Bent breaks into branded content game

One of two branded content companies launched in Banff Senior executives from three Canadian companies specializing in media, distribution production and creative have joined together to create a new branded entertainment company. The new Toronto-based venture, Bent, is headed by Cue Digital Media founder David U.K.; Christopher Grimston, head of Toronto content company Alibi Entertainment […]

One of two branded content companies launched in Banff

Senior executives from three Canadian companies specializing in media, distribution production and creative have joined together to create a new branded entertainment company.

The new Toronto-based venture, Bent, is headed by Cue Digital Media founder David U.K.; Christopher Grimston, head of Toronto content company Alibi Entertainment (which has created documentary/docudrama, dramatic and lifestyle series for outlets including The History Channel, Showcase and TVO); writer, director and producer James Hyslop and media industry startup expert Stephen Tapp.

The four partners have extensive personal and business relationships, some dating back as long as 30 years.

Speaking with Marketing from the annual Banff World Media Festival, where Bent was formally introduced, U.K. said the startup will be able to draw on resources and expertise of its founding partners.

U.K. has established relationships with Canada’s leading media agencies through Cue, which sells digital inventory across multiple sites and networks, while Grimston’s experience on the creative side of the business includes stints as vice-president, creative at Toronto agency The Hive and VP, marketing development at Section Eight, a holding company for several prominent production/post-production companies including Alibi, Sons and Daughters, Panic & Bob and Posterboy.

Hyslop’s directing credits, meanwhile, include the Hell’s Angels documentary Outlaw Bikers for The History Channel and Hunting Somali Pirates for Discovery Channel, while Tapp’s resume includes a stint as president and COO of satellite radio company XM Canada and other prominent Canadian media brands including Citytv and TSN.

The company was first conceived about a year ago, but arrives at a time when branded content is gaining significant traction, said U.K.

“I’ve seen the industry move forward and I think it’s at a serious tipping point – both from what I’m seeing in the U.S. and internationally and what I’m beginning to see in Canada,” said U.K., whose company has been dabbling in the branded content space.

“We were doing it well, but weren’t capable of taking it to the next level without bringing in some serious partners,” he said.

Tapp said he plans to take a “very active role” in launching Bent, which also includes Toronto’s Pirate Audio among its partner companies and investors. “I love to start new companies in spaces that are new and evolving,” he said. “We’re very interested and committed to finding ways of telling entertaining stories and weave in brand messages.”

Bent will take a platform-agnostic approach to content, said U.K. “The idea comes first, and then where it lives depends on where it best lives,” he said. “The idea needs to come first along with the brand, and then if it should live in an app, or if it should live on radio, or television or digital. We’re not married to any single platform.”

Bent has no formal deals in place, but U.K. said it is in “deep discussions” with several global advertising agencies about potential partnerships. Tapp said that Bent would deliver its first project within 30 to 60 days.

The company will look to strike deals through both media and creative agencies, as well as client-direct. “We’re not here to interrupt the normal business agencies do,” he said. “We’re going to be a facilitator.”

The Bent announcement coincided with the launch of another branded content venture at the Banff World Media Festival, this one a TV-focused company called Branded Content Television (BCT). The company is headed by Carmen Lago, former director of brand partnerships at Bell Media, while Capital C president and CEO Tony Chapman is an advisor and investor.

The company’s first co-development deal is with actress/producer Melissa DiMarco (Degrassi: The Next Generation, host of the Omni Television information segment Nite Life) and Out There Productions for Totally Disorganized Woman. The company said Monday it will announce a roster of co-development productions and deal within 10 days.

More on BCT to come at MarketingMag.ca

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