Company InfoBased in Los Angeles and founded by CEO Vanessa Shapiro in 2020, Nicely Entertainment brings 20 brand new “feel good” TV movies to the global market each year and has built a library of over 75 films. Although Nicely’s main focus has been producing original romance and Christmas films for U.S. and VOD broadcasters, the company has recently expanded to include narrative TV series, including its newest family-friendly holiday series for CBC Canada, The Christmas Checklist. Nicely’s first series, the… Read more
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Scott KirkpatrickEVP, Distribution & Co-Productions
Rachel SiegenthalerVP, International Sales
David HickeyHead, Production
Nicely Entertainment Leads in Feel-Good TV Movies
Though Nicely Entertainment is a young company, having launched in 2020, it has fast become a leader in providing feel-good TV movies. In less than four years’ time, the company has built a library of 80 films and is averaging 20 original films each year. Alongside its feature films, Nicely has developed and produced three scripted TV series—with more in the development pipeline. “We’ve expanded our client base, working directly with all major U.S. and international platforms and broadcasters—such as Hulu, ITV, M6, Netflix—and have grown our staff significantly,” says Scott Kirkpatrick, executive VP of distribution and co-productions. “On top of that, we’re expanding into new genres—including a few edgier projects—and have elevated our on-screen cast by hiring names such as Denise Richards and Ashlee Simpson to play major roles.”
What’s driving this growth isn’t some trade secret, Kirkpatrick says: “We’re producing very strong content, focusing on core genres and putting a major emphasis on reliably delivering high-quality, well-produced programs to our broadcast and VOD partners. We make every content decision by putting audiences’ and our clients’ needs first. And my sense is that we’re only starting to ascend a strong growth curve.”
Nicely’s core offering is family-friendly and female-driven feel-good content. “Every company has its unique flavor or take on certain genres,” Kirkpatrick adds. “Although we’re not the only company in the romance, family or Christmas romance space, we’re producing very inspirational and uplifting films that genuinely tap into what audiences truly want. We focus on smart and modern female protagonists, ones who have built successful lives but have found themselves at a crossroads. Opportunity comes knocking—generally through an external influence (a friend, a sudden required work trip)—that forces our protagonists out of their comfort zone. From this, they’re able to recalibrate and make that next big move in their lives (whether it be finding the perfect romantic match, reconnecting with family or utilizing their talents to further their own careers—or a combination of all three of these); we get to watch these young women better themselves and the people around them. This is especially fun when we add a splash of ‘fish-out-of-water’ storytelling, which is certainly how a few of our 2023 originals came about—e.g., our UPtv original Christmas at the Amish Bakery, our Great American Family original Romance at the Vineyard or even Reporting for Christmas, which premieres on Hulu in November.”
The company is bringing 18 brand-new films to MIPCOM. Highlights include the Denise Richards-led A Christmas Frequency, which will premiere on Hulu this November; the romance films One Perfect Match and Romance at the Vineyard, which both premiered this summer on Great American Family; and Nicely’s first-ever disaster/adventure film, Super Icyclone, which was produced via presales with Germany, Italy and Canada. Nicely has also made its first foray into the cozy mystery genre with the Pure Flix original The Abigail Mysteries. “Not only was this Nicely Productions’ first movie (Nicely’s mini studio launched in Arizona late last year), but I’m excited to share that the cozy mystery is definitely a genre we’ll be exploring further,” Kirkpatrick says. Also a highlight, the Lifetime original The Holiday Proposal Plan, starring Tatyana Ali, is set to premiere during this Christmas season.
Nicely has been averaging 20 original productions per year; 2023 has it at nearly 25 projects. “This is more than enough to keep us quite busy without overdoing it,” Kirkpatrick says. “To be candid, we’re not operating with a ‘minimum’ number or seeking some arbitrary growth target; at Nicely, we’re focused on brokering deals that make sense and projects we’re excited to get behind. Our main goal remains to deliver quality content to all our partners while focusing on great stories that we can develop internally with our team. We’re completely independent; we focus on the projects we want to get involved with and work closely with our clients and partners to provide them with exactly what they’re looking for. Not only has that allowed us to create a library of 80 films in just over three years, it’s also allowed us to guarantee strong production values and reliable output.”
He adds that the company aims for a “win-win” in its co-production strategy, evaluating opportunities and collaborating with the most impactful partners it truly wants to build projects with. “We’re not sprinters; we’re marathoners,” says Kirkpatrick. “And when we co-produce with a partner, we want that to be a long-term arrangement.”
