The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Entertainment

1_Pig Newton (Louis C.K.)

For bringing the funny directly to fans and forging a path for other artists to do the same. Frustrated with the way comedians were treated by large production companies and tired of the byzantine royalty agreements that left him with little to show, monetarily speaking, for his stand-up specials, CK decided to produce a show himself. The resulting video, Live at the Beacon Theater, broke even in under a day, with over 50,000 downloads at $5 each within twelve hours of going online. Since then, he’s repeated the phenomenon with the acclaimed tragi-comic Tig Notaro and gotten entertainment powerhouse HBO to air his next hour-long special—on his terms.

2_YouTube

For using its channels strategy to become a force in creating the next wave of digital video. One need only think of [insert your personal YouTube obsession from the last year; there are so many to choose from] to comprehend YouTube’s celebrity-creating powers. Late in 2011, YouTube made a savvy move to harness that power, announcing that it would select and help finance 100 content channels, with the aim of attracting better-quality viewers and the advertising dollars that follow them. By the end of last year, each of YouTube’s top 25 channels averaged more than a million views per week, and in October, at around the one-year anniversary of the program, YouTube announced that in 2013 it would be adding 60 new channels from around the world.

3_Netflix

For going all-in on original content, served up the way viewers want it: all at once. Although it’s not the first streaming service to try developing its own shows (see YouTube, above), it is the first to do so in a big way. Netflix won the rights to produce House of Cards after a reported bidding war with HBO and AMC, positioning itself as a competitor to arguably the top two cable television networks in the country. The show, which debuted an entire season all at once in early February, had the firepower of Academy Award-nominated director and actor Kevin Spacey behind it, and won the kind of reviews you’d want if you were hoping that people would binge-watch it en masse. Netflix will follow up in May with a new season of the groundbreaking, short-lived, but beloved comedy Arrested Development.

4_Zeebox

For creating an interactive platform that links smartphones and tablets with TV programming, making both more fun. Zeebox was enthusiastically received in the United Kingdom when it launched there late in 2011, and arrived in the United States last September. Log in to the app through Twitter or Facebook or both and it pulls together all the second-screen chatter for you, right before your eyes; with certain boxes, it even acts as a remote control. Zeebox has major partnerships with BSkyB in Britain and in the States with Comcast, Viacom, and HBO, and it reached a million downloads less than three months after its American debut. No wonder: Nielsen estimates that as many as 69% of tablet owners regularly use them to watch television.

5_Elastic

For stretching the concept of the Hollywood production studio to include writing, animating, and editing—winning awards in the process. The company grew out of Rock Paper Scissors, a motion-picture editing studio started 20 years ago by Angus Wall, who’s since won two Oscars for film editing (for The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). Three years later, the studio spawned a52, a visual effects company. Elastic is a continuation of that project, encompassing editing and visual effects. Through Elastic, Wall has directed commercials for Nike and Gatorade, created the title sequences for Carnivale on HBO and Boss on Starz, and won an Emmy for creating the title sequence on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Late last year, Wall brought in Pete Mertz, the former director of digital for TBWA/Media Arts Lab, to work on what they’re calling "interactive storytelling apps," pushing the bounds of storytelling into real life.

6_Laika

For making stop-motion animation high-tech and high-toned with ParaNorman. Laika first received acclaim in 2009 for Coraline, a stop-motion animated film that had the low-fi look of a Wallace and Gromit cartoon but the kinetic storytelling and technological sheen of a Pixar production. Where they’ve innovated is in their production methods: Laika uses digital drafting and 3D printing to produce the faces for its puppet models, letting them create thousands of nuanced expressions in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional claymation. Laika’s second full-length film, ParaNorman, came in third at the box office over its debut weekend and ended its theatrical run as the fifth highest grossing stop-motion animated film of all time. It is currently nominated for an Oscar for best animated feature.

7_Cameron Pace Group

For bringing 3D moviemaking to China. As it is for almost everything these days, China is the fastest-growing market for 3D films. In August of last year, James Cameron and his partner Vince Pace set up an office of their 3D technology company in the northeastern city of Tianjin, a move that they project will triple the company’s size in the years to come. CPG has a partner in the Chinese government and a star in Cameron, whose blockbuster 2009 film Avatar is largely responsible for kicking off the recent boom in 3D filmmaking. The move to China is a bid by Cameron to expand the market for 3D films. He told the Los Angeles Times, "We’ve always said 3D is the premium brand for film entertainment. China just seems to get that: the idea that you go to see a 3D movie because that’s the best."

8_Stereo D

For taking 2D favorites like Titanic and giving them their third dimension. The rise of 3D has given studios a chance to get a second life out of their archival titles. Titanic, for example, which was re-released in 3D in April 2012, made an additional $58 million at the box office, and set a record in China for the highest opening weekend gross in that nation’s history. Stereo D was behind the conversion, as it was with the original production of The Avengers, 2012’s highest grossing film, and the acclaimed Life of Pi. In 2013, its work will be seen in J.J. Abrams' upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness, and Guillermo del Toros Pacific Rim.

9_NimbleTV

For putting cable TV where people will actually use it: on their tablets, smartphones, and computers. Cord cutting, although not yet widespread, is nonetheless a concern for TV’s cable providers, making them sensitive to any upstart that might try to disrupt their relationship with their customers. NimbleTV has so far avoided the lawsuits that have hobbled other newcomers by paying subscription fees to cable companies on behalf of each customer and successfully launched a private beta version in December. An official version could be released in as soon as a few months.

10_MundoFox

For recognizing that Spanish speakers are Americans too with a new television network. NBC bought Telemundo in 2001, but it acts only as a parent company, and ABC entered into a partnership with Univision to develop a Spanish language news network, but it won’t launch until next year, making Fox's partnership with Colombian network RCN Television the first major U.S. network foray into the Spanish language market. MundoFox differentiates itself from those other networks by airing American-style programming aimed at Latino viewers who would rather watch CNN than a telenovela. Within three months of its August launch, MundoFox already had a few shows that were competitive with Univision in primetime, and awareness is growing rapidly.

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