Penguin Random House Expands Diversification Effort with TV Series

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Following its July merger, which formed the most dominant publishing house in the business, Penguin Random House has continued to looking beyond books into opportunities in TV and film—agendas that the once competing companies pursued individually prior to coming under the same roof.  

The newly-formed company’s first co-produced TV project, Heartland Table, will debut on the Food Network on Sept. 14, featuring up-and-coming chef Amy Theilen, whose debut cookbook, “The New Midwestern Table,” will be released 10 days later. 

The move towards content diversification began in 2005 when Random House formed a film unit, which was followed up last year with the creation of a TV division. Random House Studio has so far produced two feature films: 2007’s Reservation Road and 2011’s One Day. While Reservation Road was a loss, and One Day is yet to be profitable, the films spurred book sales, with Nicholls’ “One Day” selling over one million copies each in the US and Germany. 

“It launched David Nicholls as a major commercial novelist—which will, of course, help us now with his future novels,” Peter Gethers, editor at large for Random House, told the Wall Street Journal.[more]

As for the company’s first play for TV, it is taking an opposite approach. In the past, the best-seling cookbooks have been penned by well-known TV stars such as Rachel Ray. This time, the network hopes to build interest in the new book by introducing consumers to the author through TV. The deal is largely regarded as an experiment of sorts, as the production house will receive only a fee based on the budget, while The Food Network, which is the sole owner of the show, is funding part of the production costs but will be the recipient of any ancillary revenue from the show. 

The studio will have two more films in production over the next year, but TV, with its increasing opportunities for independently produced shows, is top of mind for the company. 

“Everything we do is meant to subsidize and expand our core business,” Gethers told WSJ. “The real reason for setting this up is to give our books and authors as much of an advantage as we can.”

The company is also exploring diversification through gaming. Random House’s Black Crown Project, which launched in May, is a free-to-play web-based game from first-time author Rob Sherman.  

“The point about Black Crown is that it’s not a whizzy piece of technology applied to so-so writing and a predictable storyline. It’s a great book that happens to be published in a different format,” notes The Guardian. The game has so far attracted nearly 6,000 people, of which about 300 have made some kind of payment. 

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