As for acquiring third-party content, the bulk of the company’s acquisitions fit perfectly into Nicely’s overall genre wheelhouse of female-led feel-good content, but there is room for slightly edgier fare if there’s market value. Pickups that Nicely is presenting to the marketplace include Merry Textmas and The Christmas Venue, along with the Australian coming-of-age comedy tween film Finally Me. “We’re very much open to speaking with clients about individual titles or even slates or libraries,” Kirkpatrick adds.
Alongside CEO and founder Vanessa Shapiro, Kirkpatrick and the Nicely team are looking forward to a productive MIPCOM and continued growth globally. “The U.S. market has experienced quite a few shifts over the past few months, but at Nicely, we remain full steam ahead,” Kirkpatrick says. “We cannot wait to get back to Cannes, reconnect with clients and make some new content opportunities come to life.”
Nicely Delivers Feel-Good Romance—And Then Some
The slate at Nicely Entertainment has been growing, due in part to the fact that its circle of consistent content partners is expanding as well. “Over the years, we’ve been nurturing and developing very strong relationships with U.S. partners like Netflix, Lifetime, GAF or UPtv, and we’re excited about the 2023 upcoming Christmas slate we’re producing this year for the U.S. channels and platforms,” says Vanessa Shapiro, CEO. “Our growth is also fueled by the creation of our mini-studio in Arizona, and the hiring of our new head of production, David Hickey.” The first production under the banner is the cozy-mystery film Mystery of the Heart, produced as an original for the Sony-owned Pure Flix SVOD platform.
Nicely is also seeing success with new genre movies, such as the disaster film Super Icyclone, which will be released this summer. “As a company, we need to grow, but we cannot dive into projects blindly; we need to ensure that the films we develop have interest and a built-in audience globally before we commence production,” Shapiro says, pointing to the romance titles Baked with a Kiss and Love at the Lodge as examples.
While female-driven feel-good films remain the company’s bread and butter, Nicely has been diversifying its offerings. Presales are in place for its first disaster film, Super Icyclone, in Italy, Germany and Canada. Its first horror-thriller, Bad Connection, was presented during EFM in Berlin. The company is also negotiating sales on its 8K IMAX theatrical documentary Beyond the Reef. “We’ll be maintaining our boutique feel and will always be producing a strong volume of traditional and Christmas-themed romance films,” Shapiro says. “So even though we’ll dabble a bit with alternative genres, our core offering will remain romance, feel-good movies and strong female-led stories.”
When acquiring ready-made films from third parties for its slate, there’s flexibility in terms of genre and style, says Shapiro. “We can release a variety of titles—including drama, action, thrillers—that allow us to grow our library, reach new clients and generate revenue from regions and territories we normally don’t have the opportunity to secure business from via our romance slate alone. We certainly don’t pick up just any available completed project; we evaluate every completed film or series and look for key indicators of success. Does this project have a strong production value? Was it or is it licensed to a strong local/native broadcaster or partner? Do our projections show enough potential for our bottom line as well as enough for the producer to be satisfied?” She adds that there are key areas where Nicely is aiming to grow as a company, including ramping up its direct-to-consumer VOD relationships, and sees finished-tape acquisitions and even library acquisitions as a way to reach these audiences.
In terms of co-productions, Shapiro says the approach is a strategic one. “We’re in a growth curve, one we’re steadily and strategically maintaining. We have a growing circle of trusted partners and are excited to dive into projects that have great story elements but also make sense for all our co-producing partners.” The company is currently averaging over a dozen original co-pros each year with U.S. clients. It is also increasing its production collaboration with partners such as Jaggi Entertainment in Australia, for instance, with a slate of four movies this year, including A Royal in Paradise and Romance at the Vineyard.
Even with its growth and diversification, Nicely wants to keep a boutique approach and feel. “We want to remain lean and focus on core genres we know well, which allows us to ensure everything we develop is quality entertainment,” Shapiro says. “We are a one-stop shop for romance, holiday and family-friendly content. We are growing and are excited to see our volume increase year on year, but we are determined not to grow too quickly nor see the quality of what we’re bringing to market decrease. When we acquire content, we are clear in how we’re filtering that project and how it fits with our overall slate. And when we develop content, we go through several creative rounds to make sure we’re delivering what our clients—and their audiences—truly want to see. We offer consistency and want to be known as a reliable partner.”
Indeed, Nicely’s USP as a content provider is “consistency,” Shapiro says. “We come to each market with a fresh slate of solid TV movies, focused in genres that match what our worldwide clients seek,” identifying female-driven rom-coms, Christmas-themed romances and female-led thrillers. At MIPTV, the company showcased its brand-new romance slate, including Romance at the Vineyard, A Perfect Christmas Pairing and Love by Design.
