Jeff Wachtel launches Future Shack Entertainment, signs deal with Roku

TV industry veteran Jeff Wachtel has assembled financing and a small team to launch Future Shack Entertainment, a production banner focused on TV development for the global market.

Wachtel has struck a deal with Sam Michaels, a former NBCUniversal executive, and Yusik Choi, a former managing director at Rothschild & Co. and an investment banker at Credit Suisse, to launch a major financing banner from a private equity fund.

Future Shack has also partnered with Blink49 Studios, an Endeavor Content-backed banner, Entertainment One and Alliance Atlantis alum John Moryaniss, a partnership launched last year. Future Shack also has a first-look deal with Roku Channel, one of several ad-supported channels offered on the digital MVPD platform.

Jeff Wachtel
Adam Olszewski / NBCUniversal

“This is the most disruptive and exciting time our business has seen in more than a generation,” Wachtel said Variety. “The opportunity is there for a company with taste, drive and vision. We believe we can be a creative and professional launchpad, enabling great artists to find the best path to success.

Wachtel aims to center Future Shake around international co-productions. Many experienced US producers are seeking creative deals and talent scouting opportunities in markets outside the US thanks to the growth of streamers with global client bases. There is a big push among US industry giants to take advantage of the lower cost base of production outside the US, as well as copyright rules in the UK and other markets that are more favorable to independent producers.

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Sam Michaels

“We’re creating a new, partner-friendly organization, unafraid to break precedent to enable creative freedom and deliver the most impactful stories for our business partners,” said Michaels, who was previously a business executive on the cable side of NBCUniversal. .

The deal with Roku Channel specifically covers the development of Future Shack’s “blue sky” drama series that Wachtel became known for during his tenure as head of programming for NBC Universal’s USA network — think “Suits,” “Psych,” “Royal Pains,” “White Collar.” and “Burn Notice.” Wachtel notes that the language of the contract is amusingly typical of the genre he knows so well.

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Yusik Choi

“We believe the rapid growth of FAST and the AVOD network will continue to create new demand for ad-friendly content, and we are well positioned to deliver stories to meet that growing demand,” said Choi.

Also joining the Future Shake launch is Larry Sullivan, formerly with Conan O’Brien’s Conaco, as president of creative. Sony Pictures International TV alumna Pamela Parker serves as head of business affairs. Frances Manfredi, a former top content sales executive for NBCU, is an advisor to Future Shake.

Future Shack is currently developing projects with famed author Walter Mosley, notably his novels “The Long Fall,” “Futureland” and “Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore.” The company is working on what it describes as a “radically new take” on the Orson Scott Card novel “Ender’s Game” with Gigi Pritzker’s Madison Wells. A limited series on the 1991 theft of the artwork from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is also in the pipeline.

Wachtel ran programming for the USA Network at the height of its success, beginning with the movie “Monk” starring Tony Shalhoub, which ran from 2002 to 2009. He moved to president of Universal Content Prods. In 2013. He spent two years in London overseeing NBCU’s international TV production operations before exiting in 2020.

Wachtel’s time in London and experience as a manufacturer and dealmaker made him realize it was a good time to set up an agile manufacturing operation capable of bringing some financing to the table. The amount of investor interest in independently produced content was pleasantly surprising, he said. Wachtel would not elaborate on its private equity partners but said the company has enough financing to get started.

Future Shack intends to bring on a few more executives once the company is up and running.

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