Dentsu-Backed The Story Lab Expands Into U.S. With Hire Of Ex-WME Exec Tom Sebastian

EXCLUSIVE: The Story Lab, the company behind the global roll out of formats including Ninja Warrior and British dating format Game of Clones, has hired former WME exec Tom Sebastian as part of an aggressive expansion into the U.S.

Deadline understands that Sebastian will become President of the Dentsu Aegis-owned company’s new U.S. division. Sebastian, who previously led creative development at WME’s corporate consulting division, will lead The Story Lab’s move, which will include scripted projects, non-scripted series, digital ideas and theatrical investment.

he company, which has invested in a number of projects in the UK, Europe and Asia, currently has a slate of four as-yet-unannounced scripted series, including a project from a UK producer, an SVOD series as well as two police procedurals.

Non-scripted series that it will sell into the U.S. including Dutch reality format Travel Ink, created by Tuvalu Media. The show, which airs on network Veronica, sees celebrities travel together to a specific destination around the world, known for a prolific tattoo artist or a specific culture of getting inked up. It will also sell Safari Go!, an adventure gameshow where six families from all around the country join together in South Africa, to become the Best Ranger Family, by competing in quizzes and physical challenges. The show has aired successful on French network Gulli.

Although it represents shows such as Ninja Warrior and Game of Clones, the Youngest Media-produced dating format, which originally aired on youth channel E4, internationally, it doesn’t represent them in the U.S. However, a deal for the latter, which has already been licensed in France, Germany and China and takes one singleton, who uses technology to create an avatar of their ideal partner before choosing a date from eight partners who look exactly the same, is expected in the U.S. soon.

Sebastian was most recently Co-CEO of San Francisco based creative agency SwirlMcGarryBowen, which was acquired by Dentsu in late 2017. He will report to Nick Brien, CEO Americas Dentsu Aegis Network and to Michael Iskas, President of The Story Lab Global. He will build The Story Lab U.S.’s team with the help of CAA’s Media Consulting Division as he aims to hire up to 15 people.

He told Deadline, “There are now amazing formats from around the world. The opportunity to leverage formats from Asia, for example, and bring them to the U.S. is a whole new area of innovation that is just beginning.”

“We’ve been very busy over the last few months teeing up some A-list projects and we’re in deep discussions that we hope will come to fruition sooner rather than later,” he added.

Iskas added that having built The Story Lab in Europe and Asia, “we decided that now was the right time to expand into the U.S., which is the biggest territory [in entertainment]. We feel ready to have a go,” he added.

“We are delighted to expand our successful offering in the U.S to create a powerful global footprint,” said Brien. “Tom is the ideal leader for this growth initiative. His expertise in both entertainment and content marketing are invaluable and will accelerate us into even bigger opportunities for content creators and more culturally relevant marketing.”

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