Dick Wolf Refashions His Company for Digital Era (EXCLUSIVE)

Dick Wolf’s latest production isn’t centered on the detectives, lawyers, firefighters or cops who have made his many series so popular. The story he wants to tell is much more personal.

The creative force behind TV’s “Law & Order” behemoth, NBC’s various “Chicago” series and the CBS drama “FBI” will today launch a new corporate storyline of sorts, one in which his company seeks to make itself better known to the people who consume its content.

The producer’s Wolf Films will now be called Wolf Entertainment, a move aimed at bolstering a wider array of the company’s productions. Over the next several months, says Elliot Wolf, an executive at the company and a son of the producer, who is overseeing the new efforts, those could include more content aimed at fans of the company’s various series; a monthly newsletter; podcasts, merchandise; spotlights on the creative people who put the shows together; and, starting tonight, at the end of “FBI,” the first new “end card” from the company in nearly three decades.

Wolf, who got his start working for Benton & Bowles and other big ad agencies crafting pitches for products like Crest toothpaste, is now putting those skills to work to spotlight his own goods.  “Branding has always been a focus with our shows. ‘Law & Order,’ ‘One Chicago’ and now ‘FBI’ are more than shows, they’re brands,” Dick Wolf tells Variety via email. “Seeing digital and social media becoming so prevalent, especially with new generations of viewers, I asked Elliot to evaluate Wolf’s brand and presence online. What we found was a huge untapped opportunity to connect with and hear from the fans of our shows. “

TV fans know the names of their video favorites, and, in most cases, the names of the networks and streaming outlets that show them. They are not as familiar, however, with the producers who actually make the series – sometimes with good reason. Very few of Hollywood’s biggest producers reach out to fans directly.

One of the exceptions is Shonda Rhimes, the creative force behind “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How To Get Away With Murder,” among other selections. Her Shondaland has a lifestyle-focused web outlet hosted by Hearst Magazines. But others are relatively quiet. You’ll find little outreach to fans from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, for example. The web site for Brian Grazer’s and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment features news about the company, a biography of its principals and video snippets. Chuck Lorre Productions collects the many “end cards” it has run after series like “The Big Bang Theory,” “Mike and Molly” and even “Dharma & Greg.”

What Wolf wants, says Elliot Wolf, who is the company’s senior vice president of digital,  is to give fans a better connection to the content they love so much – and cultivate a larger following. “We want to give them more, because I think they have an appetite for more, but then we also want to attract new fans, younger fans. It’s not a secret that the average viewership for network TV skews older, and we want to get as many people watching these shows – whether it be live or on Hulu or NBC.com –  as possible,” he says, “If this is going to attract new viewership, that’s a win.”

The newly-christened Wolf Entertainment sets out on this initiative as speculation rises that the streaming rights to the “Law & Order” series empire would fetch millions from one of the many new subscription-video services trying to gain a toe-hold on consumers’ wallets. Popular old series like “Friends,” “The Office” and “Seinfeld” have in recent days spurred massive rights deals, a sign of how important favorite TV series can be to new services that need to give subscribers familiar entertainment touchstones along with buzzy new concepts. A spokesperson for Wolf Entertainment declined to comment.

Defining the Wolf brand would give consumers a convenient way to connect to the company’s current and future projects, says Elliot Wolf.  “We just want to tell stories, and we want to tell stories about heroes – largely first responders and law-enforcement,” he says. “We want to shine a light on people who are doing work that benefits everybody.”

New social-media handles – @WolfEnt on Twitter and @wolfentertainment on Instagram – debut today, along with a new website. A new Facebook page for Wolf Entertainment with the handle @wolfentofficial also launches.

Dick Wolf began pondering the move several months ago, says Elliot Wolf, understanding that the future of the company would be found not just in TV but in many digital venues. “Beyond it being time, it seemed like we were late to the game. I said to Dick, ‘Why be late to the game as Wolf Films, when in reality we are doing so much more than film? Your core business is in film, but why don’t we use this opportunity to change the name of the company to Wolf Entertainment?’ It will encapsulate the things we are going to do and signify a turning of the page.”

As part of the changes, the company is tweaking a bedrock element of its history. It has used the same “end card”  – a video snippet that plays the sound of a keening wolf while flashing the name of the company -since thar piece of video was created just before the elder Wolf turned in the pilot of “Law & Order” for consideration.

The new video tag for Wolf Entertainment has some new markings, but one element remains the same: The audience will still hear the wolf howl.

More Biz

  • Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com 22/01/2020 -

    Tartikoff Honorees Call for Commitment to Diversity and Protection of Press Freedom

    MIAMI — Jeff Zucker didn’t mince words. “Nothing is as important than what I’m doing now,” the CNN Worldwide chief said of his long career in media as he was feted Wednesday night as one of five Brandon Tartikoff Award honorees. Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide and chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports, sounded the [...]

  • Deborah Dugan

    How Deborah Dugan Sealed Her Fate at the Recording Academy

    Deborah Dugan’s ouster from the top job at the Recording Academy, just ten days before the Grammy Awards, was a shock to nearly everyone not directly involved in the decision. But according to multiple sources and the bombshell complaint her attorneys filed on Tuesday, she and the Academy establishment were working at cross purposes almost [...]

  • The Crown Season 3 Oliva Colman

    Record Intl. Growth Sees Netflix Beat Q4 Earnings Forecast

    Fast growth in international markets, contrasting with only sluggish subscriber gains in North America, was a major factor behind streaming giant Netflix’s better than forecast growth in the last quarter of 2019. The company is set on keeping up that international momentum. Globally Netflix added 8.76 million new customers in the three months to December [...]

  • Harvey WeinsteinHarvey Weinstein court hearing, New

    Weinstein Trial: Everything We Know About the Three Supporting Witnesses

    The prosecution laid out its rape case against Harvey Weinstein on Wednesday morning, spelling out the allegations in detail for the first time. In her opening argument, Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast also described the testimony of three “prior bad acts” witnesses. Such testimony was critical in the prosecution of comedian Bill Cosby, and it [...]

  • Donna Rotunno, Harvey WeinsteinHarvey Weinstein court

    Harvey Weinstein's Defense Focuses on Emails in Bid to Discredit Accusers

    Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorney showed jurors friendly emails between their client and his accusers in an opening statement on Wednesday, arguing that the accusers are trying to “have it both ways.” Attorney Damon Cheronis asked the jury to rely on their “God-given New York City common sense,” and to find that the women had consensual [...]

  • Mark Cuban Andrew Wallenstein Variety CES

    Listen: Mark Cuban Is Bullish on AI, 5G, TikTok and ... Movie Theaters!?

    As a serial entrepreneur with a taste for tech, Mark Cuban has built a multibillion-dollar career by trusting his well-developed instincts. So when he says it’s time to pay attention to any particular innovation, it’s best to listen up. On the latest episode of the “Strictly Business” podcast, recorded at CES earlier this month in [...]

  • Harvey WeinsteinHarvey Weinstein court hearing, New

    Harvey Weinstein Was a 'Predator and a Rapist,' D.A. Tells Jurors

    A prosecutor told jurors on Wednesday that Harvey Weinstein wielded his immense power in Hollywood to rape vulnerable young women and then to keep them silent. Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast gave jurors a vivid recounting of multiple sexual assaults, including the story of Jessica Mann, a witness who has not previously been identified. She [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content