Layoffs Hit New Form Digital as Studio Shifts Development Focus (Exclusive)

Oscars Hotel Still - H 2014

Oscars Hotel Still - H 2014

The studio no longer plans to distribute original videos through its owned-and-operated social platforms as it sets its sights on selling more efficiently to digital and traditional buyers.

New Form Digital, the three-year-old studio established by Discovery Communications in partnership with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, is laying off a small number of staff as it looks to re-envision its programming development strategy amid a rapidly changing online video marketplace.  

A company spokeswoman confirmed the layoffs to The Hollywood Reporter in a statement that reads, "A few positions have been eliminated as we restructure to adapt to new company priorities." 

The layoffs affected several, but not all, departments at New Form and did not include any of its most senior executives, according to sources familiar with the company. The spokeswoman declined to provide specifics about the number of people let go. 

One division within the company said to be impacted by the changes is its original programming team. New Form will no longer produce videos for its owned-and-operated platforms, including its social media channels, and will instead focus on developing shows that it sells to other distributors. 

Discovery launched New Form in 2014 as a partnership with Grazer, Howard and several other entertainment industry veterans. Late last year the company, run by former YouTube creative development executive Kathleen Grace, raised $18 million from Discovery and ITV, bringing its total funding raised to $30 million. 

New Form was established to focus on producing shortform, scripted video series fronted by digital talent. Its incubator program has turned short films from YouTube stars including Anna Akana and PJ Liguori into digital series that have streamed on Verizon's go90 and Vimeo. New Form's most recent batch of digital pilots included one project starring Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Melissa Fumero and another hailing from executive producers Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky

But in the three years since New Form's launch, the digital ecosystem has changed dramatically. Platforms that were once hungry for short and mid-length series are now looking for projects that can help them compete in an increasingly competitive streaming environment. That means more traditional-length series with big name traditional stars and creative talent attached. YouTube Red recently tapped Naya Rivera and Ne-Yo to star in a Step Up revival executive produced by Channing Tatum. Cable networks, meanwhile, have also begun to look to digital to mine projects for linear distribution, with TBS recently ordering a first season of New Form-produced animated series Final Space

New Form plans to adapt to these changes by building out an audience insights division that will help it target established markets for its development pipeline, per sources. The company isn't expected to abandon its commitment to helping develop emerging online talent, but will look to work with that talent in different ways. For example, instead of tapping a YouTube creator with a big following for a starring role, New Form could look for a creative partner whose vision already aligns with the types of projects it is seeking. The changes are all in service of helping the company more efficiently sell its projects into digital and traditional outlets. 

New Form's projects have included fantasy series Oscar's Hotel for Fantastical Creators for Vimeoromantic comedy series Single by 30, starring Kina Grannis and Harry Shum Jr., for YouTube Red; and crime drama Cold for go90