Vox Media has agreed to acquire publisher and producer Epic Magazine, boosting the media company's video storytelling capabilities and giving it a stronger foothold in Hollywood.
The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, will see the 25-person Epic, producer of Apple anthology series Little America, become an independent division within the newly established Vox Media Studios division that will house all of the company's film, television and podcast production and distribution efforts.
"Epic has an incredible track record of having an impact through storytelling," Vox CEO Jim Bankoff tells THR, adding that the company has established "respect and trust throughout Hollywood in bringing amazing stories to life on the screen."
Epic is Vox Media's first entertainment acquisition following its previous purchases of the Curbed Network and tech site Recode. The company, which owns seven sites that span tech, food and sports coverage, had a combined reach of 87.9 million U.S. uniques in February, per comScore.
Founded six years ago by journalists Josh Davis and Joshuah Bearman, Epic was designed to create a pipeline of sorts for magazine articles to become feature films or TV shows. Both had experience optioning their own work to Hollywood producers. Bearman's 2007 Wired story about a CIA scheme to rescue American diplomats from Tehran became the Ben Affleck film Argo, which won the Oscar for best picture in 2012. And Warner Bros. bought the rights to Davis' Wired investigation on John McAfee. They established Epic as part publishing platform and part production company, helping writers publish stories ripe for Hollywood adaptation and then guiding projects through that development process. Through the Epic Digital arm, they also work with brands like Google, IBM, GE and Ford.
Today, Epic has a first-look deal with 20th Century Fox and more than 40 film and TV projects in development, including Little America from The Big Sick writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon and an untitled story about John DeLorean directed by George Clooney. Epic's team includes editor-in-chief Dan Fierman, Epic Digital head Kiana Moore, film and tv head Arthur Spector and chief of staff Melis Tusiray.
"We were looking at the next chapter of Epic and wanted to grow faster, do more, tell more stories, have more resources," Davis says. "Vox is the perfect partner to do that." Adds Bearman, "We all believe in the same type of storytelling, that really was the key thing."
Vox Media has similarly been looking for ways to leverage its network of brands, including Vox, The Verge, Eater and SB Nation, in new mediums. In 2015, the publisher launched Vox Entertainment to develop video projects for third-party networks and streaming services. Its slate includes unscripted series No Passport Required for PBS, Explained for Netflix and American Style for CNN. The company also operates a podcast network with more than 100 current shows, including The Ezra Klein Show and Recode Decode.
All of Vox Media's entertainment businesses will now operate under Vox Media Studios, which will be led by the division's newly appointed president, Marty Moe. The unit previously named Vox Entertainment will continue to develop, produce and distribute nonfiction programming for TV and over-the-top platforms led by head of entertainment Chad Mumm and head of production Mark W. Olsen. The Vox Media Podcast Network is led by executive producer Nishat Kurwa and head of revenue Evan Lang. Epic, meanwhile, will continue to be led by Bearman and Davis out of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
"We fully expect to be crossing IP over between podcasting and television, from scripted to unscripted, and this is the place where we can make all of that happen," says Moe. "It's where we have the most talented creators, producers and developers all under the same roof to be able to make it happen."