Television industry veteran Jeff Wachtel raised the funding and assembled a small team to launch Future Shack Entertainment, a production banner focused on developing television for global markets.
Wachtel has worked with former NBCUniversal executive Sam Michaels and Yusik Choi, formerly a managing director at Rothschild & Co. and an investment banker at Credit Suisse, to launch the banner with significant funding from private equity funds.
Future Shack has also partnered with Blink49 Studios, the Endeavor Content powered banner launched last year by Entertainment One and Alliance Atlantis alum John Moryaniss. Future Shack also has a first-look deal with Roku Channel, one of the many ad-supported channels offered on the MVPD digital platform.
“This is the most disruptive and exciting time our company has seen in more than a generation,” said Wachtel diversity. “The opportunity is there for a company that has taste, drive and vision. We believe we can be a creative and commercial launch pad that allows the best artists to find the best path to success.”
Wachtel aims to focus Future Shack on international co-productions. A number of veteran US producers are looking to markets outside the US for creative dealmaking and talent scouting opportunities, thanks to the rise of streamers with global subscriber bases. There is a lot of pressure among US industry veterans to take advantage of the lower cost base of production outside the US, as well as copyright rules in the UK and other markets, which are more favorable to independent producers.
“We’re creating a new, partner-friendly organization that’s not afraid to break precedent to empower creative freedom and deliver the most impactful stories to our business partners,” said Michaels, who previously served as executive director on the cable side of NBCUniversal.
The deal with Roku Channel notably includes Future Shack’s development of the “Blue Sky” drama series for which Wachtel was best known during his tenure as programming director for NBCUniversal’s USA Network – think “Suits”, “Psych”, “Royal Pains” , “White-Collar”. ‘ and ‘Burn Notice’. Wachtel noted that the language in the deal is amusingly specific to the genre, which he knows well.
“We believe the rapid growth of FAST and AVOD networks will continue to create new demand for advertiser-friendly content, and we are well positioned to deliver stories to meet this growing demand,” said Choi.
Larry Sullivan, formerly of Conan O’Brien’s Conaco, will also attend the launch of Future Shack as President of Creative. Sony Pictures International TV graduate Pamela Parker serves as Head of Business Affairs. Frances Manfredi, a former top content sales executive at NBCU, is an advisor to Future Shack.
Future Shack is currently developing projects with famed author Walter Mosley, most notably his novels The Long Fall, Futureland and Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore. The company is working on what it says is a “radically new version” of Orson Scott Card’s novel “Ender’s Game,” starring Gigi Pritzker’s Madison Wells. A limited series on the theft of artworks from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 1991 is also in preparation.
Wachtel managed programming for USA Network at the height of its success with originals, beginning with Tony Shalhoub-star “Monk,” which ran from 2002-2009. He moved on to become President of Universal Content Prods. in 2013. He spent two years in London overseeing NBCU’s international TV production before exiting in 2020.
Wachtel’s time in London and his experience as a producer and dealmaker made him realize it was a good time to build a nimble production operation capable of bringing some funding to the table. The keen investor interest in independently produced content was pleasantly surprising, he said. Wachtel declined to elaborate on its private equity partners, but said the company has sufficient funding to get started.
Future Shack intends to hire a few more executives as the company gets going.