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Participant Media Is Shutting Down

After 20 years, Participant Media is shutting down.

Founder Jeff Skoll announced the news in a note to staff Tuesday, writing, “after much reflection, I have made the very difficult decision to wind down company operations.” During its run, the company was behind best picture winners Green Book and Moonlight, and docs such as An Inconvenient Truth and RBG.

eBay co-founder Skoll founded the company in 2004 with a dual mission of making money and inspiring social change through entertainment (the company later moved into television and other ventures). It has helped produce and finance a slew of high-profile awards contenders. Its films won 21 Oscars and its series won 18 Emmys. It earned more than $3.3 billion at the box office. Veteran studio executive David Linde has been running Participant since 2016; previous execs involved in Participant include Ricky Strauss.

It was heavily involved in the nonfiction space, with its shuttering sure to send ripples through that community. (Half of its 135 features were documentaries). It most recently released Shirley, starring Regina King as Shirley Chisholm, with its other noteworthy titles including Contagion; Good Night, and Good Luck; Waiting for Superman; Lincoln; Roma; and Judas and the Black Messiah.

Read Skroll’s full note to staff below.

Dear Participant Team,

For 20 years, Participant has stood as the leading global media company focused on timely and emotionally transformational stories which speak to the world’s most pressing issues. When I founded this company in 2004, I set out to maximize impact. It was a groundbreaking philanthropic venture that was the first – and for a long time, the only – of its kind.

As many of you have heard today, after much reflection, I have made the very difficult decision to wind down company operations. This is not a step I am taking lightly, but after 20 years of groundbreaking content and world-changing impact campaigns, it is the right time for me to evaluate my next chapter and approach to tackling the pressing issues of our time.

I founded Participant with the mission of creating world-class content that inspires positive social change, prioritizing impact alongside commercial sustainability. Since then, the entertainment industry has seen revolutionary changes in how content is created, distributed and consumed.

Although I have not been active in the day-to-day management of Participant for some years, this is a farewell to one of the most gratifying ventures of my career and there is much to be proud of. We succeeded in creating something truly one-of-a-kind: an impact media company with a double bottom line. This was intentional, and by all measures, we have been incredibly successful in driving the impact we set out to create. We have achieved the highest levels of critical and commercial success. We have released 135 films and 5 series, won 21 Academy Awards, including 2 Best Pictures, 4 Best Documentaries and 2 Best International Features, won 18 Emmy Awards, earned more than $3.3 billion in global box office revenue and partnered with the greatest storytellers and changemakers of our time. Together, we have built a category-defining media pioneer with an iconic, globally recognized brand whose legacy will live on through our people, our stories and all who are inspired by them.

The global conversations sparked by films and series like “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Contagion,” “Good Night, and Good Luck.,” “Waiting for Superman,” “Lincoln,” “Spotlight,” “Roma,” “Food, Inc.,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “RBG,” “Just Mercy,” “American Factory” and “When They See Us” gave all of us a new roadmap to engage – earnestly and meaningfully – in the unending pursuit of a better world. It’s not an overstatement to say that Participant films changed the way we think and talk about impact-driven films, building a new lexicon for the power of transformational storytelling.

Our titles drove tangible real-world change. We got out the vote and championed investigative journalism. From the passage of landmark legislation to enact labor protections for domestic workers in Mexico, to spurring state and federal action to address forever chemicals in the United States and Europe, to driving increased global awareness and willingness to act on climate change – Participant content has made the world a safer, more just place for millions of people. 

I am so grateful to our global community of Participants, who remind me every day that even one person can change the world with the right tools and enough determination. That community includes you all – I can’t thank you enough for everything you have given to this incredible company in your time here. I’d also like to thank David for his vision, leadership and continued growth of the company over the past 8 years. Whether you have been with us for months or years, if there is one thing you take from your experience, I hope it’s that sense of purpose we have cultivated among our community.

As this chapter of Participant comes to a close, I am emboldened by the efforts of the next generation of storytellers and content creators who are building upon and reimagining this work. From philanthropists, to producers, to distributors, to social impact agencies, more and more individuals and organizations all over the world are recognizing and adopting impact models as core to their approaches. The ripple effects of Participant can be felt far and wide – what we have started together is just the beginning.

Thank you all for your hard work and unwavering dedication to Participant. I have nothing but respect and admiration for each and every one of you, and I know you will continue to carry the legacy of what we built together far into the future. 



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