After 2017’s Emmy-winning success of HBO’s Big Little Lies and the timely Meet My Mom on Facebook Watch earlier this year, Reese Witherspoon’s female-focused Hello Sunshine shingle is about to put the Oscar winner’s inaugural unscripted series on a video-on-demand channel with AT&T.
Debuting on July 17, Shine On With Reese will feature on-location conversations, at home and on the front lines with the likes of A Wrinkle In Time director Ava DuVernay, the legendary Dolly Parton, author Glennon Doyle, as well as World Cup champion Abby Wambach. Spotlighting women who have weaved their way to success uniquely, the nine-episode first season of Shine On will premiere on DirecTV, DirecTV Now and U-Verse on the Hello Sunshine VOD channel a week from today. The Hello Sunshine channel will be located on DirecTV’s channel 1112 and U-Verse’s channel 1530.
“I am thrilled to have such like-minded creative collaborators at AT&T to help Hello Sunshine pursue our mission of elevating and showcasing the voices of women that we have such admiration and respect for,” Witherspoon said today of the deal with the communications conglomerate that recently acquired Time Warner.
The nimble Hello Sunshine already has the new season of Big Little Lies in the works for 2019 which will reunite Witherspoon with Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley as well as second-season addition Meryl Streep. There’s also a feature-length documentary on tennis star and activist Martina Navratilova, a Witherspoon- and Kerry Washington co-starring limited series based on the Little Fires Everywhere book, and a Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston series based on TV morning shows on the go too.
In early September, the VOD channel from Otter Media, the joint venture formed between The Chernin Group and AT&T, and Witherspoon’s nearly 2-year-old production company will roll out its second original series with Master the Mess. Fronted by Nashville-based declutterers The Home Edit’s Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, the transformation show pledges to mix smart organizing skills with good humor.
The latter is a bit of a mantra for the Hello Sunshine VOD effort in many ways.
“For us, empowering women and underrepresented voices in entertainment is not a one and done initiative,” AT&T SVP Advertising and Creative Services Valerie Vargas told me of the greater cultural innovation the corporation seeks. “It’s just actually an overall strategy for us. We will continue to invest. Hello Sunshine is such a great example of it to ensure those underrepresented voices continue to get exposure on our platform so they can tell their story to as wide an audience as possible.”
“We have a singular mission and we’re bringing those stories to life in lots of different ways and on the platforms that fit that form,” Hello Sunshine CEO Sarah Harden added. “We know it’s a noisy media environment for anyone and you have to make things that are creatively distinctive and for us that are really on mission,” the former Chernin Group VP noted.
“Launching these things back to back with a sort of fresh episode every week allows us to celebrate women and put the full marketing muscle of Hello Sunshine and also AT&T behind these shows,” Harden told Deadline of the big-picture expanded relationship between the parties. “I think that’s a bit of the theme for this channel. It’s not about aggregating everything under the sun. It’s about tight curation and a specialness. As we roll forward into ’19 I think it’s having something premium there and eventually to where every week of the year you come and you can have a fresh episode of something really distinctive and distinctively Hello Sunshine and that it’s showcasing female stories and storytellers.”
In terms of storytellers to come, Witherspoon’s company and AT&T are going off screen by working with Dreaming Tree Foundation this month on a Filmmaker’s Lab for female artists. “We’ve solicited nationwide for a camp that we will be hosting 20 girls at the end of July for a two-week immersive program where they get to work with Reese as well as other industry experts to create content that actually at the end will then air on the Hello Sunshine VOD channel,” Hello Sunshine’s head of Digital Media and Programming Charlotte Koh explains. “This is really an opportunity because there aren’t really enough women in writing and directorial roles as there should be.”
At least not yet.