Jeff Wachtel Launches Future Shack Entertainment, Pacts With Roku

TV industry veteran Jeff Wachtel has raised funding and assembled a small team to launch Future Shack Entertainment, a production banner focused on developing television for global markets.

Wachtel agreed with former NBCUniversal executive Sam Michaels and Yusik Choi, former chief executive of Rothschild & Co. and investment banker at Credit Suisse, to launch the banner with significant private equity funding.

Future Shack has also formed a partnership with Blink49 Studios, the Endeavor Content-backed banner launched last year by Entertainment One and Alliance Atlantis alum John Moryaniss. Future Shack also has a first-look deal with the Roku Channel, one of several ad-supported channels offered on the MVPD digital platform.

Jeff Wachtel
Adam Olszewski / NBCUniversal

“This is the most disruptive and exciting time our business has seen in more than a generation,” Wachtel said Variety. “The opportunity is there for a company that has taste, drive and vision. We believe we can become a creative and commercial launch pad, enabling the best artists to find the best path to success.”

Wachtel aims to focus Future Shack on international co-production. Some experienced US producers are looking for creative deals and talent scouting opportunities in markets outside the US, thanks to the rise of streamers with global subscriber bases. There is a big push among US industry veterans to take advantage of the lower production cost base outside the US, as well as intellectual property rules in the UK and other markets that are more favorable to independent producers.

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Sam Michaels

“We’re building a new partner-friendly organization, unafraid to break precedent to enable creative freedom and deliver the most impactful stories for our business partners,” said Michaels, who was previously a business executive on the cable side of NBCUniversal. .

The Roku Channel deal specifically covers Future Shack’s development of the “blue sky” drama series that Wachtel became known for during his tenure as head of programming for NBCUniversal’s USA network — think “Suits,” ” Psych’, ‘Royal Pains’, ‘White Collar’ and ‘Burn Notice’. Wachtel noted that the language in the agreement is amusingly specific to the genre he knows well.

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Yushik Choi

“We believe the rapid growth of the FAST and AVOD networks will continue to create new demand for ad-friendly content, and we are well-positioned to provide stories to meet this growing demand,” said Choi.

Also joining the Future Shack launch is Larry Sullivan, formerly of Conan O’Brien’s Conaco, as president of creative. Pamela Parker, a Sony Pictures International TV alum, serves as head of business affairs. Frances Manfredi, former senior content sales executive for NBCU, is an advisor to Future Shack.

Currently, Future Shack is developing projects with the famous author Walter Mosley, most notably his novels “The Long Fall”, “Futureland” and “Debbie Doesn’t Does It Anymore”. The company is working on what it describes as a “radically new approach” to the Orson Scott card novel Ender’s Game with Gigi Pritzker’s Madison Wells. A limited series about the 1991 art theft from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is also in the works.

Wachtel ran programming for USA Network at the height of its success with originals beginning with the Tony Shalhoub starrer “Monk,” which ran from 2002 to 2009. He moved on to become president of Universal Content Prods. in 2013. He spent two years in London overseeing NBCU’s international television production operation before leaving in 2020.

Wachtel’s time in London and his experience as a producer and dealmaker made him realize it was a good time to create an agile production business capable of bringing some funding to the table. Investor interest in independently produced content has been pleasantly surprising, he said. Wachtel did not elaborate on its private equity partners, but said the company has plenty of funding to get off the ground.

Future Shack plans to bring on a few more executives as the company gets up and running.

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