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THR's 2012 Digital Power 50

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    Talent Agencies
    Digital Domains
    The firms work on everything from branded content to viral comedy videos for their clients.


    While CAA works on digital content distribution, social media management and branded entertainment for its clients, the company has a unique focus: incubating digital startups. Michael Yanover, head of business development for the agency, says that while the companies CAA has incubated have been built with an eye toward profit, there has been a "dual benefit of providing a service to many clients and nonclients." He says Creative Mobile Labs, which launched in 2011, fits that bill in this respect: The firm brings Hollywood talent together with application developers to create content for mobile platforms. "It is actually providing something to our clients that didn't exist before," says Yanover, who oversees a team of about 10 people. The company also has incubated WhoSay, a social media service for celebrities and influencers, and Funny or Die, the ubiquitous humor website. In each case, CAA has a stake in the company as a founder. 


    At ICM, the goal is "to take our clients' artistry and find new avenues for it -- and hopefully new monetizable avenues," says George Ruiz, senior vp business affairs and head of new media at the agency. He is ICM's sole agent dedicated to the digital realm on a full-time basis, though about 20 agents from various disciplines also work in the space. Ruiz has worked with some of his traditional acting clients, including Felicia Day, to broaden the scope of their digital projects. Day, for example, is the creator, writer and star of The Guild, an award-winning web series that was started in 2007 and centers on a group of online gamers. Along the way, Ruiz has cut deals for the series with Netflix and Hulu, and it can be seen on Xbox Live, iTunes, YouTube and Amazon. There's also a comic book from Darkhorse Comics. "Every project has its own needs, but we really like to approach this where digital is the starting point, and we can take it other places," Ruiz says.

    PHOTOS: THR's 2012 Digital Power 50


    Paradigm did away with a formal digital department in 2009 because the digital arena "is a huge panorama -- you couldn't have three or four people who are focused on the entire client list," says Andrew Ruf, head of the agency's finance department. He says every agent is expected to be conversant in the digital realm, serving clients' social media, licensing and distribution needs. For agency client Katherine Heigl, that meant helping develop "Katherine Heigl Hates Balls," an irreverent public service video about neutering dogs that debuted on Funny or Die in November and racked up nearly 1 million views. Paradigm represents Alliance Entertainment, a distributor of music and movies that is co-owned by Platinum Equity and the Gores Group, the respective investment firms of Tom Gores and Alec Gores, brothers of Paradigm CEO Sam Gores. The agency is helping Alliance transition into digital distribution; the company will look to acquire original content.


    UTA lays claim to a handful of firsts: It was the first major agency to form an online entertainment division (2006) and a social media practice (2011). Brent Weinstein, head of UTA's digital media department, says the company's willingness to stake out territory ahead of competitors sets it apart. "The agency has always been very innovative and very aggressive about being leaders in the digital space, even when it wasn't necessarily in vogue and when other companies were taking a more conservative wait-and-see approach," says Weinstein, who oversaw formation of the online entertainment division before decamping for a two-year stint at 60Frames Entertainment, the web video startup UTA incubated (he returned to UTA when 60Frames folded in 2009). UTA's digital department has six agents including Ophir Lupu, who joined the company in November after departing CAA, where he was co-head of the video game department.


    SuzAnn Brantner heads WME's digital division, overseeing a department that includes six people and takes a full-service approach to all things digital: "We are a digital source for every client and every department." Her department's work ranges from securing buyers for digital content to finding distribution for material that has been produced. For former agency client Lisa Kudrow, that meant cutting a deal with Lexus-owned branded entertainment website LStudio.com to screen the actress' improvised comedy web series, Web Therapy. The Webby award-winning series, which launched in 2008, was later aired on Showtime -- a deal the agency also cut. "Branded entertainment is becoming an incredible growth engine for high-quality digital content," says Brantner. WME also has secured funding for clients such as Amy Poehler, who have cut deals with YouTube as part of its new original channel push.


    Email: Daniel.Miller@THR.com

    Twitter: @DanielNMiller

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