EXCLUSIVE: Todd Hoffman, who worked for 13 years as an Enlightened Agent before setting up his own store in 2013, is developing a tool he developed to take out transaction clutter.
StoryScout is a digital offering first introduced in 2018 by Hoffman’s company, Storied Media Group. The offer is digital but also supported by human curation and manual evaluation of thousands of stories and articles reviewed every day by a team of readers and editors. “It’s a combination of new school and old school,” Hoffman told Deadline in an interview. The goal is to streamline the process of securing hardware for film and series adaptations, which takes on added importance in a world where streaming is exploding across the globe and demand for content is skyrocketing.
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In a seller’s market like the one the industry is currently experiencing, Hoffman said, StoryScout offers a “nut soup” service. It highlights the eligible material, determines its owner and then releases the rights. “The companies we work with own their own intellectual property. So, we know it’s going to clear up.
The traditional process, which Hoffman knew intimately during the days of his agency, is still quite anachronistic and ineffective. Even once a buyer discovers a viable acquisition candidate, they may face an odyssey to find out who represents them. “Then when you finally know who represents him, he’s probably sold,” Hoffman said.
The former ICM agent knows the field well, having replaced writers as well as intellectual property repositories like The New York Times, 60 minutes and new York magazine. At SMG, he signed a renowned list including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Marshall Project, The Guardian The Washington Post and NPR. Virtually all of the material featured on the platform is proprietary. While many publishers, especially in the book business, have sought to control film and television rights, Hoffman said that even on a non-exclusive basis, StoryScout has the potential to bring value to the ecosystem of content acquisition.
Some of StoryScout’s reputable buying clients include Sony Television, New Line, and Range Media, with talks underway with many more. Subscribers can browse the site and filter material based on genre, geography, suitability for a particular cast, or other variables.
Hoffman said he continued to close fundraisers (including one in 2018 in which Tele München Group took a minority stake). He estimates that Storied Media Group will break even in 2022. The Santa Monica-based company, which has 10 full-time employees and a network of contract workers, saw revenue more than double in 2020 compared to to 2019. More growth is expected this year. , according to Hoffman, although he did not provide specific numbers).
“The first indications are that it is working,” Hoffman said of StoryScout. “So we also want to expand our presence abroad. Why couldn’t a German producer go to StoryScout and buy something from South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and use it for a German show?
The increasingly global and transnational change in entertainment and the push for more diverse and inclusive material are two trends that StoryScout is keen to tap into.
“Diversity is our number one priority when looking at projects,” said Danielle Reardon, Production Business Development Manager for Sterling K. Brown, Indian Meadows. “We want to make sure that diversity is represented in all genres and we are very excited about three new projects that we have found through StoryScout that tell diverse stories through a fresh and happy lens. “
Lezlie Wells, script development manager for LeBron James’ SpringHill Entertainment said the platform customization options are a useful feature. “I feel like even though Story Scout is for everyone, I feel like it’s just for me,” she said.
When it comes to potential competition from a better capitalized company like Amazon-owned IMDb, Hoffman said he thinks StoryScout has “a little bit of a gap, a little bit of a head start. … Anyone can create a database. Our service is actually organized, so it’s not just ideas, it’s ideas that we think will be good on TV and in movies.