Office With a View: Melissa Aouate says her production company is embracing new voices while the industry clings to familiar IP
Melissa Aouate, a partner and the president of Fabel Entertainment, the production company behind Amazon Prime Video’s “Bosch” and Amazon FreeVee’s “Bosch: Legacy,” isn’t overly concerned if you’ve never written for television before. She still wants to hear what you have to say. After all, there could be the seed for a multichapter, multiplatform television franchise like “Bosch” in there somewhere, which is exactly the type of scope and ambition the banner is harvesting.
Fabel Entertainment isn’t scared by first-time creators. On the contrary, the production company is on the hunt for fresh voices. Even as the tidal wave of content consumers have been hit with in the Peak TV era has seemingly covered every square inch of creative territory, Fabel is eager to craft diverse stories that haven’t yet enjoyed their time in the digital sun.
“We have an extremely young and diverse team and our taste is premium content,” Aouate told TheWrap for this week’s Office With a View. “But you let people champion what they want to champion here at the company.”
Fabel is looking to grow its roster of scripted TV shows at a time when the small-screen space is more crowded than ever (a record 559 scripted series aired in 2021). Competition runs rampant and branded IP is seemingly more precious than gold. But Fabel received what Aouate sees as a global streaming wars power boost when Fremantle acquired a 25% stake in the company earlier this year. The goal now is to gather new ideas from various cultural epicenters to build fresh fictional universes for viewers at a time when the safety of old and familiar rules the industry.
“Bosch” and “Bosch: Legacy,” both based on novelist Michael Connelly’s thriller series, are the first effort in this guiding principle. While Fabel isn’t involved with Netflix’s “Lincoln Lawyer,” based on another Connelly novel series, the production company is hoping to have more crossover in the Connelly universe for future projects.
Read on as Aouate discusses Fabel’s global strategy, the type of content it’s banking on to cut through the clutter and the challenges of an ever-fluid TV landscape.
This interview has been edited for style and length.
Fabel focuses on character-first programming, diverse genres, first-time creators and veteran showrunners. But how does that help your company separate itself at a time when more content is being produced than ever before?
We’re really focusing right now on the global market and making sure that our content is connecting on a deep level with the audience. The partnership we have with Fremantle is only helping to further that. We are reaching the hearts of audiences through the characters and very specific worlds we create, which is how we’re establishing ourselves on a creative level against everyone else.
From a logistics level, we have a deep history rooted in the international space while most American-based companies focus on domestic content. Leaning into that is a natural segue into working with first-time creators, seeking out diversity and making sure that our content is speaking on unique terms.
What kind of shows do you want Fabel to be synonymous with?
I think for us right now, having premium content with commercial appeal is the staple. Within that, we obviously have our mothership with “Bosch,” and we’ve had huge success with the spinoff. We’re extremely excited about the opportunities that presents with the [author of the novel series “Bosch” is adapted from] Michael Connelly universe.
We have a lot of things in development right now that are in different genres. Some in the sci-fi space, or content coming in from Japan that we’re really excited about and a couple grounded genre pieces that are in the horror and world-building space. When we’re diversifying the different genres and trying to classify them under one umbrella, that broader umbrella would definitely mean premium.
Fabel wants to tell new stories, but what types of stories still haven’t had the opportunity to be told in the Peak TV era?
It’s difficult to say exactly, but I think the only way to really find those stories is through conversation with people who potentially haven’t really had a voice before. We’re really excited about our diverse executive team. We have a pretty big focus on creators right now and helping to build up people that are transitioning in their career over to television. So not just young writers or first-time writers, but potentially somebody who’s coming over from a playwriting background or a filmmaker who hasn’t expanded into TV before. That’s the big focus of ours.
What are the biggest challenges Fabel has faced as he tries to carve out a niche in a competitive market?
One of the challenges that is also a bit exciting is that things are evolving quickly. You have a buyer here today, gone tomorrow. The executives you build relationships with are jumping around quite frequently. It’s a challenge, because as soon as you think you know what a network wants, and you start feeding that to them, something shifts.
We’ve also obviously had a bunch of turmoil in production coming off of COVID. But now everybody seems like they’re getting back into their lanes and it feels like the new landscape is starting to have a stronger foundation under it.
What was the thinking behind not only franchising the “Bosch” intellectual property with a spinoff, but doing it across different platforms?
When we first went into Prime Video close to 10 years ago with “Bosch,” we were one of their first drama shows. The excitement of building that network and building the TV show with them as a sort of launching pad is something that we still talk about.
When the opportunity to do the same with this branded content, this big piece of IP, came up with FreeVee, it seemed like a no-brainer. We think it’s a super fun part of our business to really build something. It’s certainly a challenge, but its also an amazing opportunity to be in their first, carve a path and build a universe.
As you referred to earlier, Fremantle acquired a 25% stake in Fabel Entertainment earlier this year. Has that enabled your company to set new goals?
Absolutely. Fabel is founded in the international space. My partner at the company, Henrik [Bastin], is Swedish and the team here is extremely international. So I think having even further reach, with Fremantle’s worldwide divisions in all these different local territories and these direct connections to talent in, maybe, Israel or Australia, is helpful. We not only want to take the American market to the international market, but take international creatives to a domestic platform with a global reach. So this is very exciting to us. It’s something we’ve done in the past, but will be able to do even more so with the Fremantle relationship.