StoryScout is a digital offering first introduced in 2018 by Hoffman’s company, Storied Media Group. The offering is digital but also backed by human curation and manual assessment of thousands of stories and articles reviewed each day by a team of readers and editors. “It’s a combination of new-school and old-school,” Hoffman told Deadline in an interview. The goal is to streamline the process of securing material for film and series adaptations, something with a heightened importance in a world where streaming is exploding across the world and demand for content is skyrocketing.
In a seller’s market like the one the industry is now experiencing, Hoffman said, StoryScout delivers “soup to nuts” service. It surfaces eligible material, determines its owner and then clears the rights. “The companies we work with, they own their own IP. So, we know that it’s going to clear.”
The traditional process, which Hoffman got to know intimately in his agency days, is still fairly anachronistic and inefficient. Even once a buyer unearths a viable acquisition candidate, they can face an odyssey to find out who represents it. “Then, when you finally find out who represents it, it’s probably sold,” Hoffman said.
The former ICM agent knows the terrain well, having repped writers as well as intellectual property storehouses like The New York Times, 60 Minutes and New York magazine. At SMG, he has signed a reputable roster including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Marshall Project, The Guardian The Washington Post and NPR. Virtually all material featured on the platform is exclusive. While many publishers, especially in the book business, have sought to control film and TV rights, Hoffman said even on a non-exclusive basis there is an opportunity for StoryScout to bring value to the content acquisition ecosystem.
Some of the marquee, buy-side clients of StoryScout include Sony Television, New Line and Range Media, with talks ongoing with many others. Subscribers can navigate the site and filter material according to genre, geography, suitability for particular casting or other variables.
Hoffman said he has continued to close fundraising rounds (including one in 2018 in which Tele München Group took a minority stake). He estimates Storied Media Group will break even in 2022. The Santa Monica-based firm, which has 10 full-time employees and a network of contract workers, saw revenue more than double in 2020 compared with 2019. More growth is in this year’s forecast, according to Hoffman, though he didn’t provide specific figures).
“Early indications are that this works,” Hoffman said of StoryScout. “So, we want to expand our footprint overseas as well. Why couldn’t a German producer go onto StoryScout and buy something from the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and use it for a German show?”
The increasingly global and trans-national shift of entertainment and the push for more diverse and inclusive material are both trends that StoryScout is keen to leverage.
“Diversity is our first priority when we’re looking at projects,” said Danielle Reardon, head of development for Sterling K. Brown’s production company, Indian Meadows. “We want to ensure that diversity is represented across all genres and we’re very excited about three new projects that we found through StoryScout that tell diverse stories through a fresh and joyful lens.”
Lezlie Wells, head of script development for LeBron James’ SpringHill Entertainment, said the customization options of the platform are a helpful feature. “It feels like even though Story Scout is for everyone, it somehow feels like it’s just for me,” she said.
As far as potential competition from a better-capitalized company, like Amazon-owned IMDb, Hoffman said he believes StoryScout has “a bit of a moat, a bit of a head start. … Anybody can put up a database. Our service is actually curated, so it’s not just ideas, it’s ideas that we think will be good in TV and film.”