Chicken Soup & Sonar’s Ellender unveil drama arm to fuel AVOD strategy

Hunters

US-based producer, distributor and AVOD operator Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment (CSSE) has formed a new scripted division to be led by former Sonar Entertainment CEO David Ellender. 

Halcyon Television’s formation comes less than a month after CSSE acquired Ellender’s Sonar Entertainment, which had been behind shows such as The Son for AMC, Mr Mercedes for DirecTV, and Taboo for the BBC and FX.

The new division, led by Ellender as CEO, will focus on scripted shows and has more than 20 projects in the works across the US and Europe, including IP previously in the works at Sonar such as Amazon Prime drama Hunters.

Halcyon will operate across development, financing and production in the US, while also forging “creative partnerships” in Europe with financing backed by the company. Halcyon Television’s sister firm Screen Media will distribute globally.

Sonar execs’ segue

Former Fremantle exec Ellender, who had led Sonar since being appointed CEO in 2019, will be joined at Halcyon Television by fellow Sonar alum Matt Loze, who becomes president of scripted entertainment at the new division.

David Ellender

CSSE added that “a number” of other former Sonar execs would also join Halcyon but declined further to give further details.

Ellender said: “We look forward to building a valued asset library for the company and creating a new vision for the future of TV while continuing the company’s mission of positive entertainment that lifts the human spirit.”

William J. Rouhana Jr, CEO of CSSE, added that the creation of Halcyon Television would assist the company’s plans to accelerate its AVOD strategy, which saw it take full control of streamer operation Crackle Plus from Sony Pictures Television late last year.

“[Halcyon Television] will expand our original content development pipeline with high-end content, increase our IP rights ownership and provide a faster path to growing our international TV production and distribution activities,” said Rouhana Jr.

Crackle & Sonar’s AVOD expansion

CSSE has also unveiled details of a new AVOD to be launched via Crackle Plus, which will be stocked with IP from the Sonar library.

The Chicken Soup For The Soul network will be offered as a linear FAST channel and an on-demand offering, with movies, TV shows, unscripted series and documentaries, as well as lifestyle programming.

Taboo

CSSE’s acquisition of Sonar handed it rights to 372 TV series and over 700 films, including the Robert Halmi library. As part of that acquisition deal, Sonar is set to receive 5% of the ownership of the new AVOD network that will be created in part with the Sonar library.

CSSE’s Crackle Plus, which operates fellow AVOD streamer Popcornflix, also unveiled a raft of new programming in the works.

It includes a second season of Ashton Kutcher’s financial series Going From Broke, as well as Riding Phat, a docuseries about the entrepreneurial journey of the Phat Scooter company.

Other shows include factual series The Uncommon History of Very Common Things and Inside The Black Box, which is fronted by Tracey Moore and Joe Morton who spotlight the world’s greatest Black artists within the entertainment industry.

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