EXCLUSIVE: One of the most fruitful TV production partnerships in the past five years is over. The first-look/co-financing deal between Paramount Television Studios and Anonymous Content expired at the end of 2019 and was not renewed. This does not mean an abrupt end to the companies’ relationship — they have several series on the air and some 18 projects currently in development that they will continue to collaborate on and set up around town, including the recent sale of The Last of the Mohicans TV series to HBO Max.
“Anonymous Content and Paramount Television Studios have mutually agreed not to renew their first look deal, but look forward to continued collaboration on shared current and future projects,” the two companies said in a statement to Deadline.
Going forward, Anonymous Content plans to stay independent so it can work with everybody and set up projects everywhere, sources said.
Just months after its 2013 launch, Paramount Television in May 2014 inked a first-look deal with True Detective producer Anonymous Content in one of the company’s first major programming partnerships. Three years later, the companies extended their deal through the end of 2019 while modifying the first-look agreement to also include a co-financing component, giving Anonymous Content program ownership.
The back-to-back pacts — both made by former Paramount TV president Amy Powell and the late Steve Golin, Anonymous Content’s founder and CEO — yielded such series as Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and Maniac, Epix’s Berlin Station, TNT’s The Alienist/Angel of Darkness, Hulu’s Catch 22, the upcoming Defending Jacob, Home Before Dark and Shantaram at Apple, and Paramount Network’s Heaven of Hell.
The end of Paramount TV and Anonymous Content’s successful five-year marriage had been in the making for a long time. Golin had been open about his dissatisfaction with the limitations of a first-look deal, including some of the financial terms, which led to the 2017 adjustment that made Anonymous a co-financing partner. Yet, Golin was clear that the deal would not be renewed and had a countdown clock prominently displayed in his office, which was counting down the days left on the pact with Paramount TV. It hit zero on December 31.
A lot has changed since the 2017 re-up between Paramount TV and Anonymous Content. Both companies have new leaderships, following the 2018 exit of Powell, who was replaced by Anonymous’ Nicole Clemens, and the death of Golin in April 2019. The companies continued to work closely together, partnering to co-finance eight series over the past year or so.
More importantly, the TV business has evolved dramatically over the past five years. Paramount TV and Anonymous Content’s main focus has been producing for streaming platforms. While SVOD services were open to outside studios early on, more and more of them now want to produce — and own — their programming. Making a streaming co-production deal with an outside company these days is extremely difficult, making a three-way co-production deal with two co-financing partners, which was the case of Paramount TV and Anonymous Content under their most recent agreement, is virtually impossible.
The relationship was mutually beneficial early on — Paramount Pictures was launching a TV division from scratch, and the deal with management/production company Anonymous Content gave the startup instant pipeline to talent and acquired IP, while Anonymous Content gained access to a studio infrastructure. Paramount TV Studios is now an established studio with a roster of talent via overall and first-look deals.
Paramount TV and Anonymous’ relationship was unique as it was not a typical first-look. They pooled resources together, collaborating on scripts early on, with Anonymous later developing projects internally and approaching Paramount TV about co-financing them. Both sides consider their partnership a productive one, which had run out its course. They will continue to shepherd their current projects but won’t pursue future development together.