Watson’s ambition for Ozy Media has grown to include TV series, podcasts and a traveling festival featuring top thinkers and entrepreneurs. On the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” the one-time McKinsey & Co. analyst and Goldman Sachs banker-turned-journalist-turned-digital entrepreneur discusses how his San Francisco-based company plans to grow even a pandemic and how he attracted top investors, including Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective and Marc Lasry.
Ozy Media’s mission is simply put: “Helping people be a little smarter a little sooner and doing it in a really flavorful way,” Watson says. He notes that Ozy Media’s digital magazine profiled Trevor Noah before he was host of “The Daily Show” and was way ahead of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez curve in 2018.
In the beginning, the focus was on building Ozy Media as a digital destination. But as the company’s jumped on opportunities to expand, Watson realized he needed to bring focus to each effort.
“We’ve gone from being this one-legged stool to this amazing four-legged house,” Watson says. At first, projects such as the Ozy Fest live event was treated as a side project, but he learned quickly that “a 100,000 person festival can’t be a side project.” Moreover, the “each of those projects really matter and they feed each other.”
Ozy Media, named for famed poem “Ozymandias,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, now has a San Francisco-based Ozy Media now has about 75 full time employees.
The Ozy Media demo has proven to be people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are who searching for what Watson calls “the new and the next.” Among all of its TV programs — Ozy has produced unscripted series for PBS, OWN, A&E and History, among others — and digital content, the company reaches about 60 million people a month, per Watson. Developing scripted series is a new frontier that they have recently started to tackle.
“We’ve seen a nice uptick in the number of people who enjoy not just one but multiple parts of Ozy,” Watson says. “We attract the kinds of people who find themselves interested in the next cool thing in food or medicine or a comedian. Ozy is good for that kind of person.”
Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.