Newsweek is partnering with production company Aspire Entertainment to turn articles into films and television series. According to an initial report by Variety, Newsweek editor-in-chief Jim Impoco is heading up the partnership for IBT and working with Aspire CEO Mark Ciardi and chief content officer Teri Katherine Flynn.
Impoco tells Folio: he and Flynn are working closely—"we send each other about 20 emails a day. It's one of the things I do now. There's print, the website and now this component"—and the potential upside, while currently not quantified, is significant.
Impoco sees an opportunity to produce news content in a format similar to what Vice has been doing, and that the news magazine format on television is ripe for disruption. "I don't love news content on television the way it's presented on the magazine programs. They're soft and watered down, long in the tooth. They haven't changed much."
A potential project? The issue that hits newsstands tomorrow features the roof line "Anatomy of a CIA Assassination" promoting an article by Jeff Stein that details how the CIA, not the Mossad, actually carried out the assassination of Hezbollah's main terrorist, Imad Mugniyah, in 2008.
Impoco describes it as a prequel to Zero Dark Thirty, the type of report that's exactly the right fit for a series or movie. "It's a very detailed account. It's gripping and corrects the historic record. And we're already talking about it—Teri and Mark have already expressed interest in some kind of treatment," he says.
How that article, or any other for that matter, actually makes it from page to screen is another story. "We're making this up as we go along," adds Impoco.
While the partnership structure is loose, it's under a two-year contract and Flynn is already on Newsweek's masthead as executive editor, TV, film and digital. Impoco, meanwhile, is executive producer of the partnership.
The risk factor so far is low, with minimal resources currently being devoted.
A 12-part TV series that showcases investigative reporting, which Impoco wouldn't elaborate on, has already been pitched to a network.
Newsweek will get a cut of the production budget and a percentage of growth. "It could be a very important revenue stream," says Impoco. "What news operation is not looking for another revenue stream? If in the next TV season you see Newsweek in primetime, I couldn't think of anything better for the brand in terms of marketing. We're trying to reposition Newsweek as a premium product and to me, that screams premium."