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Indie producers prepare for Hollywood shrinkage

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Updated Jan 8, 2024
Illustration of a television with a test pattern dripping off the screen.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Smaller and midsize film and TV studios are laying the groundwork to survive an expected industry contraction.

Why it matters: A significant pullback in content spending could force more independent studios to consider raising more capital or find a merger partner.

The big picture: Financial pressures stemming from streaming losses and the erosion of legacy businesses are pressing down on media giants' balance sheets.

  • Star-driven production entities like Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine and Will Smith's Westbrook that scored investments or were acquired at high valuations are struggling to justify those investments.
  • Candle Media, which spent more than $4 billion on acquisitions since 2021, is trying to renegotiate some of its $1 billion in debt after failing to hit profit targets last year.
  • Smith's Westbrook had to lay off 25% its employees last year due to the WGA and SAG strikes, a spokesperson told Tim. The layoffs were first reported by Semafor.
  • Westbrook is still searching for a new home for its popular online video series "Red Table Talk" after Meta decided against a renewal.

Be smart: Some studios are making moves to bolster their financial standing and make sure they're not the ones on the outside looking in.

  • Media Res, the boutique studio behind Apple TV+'s "The Morning Show" and "Pachinko," took an undisclosed minority investment from Jeff Zucker's RedBird IMI to increase its production and expand its film and non-fiction business.
  • Jason Blum and James Wan's horror-focused production companies, Blumhouse and Atomic Monster, completed their long-in-the-works merger last week.
  • The combination is designed to help increase both brands' output while saving costs on back office and other support infrastructure. Comcast is also a minority owner of the joint venture.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Westbrook laid off 25% of its staff, not half.

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