DreamWorks Animation has tapped Katie O’Connell Marsh to run its live-action TV unit. As the company’s head of Global Live-Action Television, she will be charged with expanding the company’s TV business into live-action fare. Marsh will be based at the DWA’s Glendale headquarters and begin with the company in the New Year.
The move into TV is an interesting one for Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks Animation, which, as its one name indicates, has been all about animated content.
The company’s relatively modest pipeline, however, which sees it releasing two to three films a year has left it — and its share price — particularly vulnerable to those pics’ box office performance. Every time one of those pictures is seen as underperforming, the share price has taken an immediate hit. The move into live-action TV, particularly during the “Golden Age” of television, is seen as a possible way to protect the business from those volatile fluctuations.
Katzenberg began to explore a possible expansion into live-action TV in the summer, when he quietly started meeting with executives for the job. It is understood that DWA was looking to focus more on family-oriented live-action entertainment to avoid complete overlap with Amblin TV (formerly DreamWorks TV), the television company of his former DreamWorks partner, Steven Spielberg. The company already had been testing the TV waters on the animated side with its original series for Netflix.
“Television has quickly grown into one of our most successful businesses and, as the demand for kids and co-viewing content continues to rise, extending the DreamWorks Animation brand to live-action TV in a strategic and financially disciplined way will spur even further growth,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg. “Katie’s proven track record of developing hit live-action television programming, coupled with her success in quickly building television businesses from the ground up, makes her the perfect executive to lead us into this new genre.”
Added Ann Daly, President of DreamWorks Animation: “Our move into live-action will enable DWA to further capitalize on the evolving television landscape by creating new opportunities on both traditional and emerging platforms for our branded series,” “Moreover, live action will give us yet another creative lens with which to explore our library of rich storytelling and memorable characters that have resonated with audiences for the past two decades.”
Marsh joins DreamWorks Animation from Gaumont International TV, where she has served as CEO since 2010. During her time at Gaumont, she built the business from the ground up and has one of the best relationships in the business with SVOD giant Netflix. Gaumont developed and produced Narcos, Hemlock Grove and the upcoming F Is For Family, all with Netflix. DreamWorks Animation also has an excellent relationship with Netflix’s Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos, having inked a strategic deal in 2013 for DreamWorks Animation to produce 300-plus exclusive hours of original programming for Netflix utilizing the company’s existing IP and characters. At the time, the multiyear pact repped Netflix’s largest ever for first-run content.
Marsh also served as EVP, Drama Programming at NBC, where she worked on Lipstick Jungle, 30 Rock and other shows. She also is a professor in the Peter Stark Producing Program at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.