You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Listen: Propagate’s Ben Silverman, Howard T. Owens on Being ‘Bullet Makers’ in Content Arms Race

If anyone is able to navigate the booming global market for television content, it should be Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens. The pair, who are now partners in the Propagate production venture, made their mark two decades ago in recognizing the potential of U.S. adaptations of British TV hits including “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “The Office.”

Propagate had a busy 2018 with an investment from Raine Group and its own acquisition of Electus, Silverman’s previous banner set up at Barry Diller’s IAC. At year’s end, Propagate recruited former All 3 America chief Greg Lipstone to help Silverman and Owens grow the business.

“2019 is the year we’ve got to elevate it and make it all work,” Silverman tells “Strictly Business,” Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. “We’re not done with our acquisitions or our ambitions for growth.”

Propagate is planting its flag around the world producing programs in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Hindi, in addition to its U.S. slate of shows, notably CW’s “Jane the Virgin” and “Charmed” and CBS’ “Blood and Treasure.” The acquisition of Electus also brought them a majority stake in the management firm Artists First. The proximity to the creative talent repped by the firm previously known as Principato-Young gives them opportunities to bring talent to the market through innovative content pacts.

“Having talent relationships as well as our international production platforms and our ability to work with brands and advertisers is important,” Owens says. “We can form a quicker and more efficient path to production with different and emerging business models. We’ve always believed there are opportunities to make programming around the world.”

Owens launched Propagate as a partnership with A+E Networks in 2015 after he left National Geographic Television. Silverman, the former NBC Entertainment chief, joined the following year as a partner after he parted ways with Electus.

During the wide-ranging conversation, the industry veterans talk about the pros and cons of being an independent “bullet maker” amid the content wars among the industry titans. Silverman and Owens also voice their regrets over the fate of “Planet of the Apps,” one of the first original series produced for Apple, and why they have no desire to return to the ranks of network executives. Their experience behind the desk, however, has proven invaluable.

“The depth of knowledge we have about our buyers, and their issues and their needs and their accounting — all of those things help us be better sellers. We know how to position things to work for them. … It’s also a way that you can call bulls— on somebody sitting in the other seat. We can short cut a lot by having been in those jobs.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Frank Grillo'Avengers: Endgame' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Matt Phelps Tapped as President of Joe Carnahan, Frank Grillo's Warparty

    Frank Grillo and Joe Carnahan’s Warparty productikon banner has appointed Matt Phelps president of the company. Phelps will head the Los Angeles office and be responsible for overseeing all film and television projects. “We searched long and hard to find the right fit for Warparty and felt that Matt embodied everything that we were looking [...]

  • Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent,

    Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent, Dies at 88

    Jack Gilardi, a longtime ICM Partners agent who represented such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88. Gilardi was known for his gentlemanly style, love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his skill at representing top actors. He [...]

  • Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton

    Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton to Head Programming

    Nexstar Media Group has become the nation’s largest owner of TV stations after completing its $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media. The deal creates a broadcasting colossus with more than 200 stations serving more than 100 markets, although a number of stations will be divested to keep Nexstar in compliance with FCC ownership limits. Nexstar, [...]

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    Judge Sides With Michael Jackson Estate in 'Leaving Neverland' Dispute

    A federal judge is leaning towards granting the Michael Jackson estate’s move to take HBO to arbitration in its dispute over the documentary “Leaving Neverland.” Judge George Wu issued a tentative ruling on Thursday in which he denied HBO’s motion to dismiss the estate’s case. Wu is expected to make the ruling final by the [...]

  • Homecoming

    Peak Storytelling Here as Podcasts, Short Form Ride New Wave

    The concept of peak TV is nothing new. But scratch the surface of original content these days, and it’s no longer about television — from podcasts and short-form video, storytelling itself is at a peak. Thanks to audio, video and other new platform companies including Gimlet, Quibi, Wondery, iHeartMedia and Serial Box, listeners and viewers [...]

  • Patti Smith Cambridge Folk Festival

    Patti Smith Muses Over the Many Ways to Tell a Story

    It’s Sept. 11, and Patti Smith has been thinking a lot about people who died. This is understandable. It is, of course, the 18th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and an annual time of mourning for New York City, the city that Smith adopted as her hometown 50-plus years [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content