Actor and producer Eva Longoria is joining forces with long-time production partner Cris Abrego to launch Hyphenate Media Group, a new media holding company and premium content studio.
Production giant Banijay, the French-owned conglomerate behind such global shows as Big Brother, MasterChef, Black Mirror and Peaky Blinders, has made a strategic investment in the new venture, marking its first move into the U.S. scripted market. Abrego has been Chairman of the Americas at Banijay since 2020. Hyphenate plans to invest in “creator-led enterprises” in the media sector as well as develop and produce its own slate of original programming.
To jumpstart its production efforts, Hyphenate Media Group has acquired the full slate of UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, the independent production outfit Longoria launched in 2005, whose shows include ABC’s Grand Hotel, NBC’s Telenovela, Netflix’s Emmy Award-nominated documentary Reversing Row, and CNN’s culinary docuseries Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico.
UnbeliEVAble Entertainment projects will be folded into Hyphenate, which will develop and produce future shows from the production shingle. The first project under the new company will be Apple TV+’s Land of Women, a dramedy based on Sandra Barneda’s best-selling novel. It stars Longoria as a New York empty nester whose life is turned upside down when her husband implicates the family in financial improprieties, and she is forced to flee the city alongside her aging mother and college-age daughter. The series is set to bow next year.
Abrego will serve as the CEO of Hyphenate Media Group, with Longoria as Chief Creative Officer. Both Abrego and Longoria will produce exclusively for the new company, and all television projects directed by Longoria will be produced under the new banner.
Abrego and Longoria made the announcement at the global TV trade fair MIPCOM Cannes on Monday, in a keynote devoted to the “future of content.” They said they are currently in negotiations with several key executives and anticipate announcing their leadership team later this year.
The pair, who have been production partners for 20 years, said they plan to invest in “a number of creator-led enterprises with proven leadership and the potential to scale” as Hyphenate builds up its portfolio.
Pitching Hyphenate’s model, they said the company would offer “creator-entrepreneurs” an opportunity, via “capital investment, brand development and the collaborative advantage and infrastructure provided by Hyphenate’s core leadership team” to build up their production companies by developing a slate of projects they can sell independently worldwide. The model appears to mirror that of mega-indies like Banijay and Fremantle, which, in the past few years, have invested in dozens of production outfits as shifts in the market, including a pull-back by global streaming companies, and have made it more difficult for independent producers to secure financing and distribution for their shows.
“With Hyphenate Media Group, Cris and I are leveraging the power of the creative industry’s greatest resource, the multihyphenate, to help meet audiences and the industry where they are,” said Longoria. “We are answering the industry’s call for premium inclusive content with broad appeal and an undeniable point of view. Our intention is to provide greater financial participation for makers, creators, talent and entrepreneurs: the Hyphenates. Given the multiple transformations that our business is undergoing, I cannot think of a better time to lean into makers, who are the essential drivers of the creative enterprise.”
Abrego said their vision for Hyphenate was that the company become “an engine for culture-defining content by investing in visionary multihyphenate artists and providing these extraordinary creative leaders with the resources and infrastructure they need to scale their businesses.”
Marco Bassetti, CEO, Banijay said Hyphenate Media Group was the “right fit” for the international company to “cut through” into the U.S. scripted market. He called the new company “a studio with a truly unique perspective. Combining Cris’ standout creative leadership with Eva’s reputation as a celebrated producer, director and activist, this is a powerful home where multihyphenate voices can truly tell inclusive mainstream stories.”
Before taking over as Chairman of the Americas for Banijay, Abrego served as CEO of Endemol Shine Holdings, where he was behind multiple acquisitions, including Endemol Shine Boomdog, Endemol Shine Brasil and Truly Original. As a producer, Abrego made his mark as co-founder and CEO of 51 Minds Entertainment — which he set up in 2003 — where he helped pioneer the celeb-reality genre with unscripted formats including The Surreal Life. Abrego merged his company with Mark Cronin’s Mindless Entertainment in 2004, and Endemol took a controlling stake in the group in 2008.
Best known for her breakthrough role in ABC’s long-running hit Desperate Housewives, Longoria’s multihyphenate credentials have included not only work as a producer but also as a director. Her feature directorial debut Flamin’ Hot follows the story of the Mexican-American janitor who claims to have invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Searchlight Pictures acquired the film, and it premiered on Disney+ and Hulu earlier this year. She also helmed the Sundance documentary La Guerra Civil, about the epic rivalry between iconic boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Julio César Chávez in the 1990s, which will be released by sports streamer DAZN in 2024.
MIPCOM: Eva Longoria, Cris Abrego Set Up Hyphenate Media Group