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How a media startup is working with Disney+ and others to A/B test diverse stories and show their commercial potential

  • Jumpcut is working with studios including Disney to test diverse stories and talent with audiences.
  • The startup wants to dispel Hollywood misconceptions that diverse stories are too risky.
  • The two-year-old company currently has 12 TV and film projects in development.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The startup Jumpcut thinks technology can help make Hollywood more inclusive.

Jumpcut was founded in 2019 by entrepreneur and Wharton professor Kartik Hosanagar and uses data to find fresh voices and workshop story ideas.

For instance, imagine a coming-of-age adventure in the style of “Stranger Things” or “It,” but with a cast of characters who each live with disabilities. That’s the vision for “Keep Staring,” a “kids-on-bikes” comic book from creators Larime and Sylv Taylor. Jumpcut Media is developing the concept for TV.

Jumpcut A/B tests concepts in development, like “Keep Staring,” to see how audiences respond. It then uses the findings to package the TV shows and films for buyers and determine realistic budgets. 

Hosanagar said the technology combines survey panels with a focus-group model, and uses prototypes including trailers or storyboards. It can test ideas with more than 100,000 people and with specific audiences. It can help analyze the potential for an Indian show to attract audiences in Europe, for example.

Hosanagar hopes Jumpcut’s process will convince more entertainment companies to invest in projects from lesser-known creators or that aren’t conventionally mainstream.

“Everyone agrees it’s good to have more perspectives, point of views, and fresh voices,” Hosanagar said. “But while the awareness exists, there is no action. New voices and new stories are still probably the riskiest bet in content.”

The startup said it currently has 12 TV and film projects in development.

The slate includes a project for Disney+ that is being developed with Disney’s Asia-Pacific team for that market. Jumpcut A/B tested the concept and Disney picked it up for full development, a step that includes writing scripts for each episode.

Jumpcut, which raised an undisclosed seed sum from venture-capital studio Atomic, typically finances the initial development for its projects, including paying writers. It looks for partners to finance the productions.

It aims to move in the next year or two into financing its own productions.

Jumpcut mines platforms like YouTube and Wattpad for talent

Hosanagar said Jumpcut doesn’t look to agents for talent, because it wants to disrupt Hollywood’s system of working with “who you know.”

“The industry, whether its Hollywood or independent TV and film, is mostly an old boys’ club,” he said. “It’s all based on either gut or personal networks … How can we make sure anyone with a great idea and a hunger gets the opportunity to tell their stories?”

Jumpcut built machine-learning algorithms that scour platforms like YouTube and Wattpad for content that has strong production value, storytelling, and signs of resonating with audiences, such as through strong viewership or comments. The algorithms generate a monthly list of a dozen creators for Jumpcut’s development team, which is led former CBS Films and Super Deluxe exec Winnie Kemp.

Using this method, the startup found actress Anna Hopkins, who’s appeared in shows including “The Expanse,” but wasn’t widely known for her writing. YouTube comments suggested people had strong emotional reactions to some of her short films that were posted on the platform, Hosanagar said.

Jumpcut also develops concepts through an incubator program called Jumpcut Collective. 

During the six-week program, creators workshop their ideas with experienced talent like “Kill Bill” producer Lawrence Bender, test their ideas with audiences, and develop them into pitches. It creates a space for a writer who may be debating whether to take a show into a dark or a family-friendly direction to workshop and test both versions to see which is more commercially viable.

Jumpcut incubated “Keep Staring” through this program. The creators tested several versions, including one that Hosanagar said leaned into genre themes and showed mainstream potential.

“When we heard the concept, we said, ‘let’s test,'”Hosanagar said. “Now we have the data to justify it” to buyers.

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