YA Media Star Alloy Entertainment is Growing Up

Alloy Entertainment has long been the equivalent of a Queen Bee in the world of young adult TV and books. But big changes in the TV market in particular have driven the Warner Bros.-owned imprint to look beyond teens and twentysomethings for new audience cliques.

On the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Alloy CEO Leslie Morgenstein, TV chief Gina Girolamo and film head Elysa Koplovitz Dutton discuss the company’s nontraditional approach to developing TV shows, movies and books. Alloy was built over the past 30-plus years on the success of YA book series such as “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “Gossip Girl.” But the demand curve has changed in recent years.

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Leslie Morgenstein
Leslie Morgenstein

“The reality of the business today is the company has really transitioned from being a book business with a film and TV office to being a film and TV business that has an internal IP generation machine that in great success is profitable, but we are now much more cognizant that our book business exists to feed film and TV,” Morgenstein says. “And the communication [between divisions] is much more frequent than it used to be.”

The company’s desire to expand into what the executives describe as fully adult-centered stories has been fueled by its recent successes with projects revolving around characters that are well past adolescence.

“If you look at the past 18 months, our two biggest successes are [Netflix drama series] “You” and [Netflix movie] “Purple Hearts, which was a grown-up romance,” Morgenstein says. “Our book business currently is about 25% books for adults – although YA titles are read by a lot of adult women – but by the end of 2025, it’s going be 50-50.”

Elysa Koplovitz Dutton
Elysa Koplovitz Dutton

Strategic shifts at two young-skewing linear TV networks – the CW broadcast net and Disney-owned cabler Freeform – have hastened Alloy’s moves. “They were the biggest buyers of our teen shows with teen protagonists. For so many years they were so vital to our business and such great partners and we had phenomenal success together. So that being said, we need to pivot the business. We’re still going to have YA shows and YA movies, but the there are fewer homes” for them, Morgenstein says.

Alloy’s foundational principal of crafting a virtuous circle of books, TV shows and movies has not changed, even if more of its characters are of drinking and voting age. Alloy, which does not distribute its own books but packages them for sale to established publishers, has a deep library of titles that it leans on for material. Older titles can become suddenly relevant if Girolamo or Dutton hear that a network or studio is in the market for a particular genre, theme or setting.

“Because we have this stable of books and continuous flow of material coming our way, we can really just really focus on the [development] work, which is a luxury,” Dutton says. “And it’s wonderful that if you have a feature idea, or you hear something that that a studio is really looking for, to be able to run that by our book business, and then talk about what that would look like in book form. Because we all know the studios get really excited when they hear that there’s a book. And the publishers get really excited when they hear that there could be a movie. So it really does become a circular economy and in the best possible way — and a very creative one.”

Gina Girolamo
Gina Girolamo

The robust content and idea pipeline means that Dutton and Girolamo’s teams aren’t caught up in the chase for hot new literary material or writers looking for big bucks for pitches and outlines. “That’s part of the joy of being on the ground floor in this company. It’s all very fluid and we communicate with one another regularly,” Girolamo says. Novels that turn into multiple book series are a precious resource for showrunners who are always hungry for fresh material. “So you can even think in terms of seasons. You can project out ahead on something that you feel very strongly about in terms of how to keep it going.”

Among other topics, the trio discuss the insights gained from the 2019 move of the drama series “You” from Lifetime to Netflix, where the Penn Badgley starrer blossomed into a big hit in its sophomore year after a lackluster first season.

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. (Please click here to subscribe to our free newsletter.) New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded at Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Google Play, SoundCloud and more.

(Pictured top: Netflix’s “Purple Hearts”)

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