Laura Kennedy took the reins of management-production firm Avalon as CEO about five months before the global pandemic upended all of the company’s businesses: talent representation, content production and live comedy tours.
The bumpiness of the past year has reinforced her faith in the company’s business model, which benefits from having a diverse mix of revenue streams, and operations spread in London, New York and Los Angeles.
On the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Kennedy says Avalon takes good advantage of beneficial policies in the U.K., including pandemic insurance that was recently made available by the government and the broad copyright ownership protections granted across the pond to independent producers. That protects Avalon’s ownership of its well-received and widely licensed scripted comedy productions such as “Catastrophe,” which aired in the U.S. on Amazon, and “Everything’s Going to Be Okay,” now generating buzz for Freeform and Hulu.
Kennedy’s plan for leading Avalon to new heights may have been delayed by the COVID-19 curveball, but it hasn’t significantly altered her vision.
“I’d say the pandemic has not so much radically disrupted our industry as it has accelerated trends that were in existence pre-pandemic,” Kennedy says. “On the studio side, our goal is to produce a slate of exceptional content for global audiences. That was the case before and it’s the case today.”
Avalon has about 140 employees and about 700 artists on its client roster. The company promotes 20 to 30 live comedy and stage productions a year.
Any time a talent management function is married with a production entity, there are questions about conflicts of interests for clients who may be employed by an in-house production. Kennedy says the marketplace is a natural hedge against unsavory behavior because clients will leave if they feel mistreated. Overall, Avalon works with a small percentage of the company’s clients on the production side. Avalon’s roster of series includes HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and the FX/BBC comedy “Breeders.”
“We are not a production company that’s expanded into talent. We are definitely a talent management company with a full-fledged studio operation and infrastructure,” she says.
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.