First Look Media wants to make the next ‘Spotlight’
Nearly two years since the company's founding, a new strategy is beginning to take at shape First Look Media.
When it launched in early 2014, First Look Media's trajectory looked markedly different from the way it does today. Bankrolled by billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, the company was slated to launch multiple standalone digital magazines with a single flagship site covering covering sports, business and the economy.
Before the year was up, turmoil ensued. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi departed from First Look before the debut of Racket, the satirical news site he was hired to launch. The Intercept was reportedly riven by strife stemming from conflicts between First Look's executives and the star journalists they employed. Former Intercept employee Ken Silverstein penned a piece for POLITICO Magazine that christened First Look the place "where journalism goes to die."
In recent months, the slew of foreboding headlines has given way to productive silence. The Intercept has gained stability under the editorship of Betsy Reed, who has led the national security site to publish an exposé revealing the scope of the U.S. military's assassination program. It has launched "Field of Vision," a visual journalism initiative captained by Laura Poitras, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker behind "Citizenfour." And First Look has a new president in Michael Bloom, a media and tech entrepreneur who's leading a pivot at the fledgeling company. In August, Bloom told WIRED he was trying to build "the world’s leading platform for the most compelling independent voices," outlining ambitions that go beyond strictly journalistic.
The contours of that reboot are now beginning to materialize. On Wednesday, First Look Media announced the appointment of Comedy Central alumna Lisa Leingang to the position of senior vice president of scripted programming. Leingang, who has also worked at NBC, MTV and Bravo, will oversee the production of "short form and episodic digital content, as well as long-form programming for TV and streaming," according to the announcement. That follows the hiring of Adam Pincus, a former executive at the media company GroupM and senior vice president at Sundance.
Since Bloom joined First Look, the company has "widened the aperture" in pursuit of augmenting its journalism with productions spanning the realms of TV, film and other digital media, Bloom told Poynter. Also in the works is a "media platform" where First Look will publish content that will also run on streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO and Hulu.
"It's much broader than what was originally conceived," Bloom said.
The overarching goal is to create a hybrid between the studio and network model, where programs of varying length and scale will be developed and then published across First Look's properties. The genre and scope of the programs will differ, but a model for the type of program First Look might create is the Participant Media film "Spotlight," a journalistic chronicle that it helped fund.
"It's both entertaining, in its own right, but it also has something to say," Bloom said. "And for us, everything we do is going to have a distinct point of view. The way we talk about it is entertainment with something on its mind."
Correction: A previous version of this story said Lisa Leingang's appointment was announced on Friday. In fact, it was announced on Wednesday, Dec. 2.