Exclusive: Marginal MediaWorks acquires Fresno to "de-risk … – Axios

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
A new tie-up between a startup content studio and a data science startup aims to flip the way Hollywood green lights movies and shows.
Why it matters: The deal comes as media giants (think Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Amazon-owned MGM) are struggling to decide which movies and shows to fund, which platforms or theaters to release them, when — and for how long.
Details: Marginal MediaWorks, based in Los Angeles, has agreed to buy Fresno Unlimited, an A.I. startup backed by Chamath Palihapitiya, Zander Lurie and Jason Calacanis.
Between the lines: The dominance of streaming requires higher quantities of content and therefore more careful budgeting. Past projects aren't even safe in this new environment where old shows like Sesame Street, most recently, are being booted off platforms to cut costs.
How it works: Fresno’s platform soaks up publicly available, anonymized data about consumer interests, profiles and activities from platforms including Facebook and Amazon.
What they’re saying: "The intent and the practice is about de-risking [the process]," Rob Goldberg, Fresno's founder and CEO says.
Yes, but: Both executives stress that the data does not create original ideas.
Context: Closed platforms such as Disney+, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have a lot of proprietary data that they can already use to make similar decisions about new content projects.
The deal's bigger mission is to help stories from underrepresented creators and communities see the light of day.
What to watch: The deal is expected to close before early next year. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Our thought bubble, via Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon: I've seen this movie before. But maybe the sequel will be more successful.

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