Lionsgate Enters Gaming Business With Nerdist Alum (Exclusive)
This story first appeared in the May 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Lionsgate is looking to give its film franchises and television series the Angry Birds treatment.
The Santa Monica-based studio has tapped Peter Levin, one of Hollywood's most active digital dealmakers, to spearhead its entree into gaming. The former CEO of Nerdist Industries is joining Lionsgate on April 30 as president of interactive ventures and games. He has been charged with adapting existing properties into video games primarily for mobile and social platforms.
"We've got a phenomenal library of content," Levin, 44, tells THR, citing such franchises as The Hunger Games and Divergent. "Each property could be brought to life in the video game space."
Levin also is looking to incubate gaming properties and make digital media investments. He reports to Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer, with dotted-line reporting to CFO Jimmy Barge on digital investments. "Peter is a perfect fit for our entrepreneurial culture," said Feltheimer in a statement. "He is ideally qualified to lead the continued growth of our content business into the video game space and other interactive digital ventures."
Lionsgate is not new to the digital realm. In early April, the company announced a pact with YouTube star Freddie Wong and his RocketJump Studios to create content for online and traditional distribution. In 2007, Lionsgate purchased a 42 percent stake in online video network Break Media (now Defy Media), and in 2012 it launched the YouTube fitness channel BeFit.
Levin says he will not limit himself to online content plays, adding that he plans to look "at a broad swath of opportunities, whether it's social media, digital products or messaging applications."
The studio behind Mad Men and Orange Is the New Black has not yet made a big bet in mobile gaming, a fast-growing industry built on buzzy free-to-play titles like Candy Crush Saga that is expected to balloon to $60 billion by 2017. But Levin notes that combining Lionsgate's intellectual property with engaging and addictive games "could be a very potent combination if executed properly."
Levin, who began his career at CAA, is co-founder of the email newsletter GeekChicDaily, which merged with Chris Hardwick's Nerdist in 2011 to form Nerdist Industries, which operates a YouTube channel with more than 900,000 subscribers. He left the pop-culture-centric content producer in September, a little more than a year after its July 2012 sale to Legendary Entertainment.
Through his investment and advisory firm GYL, Levin has become active in the mobile gaming industry. He is a board member at Finnish startup Next Games, which is developing a mobile game for AMC's The Walking Dead, and was an early adviser to Angry Birds developer Rovio.
Despite his background building startups, Levin says he feels at home at a studio. "The entrepreneurial spirit of Lionsgate is palpable," he says. "I've just got to figure out where they'll let me put my arcade games."