TV industry veteran Jeff Wachtel has raised financing and assembled a small team to launch Future Shack Entertainment, a production banner focused on developing TV for global markets.
Wachtel has pacted with former NBCUniversal executive Sam Michaels and Yusik Choi, formerly managing director at Rothschild & Co. and an investment banker at Credit Suisse, to launch the banner with significant financing from private equity funds.
Future Shack has also set a partnership with Blink49 Studios, the Endeavor Content-backed 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 digital MVPD platform.
“This is the most disruptive and exciting time our business has seen in more than a generation,” Wachtel told Variety. “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.”
Wachtel aims to focus Future Shack around international co-production. A number of seasoned U.S. producers are looking to creative dealmaking and talent scouting opportunities in markets outside the U.S. thanks to the rise of streamers with global subscriber bases. There’s a big push among U.S. industry veterans to take advantage of the lower cost base of production outside the U.S. as well as copyright rules in the U.K. and other markets that are more favorable to independent producers.
“We are creating a new, partner-friendly organization, not afraid to break precedent in order to enable creative freedom and deliver the most impactful stories for our business partners,” said Michaels, who was previously a business executive on the cable side of NBCUniversal.
The pact with Roku Channel specifically covers Future Shack’s development of “blue sky” drama series that Wachtel became known for during his tenure as programming chief 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 he knows well.
“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,” Choi said.
Also joining the Future Shack launch is Larry Sullivan, formerly with Conan O’Brien’s Conaco, as president of creative. Pamela Parker, an alum of Sony Pictures International TV, serves as head of business affairs. Frances Manfredi, a former top content sales executive for NBCU, is an advisor to Future Shack.
At present Future Shack is developing projects with famed author Walter Mosley, notably his novels “The Long Fall,” “Futureland” and “Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore.” The company is working on what is described as a “radically new take” on the Orson Scott Card novel “Ender’s Game.” A limited series take on the 1991 theft of artwork from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is also in the pipeline.
Wachtel ran programming for USA Network through the height of its success with originals starting with the Tony Shalhoub starrer “Monk,” which ran from 2002 to 2009. He shifted to president of Universal Content Prods. in 2013. He spent two years in London overseeing NBCU’s international TV production operation before exiting in 2020.
Wachtel’s time in London and experience as a producer and dealmaker made him realize it was a good time to establish a nimble production operation able to bring some financing to the table. The amount of interest from investors in independently produced content was pleasantly surprising, he said. Wachtel would not elaborate on his private equity partners but said the company has ample financing to get started.
Future Shack intends to bring on a few more executives as the company gets up and running.