EXCLUSIVE: Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment is expanding its footprint in scripted TV comedy by acquiring a controlling stake in Tony Hernandez’s Jax Media to develop, produce and finance film and scripted television projects in the comedy space.
The strategic investment, whose size has not been disclosed, gives Imagine a pipeline to up-and-coming comedic talent as well as access to Jax Media’s physical production infrastructure in Los Angeles and New York. Jax president Hernandez will continue to oversee and run day-to-day operations.
New York-based indie Jax Media, which Hernandez founded in 2011 alongside Lilly Burns and John Skidmore, quickly became the go-to outfit for auteur-driven comedy series that can be produced for around $750,000 an episode.
Jax has worked with A-list comedic talent to produce such buzzy half-hour comedy series as TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and Search Party, Comedy Central’s Broad City and Inside Amy Schumer, TV Land’s Younger, ABC’s Roseanne reboot and Hulu’s Difficult People as well as several stand-up comedy specials, including Chris Rock: Tamborine, released last week on Netflix.
“Our company’s roots are in comedy, and I am excited to work with Tony and Jax Media to build upon what Ron and I first started,” said Grazer. “Tony has a keen eye for talent and exceptional taste and execution.”
Added Howard: “We are so excited to welcome Tony and Jax Media to the Imagine family. They bring with them an immense amount of expertise and success in the comedy space, and I look forward to collaborating with them and expanding our footprint in that genre.”
Imagine’s long history in comedy traces back to such popular films as Splash, Parenthood, The Nutty Professor and Liar Liar as well as the company’s signature half-hour series, the Emmy-winning Arrested Development. Imagine’s upcoming slate includes the female-driven action comedy film The Spy Who Dumped Me, starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, and the fifth season of Arrested Development on Netflix.
“We’re excited to grow our business alongside one of the most respected entertainment producers in the business,” Hernandez said. “I have admired Brian and Ron over the years not only for their creativity but also their vision.”
Jax recently indicated its ambitions to become an original programming player with the hire of Brooke Posch as President of Original Programming.
Imagine Television’s current series include Fox’s Empire (Fox) as well as Nat Geo’s Breakthrough, Mars, and Genius. The company also is developing Swagger with Kevin Durant, Perfect Harmony with Danny DeVito and Jeff Goldblum, and Priestdaddy based on Patricia Lockwell’s memoir.
Imagine Entertainment last summer formed a $100M 50-50 TV production co-financing venture with TVB, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Television Broadcasts Limited. Under that agreement, TVB landed broadcast and distribution rights to Imagine series in China, including Hong Kong and Macao, as well as Taiwan
Imagine Entertainment, founded by Grazer and Howard, went independent in 2016 when it secured a $100M investment from Raine Group. Also in 2016, Imagine sold a stake to China’s CMC Holdings, which orchestrated the Imagine-TVB’s production venture.
Imagine Entertainment’s TV operation, Imagine Television Studios, is in the first year of a four-year co-financing and first-look agreement with CBS Corporation for scripted and unscripted television and long-form digital programming.