, she co-wrote the film “Night Comes On,” winner of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival NEXT Innovator Award and released by Samuel Goldwyn films last August.
TSR doesn’t have a specific launch date for the trio of shows, some of which will be sponsored, according to Nwandu. Each series will run four or five episodes, each of which will range from 10-15 minutes.
“Petty Court,” “Struggle Chef” and “F-boy Chronicles” were developed in-house. In the future, Nwandu said, TSR will reach out to its audience to solicit creative ideas and “we plan to give them the proper credit and opportunities.”
Nwandu, 28, founded The Shade Room in 2014 from her parents’ home when she began posting celebrity gossip on Instagram. (According to bio, her Nigerian family wanted Nwandu to become a successful accountant rather than an internet-media entrepreneur.) TSR has only one outside investor: venture-capital firm Indie.vc, founded by Bryce Roberts, who also is managing director at O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV).
According to Nwandu, TSR has doubled revenue each year and is profitable — with a net profit margin of about 50%. The company’s advertising and sponsorship clients have included CoverGirl, GMC and McDonald’s. The L.A.-based company has about a dozen full-time employees. “We operate extremely lean and self-fund all of our projects,” she said.
TSR’s regular mix of Instagram posts span breaking news, celebrity gossip and shade-throwing, and feel-good posts like TSR Positive Images.
The Shade Room has in the past run afoul of some platforms’ rules and guidelines. Three years ago, Facebook briefly suspended TSR’s page over a copyright-violation claim. In 2017, TSR reportedly warned followers (in a later-deleted post) that it was in danger of having Instagram remove its account allegedly over The Shade Room’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement. And at some point in the last two years, The Shade Room’s initial Twitter account was suspended by the platform.