In Focus: Litton Entertainment on 30 Years of Global and Digital Programming

Litton Entertainment has been in business since the late 80s, producing hours of award-winning programming that is watched across the globe. We sat down with this Telly Award-winning company, to get a snap shot of how their business has changed in that time and what core values have remained unchanged since 1989.

Founded in 1989, Litton has been in business for nearly 30 years. How have you seen the industry change in that time?

There has been so much change, from three or four networks to thousands of platforms. Digital is a game changer in terms of people being free to chart their own course, and watch what they want and when. However, great shows still reign!

Litton develops over 800 hours of award-winning programming for its ten television networks and hundreds of television station partners. What sort of content is being produced and for what platforms? How did this change with the rise of digital?

As of January, we have increased the number of networks to eleven with the recent addition of our new block on Telemundo, titled “Mi Telemundo”. Litton also syndicates a variety of educational, entertainment, and news programming in partnership with the major station groups and newsrooms. We distribute our programs on a myriad of digital platforms—our goal is to provide high quality content around the globe 24/7.

Working with major networks, both domestically and internationally, have you seen certain programming performing differently in varied markets?

Our programming is designed to be inclusive for a co-viewing audience. Litton’s series are the great equalizer as everyone seeks knowledge and perspective. The stories we tell are experiences that are relatable to everyone; all continents, all seasons, all of the time.

Litton Entertainment has been at the forefront of television innovation, (you were the first producer in the United States to roll out audio description in all of your network programs). What innovations do you see as impacting the industry in 2018?

Our mission has always been to lead in making quality programming accessible to all audiences. We just launched Telemundo’s “Mi Telemundo,” three hours every week of E/I programs, and our shows are fully translated in LAS—the first effort of this magnitude. In 2018, we will continue to take the lead in expanding the reach of our shows!

At the Telly Awards, we have always celebrated animation and its innovative use across our industry. Animation has grown exponentially over the last two years, so to further spotlight this dynamic work, we’ve curated our Top 8 Animation Picks from the inspiring Stash Magazine collection, an online library where industry leaders showcase the best of their work. Spend some time with our reel above:

Our partners at Stash are offering the Telly community exclusive rates to access it’s entire collection until Sunday, February 28th. Click here to access an exclusive discount on either the Personal or Corporate subscriptions, and other major perks. 

Feeling inspired by the work? 

Submit your best work to our animation categories, including the brand new 2D & 3D Animation, Character Design, and Title Design categories before our Final Deadline on March 2, 2018! 


In Focus: CNN’s Great Big Story on Producing and Scaling “Micro-Docs”

Courtney Chapman Coupe

Vice President of Content, Great Big Story

We sat down with Courtney Chapman Coupe, VP of Content at Great Big Story to talk “micro-docs”, scaling producing and the international appeal of Pac-Man. Over the last 13 years, Courtney has run the gamut across the media landscape. She’s seen the underbelly of broadcast television, donning a navy blue suit as an NBC page and setting her alarm for 2:37am (to be exact) at Good Morning America, before launching digital video initiatives at ABC News and Bloomberg. Her work covering the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009 for ABC News earned her a News and Documentary Emmy Award – and she’s received two Emmy nominees for Outstanding Live Coverage of a Current News Story (Vote 2010) and New Approaches to News & Documentary Programming: Current News Coverage (ABCNews.com – Target bin Laden: The Death and Life of Public Enemy #1, 2011).

What is the origin story of GBS, and what gaps were present when you stepped into the market?

When Great Big Story launched in October 2015, we had this clear vision for what we wanted to produce and it surrounded short form, high quality non-fiction video that wasn’t tied to the news cycle. The digital video market was already crowded with copycat productions and everything felt so similar in terms of subject matter and style, so we needed a differentiating factor. For us that was quality. We knew there were incredible people doing extraordinary things, in a world that seemingly feels dark and scary everywhere you look. The “micro doc” format was perfect for us to develop a voice that resonated with people in a positive way and made us realize, “hey, the world is smaller than we really thought.”

Since then, we’ve made more than 1,600 stories and traveled to +85 countries worldwide.

Your viewership is both millennial and international. Have you seen that specific types and/or tones of stories perform best in specific markets?

It’s very interesting to see how overtones from our work can transcend borders. Humanity is full of compelling people and we see the positive, uplifting responses to their stories on every platform on which we publish. People can relate to character-driven stories in which the hero overcomes a trying challenge, whether it’s personal, societal or otherwise.

We produced a piece about the Pac-Man Champion, a gamer who made headlines in 1999, and it took off in the Nordics—of all places. What’s interesting about that video is that you don’t have to be a fan of Pac-Man to enjoy the story. We were able to uncover a quirky character that defied the standards of gaming culture and accomplished something no one in any arcade was able to accomplish before him.

You can be an urban-based millennial, who grew up around 90’s arcades, and is riddled with college debt and enjoy this piece, or you can be a 55-year old single parent from Sweden and find just as much enjoyment. Great storytelling has no limits on who it can impact, and that’s what we love so much about the videos we make.

