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Ex-NBCU exec Jeff Wachtel launches new venture, links with Blink49, Roku

Jeff Wachtel, the former president of NBCUniversal’s international TV business, has launched a new production entity, Future Shack Entertainment, alongside partners Sam Michaels and Yusik Choi.

Jeff Wachtel

Wachtel will serve as CEO of the LA-based company, which has received strategic investment from Endeavor Content-backed Blink49 Studios and has struck a first-look development deal with The Roku Channel.

Future Shack Entertainment said it would focus on developing and co-financing shows for global audiences and look to take advantage of a “growing space in the market for non-affiliated production companies to service streamers and traditional linear networks.”

Prior to serving as president of NBCU’s international TV studio, based in London, Wachtel was president of Universal Cable Productions (2014-2019) and president of USA Network (2009-2014).

Michaels, who led strategy, critical partnerships and negotiations for NBCU’s cable portfolio, will serve as chief operating officer at Future Shack. Yusik Choi, the former MD of technology, media and telecom at Rothschild & Co and an investment banker at Credit Suisse, will be chief financial officer.

In addition, Larry Sullivan has joined the company as president, creative, after a seven-year stint as head of development at Conaco Entertainment. Pamela Parker, who previously ran business affairs for Sony Pictures Television International Production, will head up business affairs. Future Shack is in the process of building out its creative team.

With Blink49’s strategic investment in Future Shack, the two companies have entered into a long-term development and production arrangement that is primarily focused on Canadian projects. Toronto-based Blink49, led by John Morayniss, will handle production and distribution of all Future Shack projects in Canada.

Under the first-look development deal with The Roku Channel, meanwhile, Future Shack said it would focus on “creating the type of ‘blue sky’ programming that Wachtel helped pioneer for USA Network.”

In addition, Future Shack said it was in advanced discussions with an asset-management firm to “secure a significant financing vehicle that will supply international broadcasters with the final piece of financing for their series, with the company realising upside from US and global sales.”

A number of projects are also in the works through the new company. Future Shack is developing several projects with author Walter Mosley, including adaptations of his novels The Long Fall, Futureland and Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore.

Also in development with Gigi Pritzker’s Madison Wells media company is a new take on Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi novel Ender’s Game. In addition, Wachtel’s firm is developing a limited TV series called Restoration, which tells the true story behind the theft of 20 paintings worth over half-a-billion dollars from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 1991.

“This is the most disruptive and exciting time our business has seen in more than a generation,” said Wachtel. “The opportunity is there for a company that has taste, drive and vision. We believe we can be a creative and commercial launchpad, enabling the best artists to find the best path to success.”

Michaels said: “We are creating a new, partner-friendly organisation, not afraid to break precedent in order to enable creative freedom and deliver the most impactful stories for our business partners.”

Choi added: “We believe the rapid growth of FAST and AVoD networks will continue to create new demand for advertising-friendly content, and we are well positioned to deliver stories to meet that growing demand.”

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