Jeff Gaspin is approaching his one-year anniversary as president of Primary Wave Entertainment, a talent agency, TV and film production outfit, digital marketing firm and publishing house. He oversees a diverse portfolio of programming, including Bosch on Amazon, Being Mary Jane on BET and new show Loudermilk on AT&T Audience Network.
He’s also chairman of Tapp, a digital subscription-TV portal he runs with Jon Klein, the former CNN U.S. president.
Gaspin is the former chairman of NBCUniversal Television, where his oversight included NBC, Telemun-do, USA, Syfy, Bravo and Oxygen. He helped transform Bravo with hit shows such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. He also ran programming at VH1, where he launched the hits Behind the Music and Pop-Up Video.
Gaspin is looking to grow the unscripted output at Primary Wave. “Unscripted is where I really cut my teeth on the creative side,” he said. “That will always be close to my heart.” He spoke with B&C deputy editor Michael Malone.
What does a Primary Wave show look like, feel like? There’s such immense need for content, so for us to focus on one particular genre would limit potential buyers. The approach we take is, look for ideas that have potentially multiple buyers but are not particularly focused on any area, because every buyer is different.
If we only do genre or sci-fi content, it limits the buyers I can go to. In this early stage in the building of the Primary Wave Entertainment brand, it would be a mistake to focus on one particular area. Right now we’re attempting to be all things to all people. As we find success, we’ll start to focus on where we go.
What are you offering Potential producers/partners with Primary Wave? We bring 50 to 60 years of combined experience between the partners on the TV side. I’ve run multiple networks and have relationships throughout the industry. We have a great roster of talent that we can package and partner with on a particular project. We look at ourselves as a multitasking media company. There’s a wealth of resources that you end up working with if you work with Primary Wave Entertainment.
How would you describe the TV landscape in the next five years? Clearly, we’re going to see more direct-to-consumer connections. I think all media companies are thinking about and formulating their SVOD strategies. We’ll see more subscription opportunities beyond the Netflixes and Amazons of the world. Disney announced their plans for Disney and ESPN [subscription VOD offerings]. I think we’ll see more of that.
We’ll see more consolidation. I think we’ll see a lot of change in the next five years, probably as much as we’ve seen in the last five.
Do you miss running a TV network? I miss being a buyer more than I miss running a TV network. There’s a certain amount of control as a buyer that you lose as a seller. It’s a very different skill set. I truly enjoy getting much more in the weeds in the creative process — finding the IP, buying the IP, working with the writer, molding the IP and taking it to market. It’s a process that I rarely got involved with as a buyer. I can see why, as a producer, you really take pride in what you do because you’ve seen it from the inception to when it finally makes it to air.
As head of a network, you make lots of decisions about content. But you don’t have a strong emotional connection to any one particular project.
Did you have a takeaway from the Emmys? It was great to see the diversity. I hope it wasn’t just a response to the Trump White House — I hope it really was an evolution of what’s been percolating for years, and I hope it continues.