EXCLUSIVE: NEO Studios U.S., the production arm of sports media group Eleven, has set its leadership team and unveiled its inaugural development slate.
The company has named Anouk Mertens as Global CEO of NEO Studios and tapped Melanie Capacia Johnson as President, NEO Studios, U.S. Jill Johnson has been named EVP, Entertainment with Mike Basone set as Head of Unscripted Development and Francesca Smith as Senior Director of Scripted Development & Production.
It comes as the group has brought together four separate Eleven-owned businesses – Whistle Studios, Tiny Horse, Vertical Networks and New Form – under the Neo Studios umbrella.
Mertens was previously Group COO of Eleven, former Viacom exec Capacia Johnson, who will lead all IP development and production services for Neo Studios U.S., co-founded marketing and production company Tiny Horse, while former Syco Entertainment exec Johnson served as its GM. Basone was previously head of unscripted for Whistle Studios, where he worked on series including Roku’s Benedict Men and former New Form exec Smith exec produced series including Snap’s Two Sides.
The Santa Monica-based company, which is part of the Aser Ventures family, which part owns Premier League team Leeds United, has also set its debut programming development slate.
It is working up The Academy, which follows the real-life stories of young athletes, and has partnered with the NFL Alumni Academy in the U.S. and with Premier League’s Leeds United in the UK.
It is developing Race for Change (w/t), a docuseries that will track the inaugural season of the all-electric rally Extreme-E, as former F1, Rally and RallyCross champions compete on the most remote and environmentally fragile terrains to raise awareness for the environment. The X44 team founded by F1 legend Lewis Hamilton is involved.
The company is also working with the likes of Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony and Kalvin Phillips on projects.
It comes as Neo’s six-part docuseries Legacy: In The Shadow of Greatness, from filmmaker Jonathan Hock and chronicling the athletic pursuits of the children of sports icons Dwyane Wade, Evander Holyfield and Randall Cunningham, is set to launch on Discovery+ on March 8.
Eleven Group CEO Marc Watson said, “The newly expanded Neo Studios will be an integral part of the Eleven Group and gives us the opportunity to supplement a compelling, live sports offering with more award-winning, on-demand content. Neo’s best in class production services will also empower us to deliver for rights partners and distributors around the world.”
Mertens said, “As sports and entertainment become increasingly intertwined, and demand surges for powerful stories that offer unique insight and access, Neo is able to leverage Eleven’s key partnerships with talent, athletes and leagues. We have brought together an immensely creative and experienced producing team, both in the U.S. and Europe, that will drive growth and allow us to operate at a truly global scale.”
Capacia Johnson added, “We’re excited to work in concert with Anouk and the award-winning, European development team as we build out this new global studio. We have an amazing opportunity with NEO Studios to create original U.S. content and formats for development here and abroad, and to bring great IP from our EU partners back to the U.S. market.”
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