From a business standpoint, Shapiro says that being independently owned gives Nicely an advantage. “We have the freedom to dive into any project we choose and the ability to focus our attention on what truly matters most. This has allowed us to remain nimble and fast in our approach while never sacrificing the quality or reliability of our offering. Being independent has also allowed us to develop very strong relationships with our key clients. They have invested a great deal of trust in us, and we don’t take that for granted. We’re able to focus on each project and ensure quality with an on-time delivery and on budget.”
SHOWCASE: Nicely Entertainment’s Story-First Approach
While Nicely Entertainment has been in growth mode since launch, it has taken a curated approach to remain a boutique production and distribution company. “It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost three years since we launched, but we’re now releasing 20 original films each year and are currently in postproduction on our third scripted TV series,” says Vanessa Shapiro, CEO. “Our 2023 slate is already filling up fast!”
The company has a library of over 50 movies—and counting. “What’s driving our success is simply delivering quality and everlasting content,” Shapiro adds. “We are putting our clients’ needs first in an increasingly noisy and competitive market, which is really what makes the difference.”
And though Nicely is growing, it has been selective and focuses only on projects that fit the company’s wheelhouse. “Our films follow female protagonists and tell empowering stories,” says Shapiro. “Many of our titles involve romance, but overall, we want to offer an entertaining experience and escape to the viewers. All our movies are centered around smart and confident female characters dealing with genuine dilemmas, which makes for a compelling story and a great movie-watching experience.” She points to the romance movie Love in Bloom as an example.
“What makes Nicely’s projects unique from a business standpoint is that we put the story first,” she adds. “That might seem obvious, but we don’t chase trends; we focus on great stories and co-produce films that audiences around the world genuinely want to watch. Whether it’s a Christmas movie, a romance or even a co-viewing family film, our throughline is all about offering a satisfying, inspirational and empowering experience.”
The company has ten completed projects for MIPCOM this year. This includes its third scripted series, The Christmas Checklist, an adaptation of a book, being done in co-production with Incendo. There are also seven new-release holiday movies, including Cloudy with a Chance of Christmas and A Christmas to Treasure, Nicely’s first LGBTQ holiday movie. And romance remains a staple, with titles such as A Royal in Paradise.
Co-productions have become a key part of Nicely’s strategy, as an independent company navigating the rising costs from Covid-19 regulations and inflation. “Currently, most of our co-productions have been with Australian or Canadian partners, and our aim is to increase our co-productions in Europe as well,” says Shapiro. For example, the Netflix original YA series Gymnastics Academy: A Second Chance is an Australian co-pro.
Nicely also acquires for its slate. “Films from third-party independent producers make up a significant part of our overall distribution library,” Shapiro says. “The genres of most of our acquisitions are in alignment with our originals. They’re generally Christmas romance films, summer romance movies or family co-viewing content.”
But, she adds, the company is open-minded in this area. “Acquiring alternative genres allows us to dabble in content realms we normally don’t get to work within, such as edgier thrillers or even horror titles, all of which we’re actively looking into. Some of our acquisitions are also driven by the significant growth of the AVOD market in the U.S. and the need for more content for these platforms.”
At MIPCOM, Nicely will be releasing the IMAX 8K HDR family-friendly documentary Beyond the Reef, an example of how it is expanding its reach with different formats and genres. “However, we’re always in need of good movies to fulfill Nicely’s brand and core mandate,” Shapiro says. “Cozy, fulfilling and warm stories will always be our main focus.”
In 2022, the company is delivering 20 original films, and next year, the plan is to release at least 25 new movies. “Our 2023 output might grow a bit as we enter into some elevated business discussions with a few close clients,” Shapiro says. “Also, we’re having several development discussions on what will be our fourth TV series, so we’re currently holding steady on at least one original scripted TV series per year.”
Shapiro expects Nicely will continue to grow and deliver a year-on-year increase in its output, “but as a business owner, I want to make sure we never lose track of our commitment to our clients with regard to delivering quality content,” she says. “We want to continue to grow but will do so strategically in a way that never sacrifices the quality of our titles.”
Based in Los Angeles and founded by CEO Vanessa Shapiro in 2020, Nicely Entertainment brings 20 brand new “feel good” TV movies to the global market each year and has built a library of over 75 films. Although Nicely’s main focus has been producing original romance and Christmas films for U.S. and VOD broadcasters, the company has recently expanded to include narrative TV series, including its newest family-friendly holiday series for CBC Canada, The Christmas Checklist. Nicely’s first series, the Netflix original Dive Club, premiered in September 2021 to rave reviews. Its latest endeavor, also a Netflix original YA series, Gymnastics Academy: A Second Chance, premiered globally in September 2022. Nicely has developed several projects as co-productions in Australia and Canada and continues to produce original content for major U.S. outlets such as Lifetime, Hallmark, Netflix, Roku, AMC and GAC Media.
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