January 29, 2018—Colorado Springs, CO—Veteran Hollywood producers Roma Downey and Emmy-nominated Will Packer (Girls Trip, Straight Outta Compton, Ride Along, Roots) have teamed to produce Karen Kingsbury’s long-awaited “The Baxters” drama series, based on her Baxter family novels about the ups and downs of a large family with six adult children, announced Rick Christian, CEO/Founder of Alive who represented the sale. He said the plan is to produce a first season consisting of 12 episodes that each run 11 minutes, which will be streamed over Lightworkers Media, a joint venture of Downey, MGM Television and Digital and Mark Burnett, Downey’s husband who also heads MGM TV.
Christian said the short format is growing exponentially in popularity, particularly among younger audiences who increasingly have cut the cable cord and consume streaming media on their phones and computers via channels like YouTube Red and go90. Studies show a massive drop-off in traditional TV programming viewership at the 10-minute mark, and so “The Baxters” is specifically designed to hit this new sweet spot by targeting audiences with the content they’re seeking, where they’re watching it, and how they’re watching it, he reported.
“We explored many avenues for this show,” Downey told Variety, which broke the story. “We believe digital is the way to bring it to life.” She said a writers room is up and running, and production is expected to begin this summer. Kingsbury’s Baxter Family series and stand-alones have sold more than 20 million copies since her first book in the series, Redemption, was published by Tyndale in 2002.
Downey said the Lightworkers platform, which launched last fall, was the right venue to tell the story in which the family’s abiding faith and spiritual themes do not have to be watered down in a generic fashion. “By making it ourselves it gives us a creative freedom we wouldn’t have elsewhere,” she said. “These characters are sincere in their faith, and that sets them apart from other stories.”
Packer is one of Hollywood’s most profitable producers with nine #1 film openings and over a $1 billion in total box office revenue. His film Girls Trip was 2017’s highest grossing, live action comedy and he received a 2016 Emmy Award nomination as the executive producer of Roots, the acclaimed remake of one of TV’s most celebrated series. “Roma has identified a massive audience and she’s meeting them exactly where they are,” Packer told Variety. “She’s giving them a platform that puts the content they want in one place.”
Like Downey, Packer believers there is a big opportunity in the entertainment market for high-end content that examines issues of faith, spirituality and religious activity in the lives of characters. And that doesn’t mean the material has to be syrupy or overly sentimental.
“There’s a void right now,” Packer said. “A lot of what is circulating out there right now feels watered down. People want content that is rooted in truth. We’ll have endings that are not always happy.” Packer added that the production is an opportunity to “take some chances with new voices” on the writing staff.
Downey said Packer’s team “brought a real dynamic energy” to the “Baxters” project that helped get it off the ground. Kingsbury’s substantial social media following will also be tapped to bring viewers to the show.
“The tone of this is going to be heartwarming and moving,” Downey said. “It’s going to have a nice contemporary feel that will make it accessible for everyone.”
Katie Christian, Vice President, Scripted Development, Digital and New Platforms for MGM is overseeing the project, together with Will Packer Media’s Jaime Primak-Sullivan, Head of Development and Production – Digital.
ABOUT LIGHTWORKERS MEDIA
Celebrated Emmy-nominated actress and producer Roma Downey launched LightWorkers Media (LWM) in 2011 along with her husband, award-winning producer Mark Burnett. LWM is a joint venture owned by MGM, Burnett and Downey, with Downey serving as President. LWM recently launched LightWorkers.com, an online destination for uplifting and encouraging short-form digital and social content. Under the LightWorkers Media banner, they have produced the 10-hour hit miniseries “The Bible” which was viewed over 100 million times in the U.S. and was nominated for three Emmy awards. Additionally, LWM produced the series “A.D.” for NBC, “The Women of the Bible” for Lifetime, “The Dovekeepers” for CBS, “Answered Prayers” for TLC, the feature films “Little Boy” for Open Road Films, “Woodlawn” for Pure Flix, “Ben-Hur” for MGM and Paramount and the upcoming TV series “Messiah” for Netflix.
ABOUT WILL PACKER MEDIA
Led by Hollywood producer Will Packer, Will Packer Media is a first-of-its-kind production and branded content company focused on the New American Mainstream audience, with an urban millennial core. In partnership with Discovery Communications and Universal Pictures, the company produces episodic scripted and unscripted series across television and digital platforms, compelling content for brand clients, and short-form digital content for millennial audiences. Will Packer’s films have earned more than $1 billion, with nine opening at number one at the box office.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen Kingsbury is a #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, earning her the distinction of being America’s favorite inspirational novelist. Between the Baxter Family books and her stand-alone novels, more than 30 million copies of her award-winning titles are in print, including several million copies sold in the past year. Karen’s most recent Life-Changing Fiction™ titles hit #1 on national lists. Karen is also a public speaker, reaching more than 100,000 women annually through various national events. Karen lives and works in Nashville.
ABOUT ALIVE LITERARY AGENCY
Alive Literary Agency is located in Colorado Springs, CO, and is the leading, most influential agency for inspirational content and authors–best known for its mega-selling franchises and expanding work in film and television. Best-sellers include Todd Burpo’s Heaven Is for Real (12 million copies); Karen Kingsbury’s novels (30 million copies); the Left Behind series (nearly 70 million copies); Eugene Peterson’s The Message (20 million copies); Lisa Beamer’s post 9-11 Let’s Roll! (1.5 million copies); and Steve Arterburn & Dave Stoop’s Life Recovery Bible (2.5 million copies). Books represented by Alive have sold more than 250 million copies since its 1989 founding by Rick Christian.