How Often Do Celebrity Production Companies Launch Hit Shows?
A Deep Dive into How LeBron, the Obamas, the Royals, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Reese Witherspoon, and Other Celebs Have Fared in Hollywood
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I didn’t realize that the centerpiece of my “Most Important Story of August”—the sale of Entertainment One for $500 million to Lionsgate—would connect so well to my Ankler article last week; their valuation makes the eye-popping valuations of celebrity production companies look so…
I took a look at the financial/strategic impacts of these companies for The Ankler last week, but I want to dive a bit deeper into the ratings data for their films and TV shows today. As I pointed out in the Ankler, the only way you can think they're more valuable is if you honestly believe celebrities have a much better track record at launching hits.
And hey, no one knows the data better than I on that, right?
So I did a deep dive into the hit rates of LeBron James, Reese Witherspoon, the Obamas, Peyton Manning, the Royals, Tom Brady and other celebrities' production companies. (In some ways, today’s article is me “showing my work” for that article.) To give you the bottom line up front, celebrity production companies don’t have a higher hit rate than average…and might actually be worse.
Sometimes when I dive into data, folks expect some complicated algorithm running differential equations and multivariable regression analysis.
Other times, the data is simple. Take today’s query.
To look at the success of celebrity production companies, I basically just went to their Wikipedia and IMDb pages to find any projects they were associated with. This includes shows and films I think these companies distributed, owned, produced or executive produced. Anything made in conjunction with them.
Then I pulled out the simplest tool of all: was that TV show or film a hit or not? I lumped things into three categories: “hit”, where the ratings show it’s a top 20% film or TV show, “miss”, meaning outside of the ratings, or a “maybe”, if it fell somewhere in between. (Honestly? I was probably a bit generous with the “maybe” labels...so if anything, this analysis is more pro-celebrity production companies than reality.)
As for who to include in this analysis, I knew the Obamas, LeBron James, Reese Witherspoon, and Harry and Meghan’s production companies would have to be included in this analysis, because their deals inspired this article. I also added Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions, Brady Pitt’s Plan B, and Tom Brady’s Religion of Sports, because they’ve generated some big paydays in the last two years. I also wanted to look at athletes in general, especially since almost every NBA players is trying to make it in Hollywood now,1 so I added Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Colin Kaepernick’s production companies. And then to look at a relatively-younger star, I added Margot Robbie’s LuckyChap Entertainment. (I tried to look at Ben and Matt’s Artist Equity, but they haven’t really made anything yet.)
Basically, if I saw a headline in the last few years about a huge production deal or equity sale, you made the list.
Last note: I’m lumping two different kinds of entities here. On one hand, we have big overall deals that fuel production companies (think Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and the Obamas) and on the other we have production companies that have sold shares to private-equity-backed entities (think LeBron James, Brad Pitt and Reese Witherspoon).
What Does The Data Say
Without further ado, here’s the ratio of hits to misses for the six new celebrity production companies from above: