By Tim Baysinger
(Reuters) - Otter Media, the joint venture between AT&T Inc and The Chernin Group, has partnered with Reese Witherspoon to form a new multimedia company, Hello Sunshine, aimed at telling female-driven stories.
Witherspoon’s involvement in Hello Sunshine will come via her production company Pacific Standard, which counts films “Wild,” “Gone Girl,” and the upcoming HBO series “Big Little Lies” among its credits. As a subsidiary of Hello Sunshine, Pacific Standard will continue to make TV shows and films, but now will also branch out to include shorter-run digital content tailored for social media.
AT&T partnered with longtime media executive Peter Chernin to form Otter Media in 2014 as a way to capitalize on the booming streaming video industry, committing more than $500 million to buy and or launch new companies.
The new company could give AT&T an early stake hold in a marketplace currently light on content made both for and by women. A study by USC-Annenberg found that female characters made up only 28.7 percent of all speaking roles in film, while women accounted for just 15 percent of directors.
Witherspoon launched Pacific Standard with her producing partner Bruna Papandrea in 2012 as a means to get more women both behind and in front of the camera in more prominent roles. Papandrea recently left to start her own venture.
Otter Media’s portfolio includes digital media company Fullscreen Media (which owns digital studio Rooster Teeth), social marketing agency McBeard, and Gunpowder & Sky, the digital studio launched by former Viacom executive Van Toffler. Otter Media also has invested in the Japanese anime and gaming space with two streaming video services in Crunchyroll and VRV. Earlier this year, Chernin Group also acquired sports media company Barstool Sports.
AT&T has been in the process of acquiring Time Warner Inc, a deal expected to close next year should it pass regularly hurdles. Last week, Time Warner's studio Warner Bros. agreed to acquire all of digital media company Machinima, a competitor to Fullscreen.
Kerry Tucker will serve as chief executive of Hello Sunshine. Tucker most recently engineered the sale of The Video Genome Project, a content-recommendation start-up, to Hulu.
Seth Rodsky, founding partner of Strand Equity Partners, is partnered with Witherspoon on the deal and will join the Hello Sunshine board.
(This story corrects 6th paragraph to show Chernin Group, not Otter Media, acquired Barstool Sports.)
(Reporting by Tim Baysinger; Editing by David Gregorio)