 On a daily basis, Great Big Story posts an abundance of work that is consistently diverse and engaging.  Can you walk us through the production process that allows such a scalable output?

I like to think of our editorial staff as Swiss Army Knives. Really, there isn’t much they can’t do, and every week they have a handful of stories moving through different phases of production to keep the wheels churning (and the lights on). Initially, we wanted to be a machine that churned out upwards of 10 stories daily, but we realized the emphasis should be on quality, not quantity; that’s what led us to publish 2-3 pieces Monday through Friday. It’s the perfect amount because we’re not pushed against a quota and can dedicate the time we need to make every piece the best we can possibly create.

One of the biggest lessons we preach across the office is curiosity. Each video starts with an idea our producers can’t let go of. They want to “rabbit hole” down the web to find out as much as they possibly can about that topic. They then realize there’s a “surprise” element waiting to be unveiled, and that helps them craft stories in ways our audience will find intriguing and exciting. It’s impressive how well our producers execute on their visions and the wonder they uncover at the end of the day.   

We only have about 20 full-time producers on staff, so when you look at the collective output and variety of stories they’re able to find, it’s amazing. Some may think we’re a massive production house, but in reality, we’re a scrappy group that, in many ways, mirrors the audience that comprises our following (not just in age range, but in beliefs, perspectives ideals, etc.)

What can we expect from Great Big Story in 2018?

As a startup, we’re pretty lucky to be in the position we’re in, and 2018 is shaping up to be yet another strong year of growth and development. We want to continue pushing the boundaries our storytellers explore—both in terms of subject matter and stylistic treatment. It’s our goal to make every piece of content as visually engaging as possible. Some micro docs will turn into series, others will become long form content, but what we’re most excited about is strengthening the connections we have with fans. Offering a touch-and-feel experience outside the digital realm will go a long way for this company. We’re excited to see how events can transform our stories into real life settings, as a part of being accessible to followers and offering them more than just a moving picture on screen.

For this month’s In Focus interview, we are so excited to profile a company that has pioneered animated storytelling since 1987: Passion Pictures. Founded while producing Steven Spielberg’s, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Passion has created the animated identity of some of the most notable brands, including the animated band the Gorillaz.

As the holidays approach, we sat down with Passion to discuss its legacy, how the animation field has evolved, and their renowned animated Christmas commercials crafted for major brands in the UK and beyond. Above you can watch their latest holiday animation for brand Very.

Passion Pictures has been at the forefront of animation since the 1980s. How has the industry changed over the years and how has that affected the work you create?

Passion began in 1987, with our founder Andrew Ruhemann producing the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit for Steven Spielberg. This set the standard for Passion’s values going forward for the next 30 years…to connect and inspire through the moving image.

At the heart of that has always been storytelling. Over the years, we have seen the kinds of films and adverts that brands are looking for change, but what we do has always stayed in demand.

Nowadays, the industry is a very different place. When we got started, agencies did what agencies did. They were the bridge between clients and production companies. That’s not always the case any more; we can’t function within those constraints because the market has changed and the lines are blurring.

A number of your award winning pieces are animated commercials – why do you feel that this medium works so well to convey a brand’s message?

Animation occupies a special place in people’s hearts that goes back to childhood. It’s easy to project yourself into an animated character, easier than it might be to relate to a live action film.

Character and storytelling have always been the foundation of what we do. With animation you get to fully explore a character’s development, through their physicality all the way to tiny ticks and nuances, until they’re the absolute right vessel for the story. Several of our films have emotional or moving storylines; it’s the characters that bring them together and give audiences someone to relate to.

Passion is also well known for its work with the Gorillaz whose animated music videos are synonymous with their brand. How did this collaboration come about?

We were working on a commercial with Jamie Hewlett for Virgin Cola, and he mentioned that he and his “flatmate” were interested in starting an animated band. He then mentioned that his “flatmate” was Damon Albarn, so we said, “Where do we sign?!”

We started working very traditionally on the videos: drawing in pencil, photographing the paper and scanning it in. With each iteration of the band—new videos and new albums—things have progressed, so much so that their latest video was a VR experience for Google Daydream, which went on to be the biggest VR Launch YouTube has ever had!

Passion is not only known for its Animation Studios, but is also highly regarded in the film/documentary world through Passion Pictures and Passion Planet. In this age of content ubiquity, how important is it for production companies to diversify across mediums?

As a business, it’s always important to grow, but we have never diversified for the sake of diversification. It has always been about where we can grow and tell our stories in the best way, through the best medium. We have expanded into feature documentaries, television series, live action, gaming and VR, but it has always been about finding the right home for the right story, with the right people.

What do you see for the future of the Animation industry?

As the industry grows and changes, it’s easy to become scared by the blurring boundaries. However, we’ll continue doing what we do because there will always be a real demand for great stories and characters, whether that be a 30 second commercial or a 90 minute feature. One of the biggest changes is actually that we don’t think in those terms anymore; projects are now all about the story and finding the right way to tell it.

We’ve stayed independent for 30 years and we’re well prepared for the next 30.