Former HBO Max execs launch VHM unscripted production firm

L-R: Jennifer O’Connell and Rebecca Quinn

Former HBO Max execs Jennifer O’Connell and Rebecca Quinn have launched VHM (Velvet Hammer Media), a new US unscripted production company focusing on formats, special-event programs and documentaries.

VHM will operate out of Los Angeles, with co-founders O’Connell and Quinn, who were both ousted from HBO Max during the post-merger restructuring last year, serving as co-CEOs and executive producers for the firm, which will create, produce and distribute original non-fiction content.

O’Connell joined HBO Max in 2019 as EVP, non-fiction and live-action family originals, before she was let go from the streamer when it cut 14% of its staff in August 2022. She had been responsible for its unscripted and alternative programming and also served as head of feature documentaries and docuseries for the platform.

During her tenure, O’Connell launched HBO Max titles including Love, Lizzo, Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty, What Happened, Brittany Murphy? as well as the Friends Reunion, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary, and Fresh Prince Reunion.

On the reality side, O’Connell’s slate included Selena + Chef, F-boy Island, The Hype, Legendary, The Big Brunch with Dan Levy, and The Climb with Jason Momoa. She also developed and oversaw live-action scripted content including the Head of the Class reboot and the Gordita Chronicles.

Before HBO Max, O’Connell was EVP and head of worldwide alternative programming at Lionsgate. She has also held positions as a buyer at NBCUniversal, a producer at Core Media Group and Shed Media U.S., and as a scripted creative executive at Disney Channel and the Family Channel.

Access focus

Quinn, meanwhile, was SVP of non-fiction original programming for HBO Max, where she was responsible for a slate of reality programming including ballroom dance series Legendary, streetwear design competition show The Hype, and dating F-boy Island.

She also played a key role in launching The Access Unscripted Program at HBO Max, offering underrepresented producers and directors the access and opportunity to work at senior-level positions.

Previously, Quinn was president of Pulse Creative, under a deal at Lionsgate, where she created and executive produced titles including Kicking and Screaming for FOX, Candy Crush for CBS, and Kevin Hart: What the Fit for YouTube.

O’Connell and Quinn are joined by Nick Alarcon, a development and production veteran who boards VHM as vice president. He is also an alum of Pulse Creative, where he oversaw unscripted development under the aforementioned Lionsgate deal.

VHM has also launched a diversity initiative named Inside Access that it said will ensure BIPOC talent is behind the camera on all of its productions.

In a joint statement, O’Connell and Quinn said: “We have spent our entire professional lives in the content business, building and nurturing vital relationships with creatives and executives, and we look forward to furthering those collaborations and friendships through VHM. At this pivotal moment in our business, we’re excited to bet on ourselves and leverage our complementary strengths.

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