Digging deeper into the do-good business, Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media, a socially conscious entertainment company, is buying Rainn Wilson’s SoulPancake, a similarly oriented digital enterprise known for uplifting web fare like the online series The Science Of Happiness, the companies said Thursday.
“They’re communicating with an audience that’s ultimately optimistic, it wants to experience an inspirational world, an altruistic world,” David Linde, Participant’s chief executive, said in a telephone interview. Linde was describing the 8.8 million social media fans and 1.7 million YouTube subscribers who have clustered around SoulPancake since it was launched in 2009.
Wilson, widely recognized as the socially inept Dwight Schrute on NBC’s The Office, is credited as the founder of SoulPancake; its CEO is Shabnam Mogharabi. Linde said Participant, which is owned by eBay co-founder Skoll, is acquiring the group from Wilson and private investors. He declined to disclose terms. With the acquisition, Mogharabi will become general manager of SoulPancake, which will remain in its current Los Angeles headquarters, and will report to the Participant COO Sam Neswick, the companies said in a statement. Wilson will expand his current role by contributing “creative input” to Participant, the statement added.
In describing SoulPancake’s appeal, Linde said it is expected to give Participant — which has backed social-impact films like Spotlight and The Help — more contact with young, action-oriented viewers who share Skoll’s belief that consumption of entertainment, and almost anything else, should reflect their values. “We have to be speaking to them more consistently,” said Linde.
The need for consistency, he added, made a stronger push into digital short-form entertainment of the sort generated by SoulPancake inevitable. SoulPancake has bolstered its short-form entertainment offerings with philanthropic efforts, including contributions to cancer research and the feeding of hungry children.
For Participant, the push into short-form video helps to plug a hole that will be left as the company closes its Pivot television channel. Now, said Linde, both Participant and SoulPancake are likely to converge on television projects. More, he added, the combination will give SoulPancake added financial firepower, and expanded access to intellectual property. “They’ll have more resources across the board,” he said.