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Peter Bart's Variety Column on Participant


Participant Media: Jeff Skoll’s Unorthodox Business Model Has People Talking

October 18, 2013 | 09:30AM PT

EVP and Editorial Director Peter Bart

Shingle has been involved in making (and co-funding) some 40 films including "Lincoln," "The Help" and, opening this weekend, "The Fifth Estate"

Ten years ago, I encountered a congenial middle-aged fellow at the Cannes Film Festival who, after an exchange of pleasantries, proceeded to confide his plan to build an entertainment company. I’d been told he was a billionaire, albeit an unimposing one — no entourage, no bodyguards, not even a jeweled earring — so I listened respectfully before confiding my reaction: I thought his business plan was ill-conceived. I didn’t even like his company’s name, Participant. It sounded too, well, participatory.

Today, Jeff Skoll and his company are still around; clearly my advice did not resonate, and just as well. His buoyant shingle has been involved in making (and co-funding) some 40 films including “Lincoln,” “The Help” and, opening this weekend, “The Fifth Estate,” along with building a formidable digital platform for social advocacy.

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Participant MediaAbout Participant Media

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Skoll, Participant Media’s (www.participantmedia.com) content combines the power of a good story well told with opportunities for real world impact and awareness around the most pressing global issues of our time. As an industry content leader, Participant annually produces up to six narrative feature films, five documentary films, three episodic television series, and more than 40 hours of digital short form programming, through its digital subsidiary SoulPancake—all aimed at entertainment that inspires social awareness and engaging audiences to participate in positive social change. Participant’s content and social impact mandate speaks directly to the rise of today’s “conscious consumer,” representing over 2 billion consumers who are compelled to make impactful content a priority focus. Through its worldwide network of traditional and digital distribution, aligned with partnerships with key non-profit and NGO organizations, Participant is positioned uniquely within the industry to engage a rapidly growing audience while bringing global awareness and action to today’s most vital issues.

Participant’s more than 80 films, including Spotlight, Contagion, Lincoln, The Help, He Named Me Malala, The Look of Silence, CITIZENFOUR, Food, Inc. and An Inconvenient Truth, have collectively earned 56 Academy Award® nominations and 12 wins, including Best Picture for Spotlight and Best Foreign Language Film for A Fantastic Woman. Participant’s digital entertainment division, SoulPancake (www.soulpancake.com), is an award-winning provider of thought-provoking, joyful, and uplifting digital content including such widely popular series as Kid President and The Science of Happiness and reaches an audience of nearly 9 million fans. Follow Participant Media on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram. Follow SoulPancake on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram.