Horizon Bolsters Branded Content Offering With Robert Friedman Deal

Launches joint venture with Bungalow Media + Entertainment

Horizon Media is partnering with industry veteran Robert Friedman to beef up its branded content offering.

The independent media agency and Friedman's new content development and production company, Bungalow Media + Entertainment, are launching a non-exclusive joint venture, named Bungalow Horizon. It includes a 50 percent capital investment from Horizon, as well as access to other agency resources. Friedman, most recently president at production company @radical.media, will be CEO of Bungalow Horizon at its offices in New York.

The companies declined to share exactly how much money they were putting into Bungalow Horizon, but estimated the total investment at seven figures.

"Every client is dabbling in some form of content development right now," said Bill Koenigsberg, Horizon's CEO. "Over the last six months to a year and a half, we've talked to numerous clients about owning some kind of unscripted television concept, developing shows that will revolve around their brand essence. We've talked to many clients about that, from Geico to Capital One to Weight Watchers."

Horizon is no stranger to branded integrations, as it's tied in client characters like Geico's gecko and the Capital One vikings with networks like the History Channel and Discovery Networks, including shows like History's Hatfields & McCoys.

"We've dabbled heavily on the fringes with regard to significant client integrations," said Koenigsberg. "This will now take us even further into full-fledged development and production."

Horizon's clients also include Corona, United Airlines, Vonage, Mike's Hard Lemonade, Sleepy's, A+E Networks, Buffalo Wild Wings, Edible Arrangements, Honda Dealers (SoCal and Phoenix) and Njoy electronic cigarettes.

Friedman's resume includes time in the upper echelons at AOL Time Warner and New Line Cinema—and, earlier in his career, at MTV. His credits at @radical.media include such branded entertainment pieces as Grey Goose's Iconoclasts, which has featured a broad range of celebrities like Lena Dunham, Tony Hawk, Alicia Keys, and Mario Batali over the course of six seasons running on Sundance Channel.

While Friedman is ultimately free through his own, broader, company to work with other marketers and their agencies, Koenigsberg hopes the partnership will give Horizon and its clients a competitive advantage in terms of access to ideas and potential content partners. "It just gives us a much stronger seat at the table in terms of first-to-market opportunities," said Koenigsberg. 

Across the television industry, marketers and content producers are increasingly embracing one another, as branded entertainment becomes more central to the business. Ben Silverman's studio Electus is producing NBC's Fashion Star, which has worked execs from brands like Saks, Macy's and H&M into the reality show's format. Electus also helped create Smirnoff's Master of the Mix, another vodka-brand funded television show that has aired on BET and VH1, in partnership with marketing agency GTM, executive producers on the series. Earlier this year, Aegis Media, which owns Horizon competitor Carat, spun its branded content offering into a separate unit, The Story Lab. By August, it had promoted its branded content guru Angela Courtin to president of Aegis (which has also worked on Master of the Mix). In 2012, media agency giant Starcom MediaVest Group promoted Brian Terkelsen, who had been running its branded content division Liquid Thread, to CEO of MediaVest.

The West Coast operations of Friedman's just-launched Bungalow Media + Entertainment include Todd Hoffman, a former ICM Partners agent who still represents content producers like The New York Times, 60 Minutes, and New York magazine, not to mention Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan. Bungalow proper has already hired a couple of staffers, Friedman said, and will round out to about eight people, including development, operational, and marketing execs, over the next six weeks or so. In addition to branded content, it will focus on developing content formats, and multicultural content.

Friedman chalked up the partnership with Horizon to the demands of the content landscape. "It's very difficult to program 300 hours of TV. It's very expensive. Most of the cable networks do not have the kind of financial support to even put into marketing," he said. "Right now with the clutter in the market, where you're in point three, point four rated time periods, the need to integrate and come up with different ways to monetize your content is more key today than it's probably ever been."

"Ten years ago there was no such thing as a digital agency of record," added Friedman. "We're about to go into a place where a content agency, if you will, or that content-agency kind of a resource, makes a lot of sense. It will end up living in a lot of different places but certainly when it comes to a media organization it makes sense to become a big component of that."