Tika Sumpter, Actrss and Sugaberry Co-Founder and Thai Randolph, President & COO of “Laugh Out Loud” Networks and Co-Founder of Sugaberry, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss. their outlook for Hollywood’s recovery.
ADAM SHAPIRO: Our Fame and Fortune Hollywood special continues with another two special guests. But first it’s Alexandra Canal, who’s going to bring them to us. Ali.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: Hey, Adam, you guys. I’m very excited. Joining me is actress Tika Sumpter, and the President and CEO of Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Network, Thai Randolph. And you too are also the co-founders of the lifestyle brand, Sugaberry. So there’s so much to get into here. Tika, I want to start with you. As an actress filming during the pandemic, what have you seen in terms of Hollywood’s recovery, especially considering where we were a year and a half ago?
TIKA SUMPTER: I think from what I see, it’s people, projects are starting to ramp up again and people are getting very busy. Projects were on hold for over a year, so now people need more content. These companies need more content. So I see things getting ramped up a lot. And a lot of people, a lot of directors, a lot of actors, a lot of producers are all working.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: That’s great to hear. And speaking of content, Thai, the LOL Network will be getting its own linear channel on Roku, which is really exciting. And then some of the shows that you guys had previously produced for Quibi, RIP, will now be getting new life on Roku. So why go with Roku here? And how do you navigate all these various partnerships, especially now that we have so many different services out there?
THAI RANDOLPH: It’s a good question. Our proposition at Laugh Out Loud is comedy in color whenever, wherever our audience wants to laugh. And it was interesting during the pandemic, because you saw just a demand on the consumer side from consumption, for content across all channels. Podcasting, sort of linear viewing, on demand viewing, SVOD, AVOD.
And so we just said, we’re trying to be wherever our customers are. So we have our LOL fast channel that’s now available on Roku. And it’s so amazing to see an amazing show like that hard get a second life.
We also have a channel on Peacock and Pluto and Tubi. There really is a maximum amount of choice in the ecosystem right now. And as Tika said, if you’re on the content creation side, an unprecedented amount of demand for content. So it’s not a bad time to be on this side of the equation.
ADAM SHAPIRO: [AUDIO OUT] For content, and there’s so much money that is now available to pursue that content. Removing the power structure of the Hollywood studios, because it seems that that power structure was also part of what kept people of color and women from being included in the creation of content. Whichever one of you wishes to address it.
TIKA SUMPTER: Yeah.
THAI RANDOLPH: Yeah, I mean.
TIKA SUMPTER: I don’t think the. Go.
THAI RANDOLPH: You go.
TIKA SUMPTER: Go ahead, Thai. You can go for it.
THAI RANDOLPH: No, I was just.
TIKA SUMPTER: I don’t know–
ADAM SHAPIRO: Tika, why don’t you go first.
TIKA SUMPTER: [CHUCKLES] I don’t think the power structure is necessarily gone. I think it has opened its eyes to seeing what actually makes money for them in different various ways. And we know that diversity does that. We know the stats on the amount of TV people look at and certain groups look at. And so I think what they’ve noticed is wait, we make more money when diversity is happening. And so I think a lot of people, a lot of companies have opened up their eyes.
I think power structures are still there. But I think people are creating their own production companies, they are finding a way to do it with or without these power structures, whether it’s investments or things like that coming along for the ride. But I still think the structures are there. I think they’re just, they’ve opened their eyes a bit more.
ADAM SHAPIRO: Thai, they’ve opened their eyes, but it seems like there’s still a long way to go, or is there?
THAI RANDOLPH: There’s certainly still a long way to go, and in many respects. I think when we think about representation, not just in front of the camera, but behind the camera, I think this most recent award season sort of reiterated a lot of those gaps. But as Tika was saying, I think one of the things that is closing, is the streaming war sort of reach a pinnacle. It’s a real time feedback loop and you’re living and dying by those numbers. And diversity works. Like it’s proven that if you program to content that looks like the audiences that you’re programming to, they respond to that.
So like she said, I think it’s yeah, we had this huge kind of social and racial reckoning over the course of the summer, but I also think it’s a big economic reckoning. And so now we’re sort of living in this culture economy. And hopefully, we see the further democratization of content, not just in representation, not just on screen, but an all hands on deck behind the camera, but also in the boardrooms as well.
SEANA SMITH: And Thai, one area of the business they are pushing into the LOL Network, making a big push into podcasting. I know you, Thai, along with Tika, recently launched a weekly podcast. I’m curious just to get your perspective on your strategy in this space, because it seems like every day this space is getting more and more crowded by some of your competitors out there.
THAI RANDOLPH: Yeah, we, it’s interesting. The podcast, there’s a lot of saturation in podcasting because the barrier to entry is so low. But the barrier to success is still actually quite high. And more so because of the amount of podcasts that are in the market. So we really think about what is that core value proposition. And with Sugaberry and our podcast, “The Suga,” our whole reason for founding Sugaberry was because we found this white space in the market that we wanted to fill with Brown faces.
The parenting industry is a huge one, but Black moms were largely ignored. And despite the fact that we’re sort of hold the purse strings for $1.5 trillion in purchasing power that the African-American consumer wields. And so while there was a lot of noise, there weren’t a lot of voices like the ones that were bringing to the table and amplifying. And as a part of our strategy, we want to push even further in that direction.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: Yeah, and I want to touch on, I mean, Sugaberry, it celebrates Brown women, all the aspects of the Brown mom experience. You guys launched last year amid the pandemic. I mean, this is a hard time to be a mom right now. So what conversations are you guys facilitating? And Tika, we can start with you.
TIKA SUMPTER: Yeah, I mean, we’re facilitating a lot of conversations, whether it’s about finances, whether it’s about building businesses, whether it’s talking about, you know, we always wanted be able to be open about health and mental health. And so we’re having those conversations as well.
I think we just want it to have a conversation about the whole woman and not just being a mom. That’s part of it, but we always say, you don’t have to have a child to be part of the club. So it’s really taken into consideration, speaking to women who haven’t been spoken to for a very long time about things that mean a lot to them.