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After two years of helping turn Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show segments into online gold, Gavin Purcell is moving on from the late-night show for a job overseeing video at digital publisher Vox Media.
The company behind The Verge, Eater and SB Nation has tapped Purcell as head of video, a newly created position that will give him responsibility over the digital video strategy for Vox’s eight brands.
Like many of its online publishing peers, Vox has made a sizeable push into the digital video space over the last few years. But its efforts have been more measured than competitors like BuzzFeed, which created its Motion Pictures video branch two years ago, or Vice Media, which has more than a dozen online video channels in addition to its HBO shows and cable channel.
Even so, Vox CEO Jim Bankoff says video is now one of the biggest pieces of the company’s business and has become the significant investment area for the company. Purcell was brought in to develop a cohesive video strategy across Vox’s brands — Vox.com, The Verge, Polygon, SB Nation, Eater, Racked, Curbed and Recode. “Part of what we were looking for was someone who not only understood how to grow a video brand, but someone who understood how to do it in a way that was high-quality and worked with talent to tell great stories,” Bankoff tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Bankoff found that in Purcell, whom he calls “a rare breed who understands storytelling over multimedia.” Purcell most recently served as producer and writer on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where he oversaw on-air production as well as the late-night show’s interactive elements including its digital properties. Since Fallon took over The Tonight Show in 2014, the late-night program has become known for its digital presence and viral clips. The show currently has more than 12 million YouTube subscribers and nearly 6 billion total views.
Purcell has worked for Fallon for a number of years, previously serving as supervising producer and writer for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. He previously was an executive producer on G4’s Attack of the Show, where he bridged on-air and digital content.
“I have an amazing job,” says Purcell, acknowledging that it won’t be easy for him to step away from Tonight Show after working with Fallon for so many years. But he says that he became excited by the idea of working across Vox’s different brands. “The idea of being able to work with and develop those voices and help grow those voices is super interesting to me,” says Purcell, adding, “I hope I can bring some of the lessons of TV to the digital side, like how you create big experiences, how you work with major talent and how you develop talent in front of the camera and behind the camera.”
Vox currently has a number of digital series, including science-based Observatory from Vox.com, SB Nation’s MMA Hour hosted by Ariel Helwani and Eater’s Dining on a Dime featuring Lucas Peterson. The company also has made a push to build up the on-air profiles of its writers and editors, including Vox’s Ezra Klein and Liz Plank.
In addition to managing those efforts, Purcell will oversee Vox’s YouTube network and will work closely with Los Angeles-based Vox Entertainment, which is headed by Chad Mumm and is focused on adapting Vox brands and properties into traditional-length projects for television and over-the-top distribution.
“As we develop new formats on the web and develop new talent on the web, we can always have an eye toward how do we go longer and develop things that might also be appropriate for other, more lean-back platforms,” says Bankoff. “That’s another benefit of having Gavin on the team.”
Purcell starts in the new role on Nov. 1 and will report to publisher Melissa Bell, with dotted line reporting to Bankoff. He will remain based in New York.
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