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On Wednesday night, entertainment heavyweights like Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, Spotify exec Bill Simmons, and comedians and actors Tiffany Haddish and Travon Free gathered at République Los Angeles for dinner with Bloomberg Media CEO M. Scott Havens.
The dinner was a celebration of sorts for Bloomberg, which is forging a larger presence on the West Coast as it seeks growth opportunities. The company is pursuing an expansion in video content and building out a development office in L.A. to help it do so. It’s also launching a new live event based on its Screentime newsletter, betting that it can establish an event footprint in Hollywood.
The dinner was “a chance to meet a lot of the movers and shakers in the business and to say, ‘We’re here and we want to talk to you, we want you to come to our events, we want to interview you, we want to tell your news,'” Havens says.
Bloomberg, of course, has long reported from the Golden State, though as one would expect a lot of the focus over the past few decades has been centered around the Bay Area.
“We’ve been quietly present and invested in California overall for quite some time, I’d say more focused on Northern California, San Francisco, Silicon Valley,” Havens says. “I think it’s over the last several years that we started to think a lot more about Southern California, Silicon Beach, as it were.”
The expansion “just kind of makes it a little bit more obvious and overt that we are investing where a lot of great stories are,” Havens adds. “We feel like there’s a ton of opportunity out here, and we really have been more New York-centric in our history.”
A critical piece of the puzzle is around video content. Bloomberg is a buyer, with its TV channels and digital platforms, but Havens says the company also wants to be seen as a source of IP in a market looking for compelling stories.
“If we’re going to be producing our own shows, if we’re going to be licensing all the great IP from our newsroom, then having a deeper presence in L.A. in particular is critical, frankly,” Havens says. “I came out and met with a lot of the heads of some of the production studios, some of the streamers and said, ‘Hey, you know, we’re sitting on incredible amounts of IP and we’d like to take some of them and work with you to produce them into shows, scripted or unscripted.’
“We had been doing this kind of ad hoc over the years, The Shrink Next Door would probably be our biggest project to date, where we had a partnership with Wondery. We created this amazing podcast, which sold to MRC to create a show, and Apple TV picked it up with Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd,” Havens added. “That kind of opened our eyes several years ago to the possibility that if we’re not going to produce some of our journalism in video, i.e. do a short documentary in-house or live news coverage on it, then maybe for both our sake branding-wise and financially and for the journalists’ sake who we share royalties with … We might as well put in a process and a team to help shepherd those ideas out to those that can produce them and buy them.”
And of course, Bloomberg is also looking for projects that it can run itself.
“The other piece of it is we’re now a buyer and a producer ourselves, not nearly at the scale of any of the big streamers,” Havens says, noting new Bloomberg Originals shows led by Kal Penn, Hannah Fry and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. “Our marketing partners want to come along for that ride. They want to spend some of their dollars on video, whether it’s social, digital, streaming, whatever. So that’s a big part of this.”
In terms of finding Bloomberg’s voice in entertainment content, “I think that we’re trying to find that sweet spot on business infotainment, where you learn something and it’s also interesting to watch, where there’s a central anchor or character that is charismatic and draws you in. It might have some wit and humor in it, but that fundamentally is a business show that you enjoy watching,” Havens says, citing projects about Theranos and the Fyre Festival as inspirations.
“These were so dramatic and captivating, but they were also these incredible business stories and fraud stories and shareholder stories, and so that’s kind of the sweet spot we’re trying to find,” he adds.
And then there’s Screentime.
Currently a newsletter brand helmed by Bloomberg entertainment team leader Lucas Shaw, Screentime will launch a flagship live event in L.A. in October, Havens says.
Netflix’s Sarandos, Spotify’s Simmons, Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel, CAA chief Bryan Lourd, actress and producer Issa Rae, and Universal Films chairman Donna Langley are among the confirmed speakers.
“We’ve got the content in digital form and in print form, we’ve got the content that manifests itself in a newsletter, and this is a live experience of that brand,” Havens says. “And I think, since I took over a year and a half ago, one of the things that’s important to me is to make sure that we continue to double down on the brands and the categories that matter.”
The goal, the executive says, is to bring new readers, and perhaps new subscribers, into the fold. And of course to make news. Bloomberg will be covering the discussions as they happen.
“When we do an event of this size and of this import, it is a great branding event for both Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Media and for the company,” he says. “It does help us open up a region a bit and bring in guests who then become readers, subscribers and hopefully terminal purchasers as well.”
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