Jonathan Sposato (Courtesy of JoySauce Network)
GeekWire co-founder and chairman Jonathan Sposato has launched JoySauce Network, a new ad-supported multimedia platform aimed at the “American Asian” audience and its allies, Variety has learned exclusively.
The site, which went live Wednesday morning, boasts “multiple channels of vibrant digital programming dedicated to celebrating both new and established American Asian talent.” JoySauce Network notes the use of “American Asian rather than Asian American” is its way of “shifting the center of gravity, while recognizing that each of us chooses how the pieces of our identities fit together.”
Per JoySauce Network, “Viewers can expect unscripted and scripted streaming shows, licensed movies from respected directors and writers in the Asian diaspora, stand-up comedy specials from emerging talent, documentaries, and more in a weekly episode format. The site will also publish original editorial from some of the community’s most talented writers, aiming to represent the full spectrum of American Asian narratives, covering culturally relevant topics in lifestyle, food, entertainment, pop culture, education, romance and more. Additionally, JoySauce plans to grow a selection of podcasts centered around interesting conversations with renowned experts and emerging AAPI thought leaders and voices on subjects ranging from entrepreneurship to relationships.”
Among the original content titles are “American Icon,” a 20-minute special featuring Sposato in a sitdown interview with George Takei, and “#TeamTan,” an event series focusing on Samantha Tan, a 22-year-old Asian Canadian racing star rising through the ranks of professional race car driving and navigating the 2020 race season amidst a global pandemic.
JoySauce is also in active development on new projects, including a late-night talk show hosted by Sposato himself, featuring “top Asian diaspora talents,” as well as a Korean-focused cooking show with a big-name chef, and editorial that will become a go-to guide to arts and restaurants in AAPI hubs all around the United States.
“Starting JoySauce is, in many ways, the culmination of everything I’ve done to date in media, publishing and tech entrepreneurship,” Sposato told Variety. “Growing up as a Korean Chinese American, I hardly ever saw anyone who looked like me on TV or in movies, and when I did, they were always the bad guy or the sidekick. It’s high time we centered stories on American Asians as the default and create a parallel universe where portrayals of the Asian diaspora are positive and flattering and beautiful and funny and strong and cool. All day and every day.”
Sposato, who is publisher of Seattle magazine and acting editor-in-chief at JoySauce, has hired Frankie Huang as deputy editor-in-chief and Chelsea Lin as managing editor. The JoySauce editorial team will publish new articles daily that “represent the full spectrum of American Asian narratives — from witty listicles to long-form profiles, to film critique, to intimate personal essays, paired with original illustration — written by both brave new voices and industry veterans with bylines from The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, The Cut, and more.”
“At a time of hypervisibility for Asians in America, with both incredible highs and heartbreaking lows, JoySauce is where the full breadth of our vibrant, complicated, imperfect humanity can take up space unapologetically,” Huang said. “I am excited to do our part in decolonizing the media and telling our stories the way they deserve to be told.”
Additionally, Sposato has brought on Ben Press as chief development officer, set to oversee brand partnership strategy, talent relations and intellectual property acquisitions.
JoySauce Network is also forming an advisory board focused on expanding JoySauce’s influence “directly in the Asian diaspora communities,” with Sposato naming Nancy Yoon (publicist for the Oscar-winning “Minari” campaign and Fox’s “The Cleaning Lady”) as their first distinguished advisor.
“This is such an incredible honor and opportunity to work with the entire highly creative and talented JoySauce team from the beginning in helping to ‘spread the joy,'” Yoon said.
“We share an immense like-minded passion for telling OUR authentic AAPI stories in a bold new, provocative yet positive way. There is nothing like this out there for our community and I’m excited to see this new multimedia platform help shine light and voice to our vibrant, diverse and growing community.”
Sposato says JoySauce is certainly exploring an app component and the carriage and distribution deals that would go with that move, but that step is further down his to-do list on Day 1 of the ad-supported platform’s launch.
“It’s absolutely on our roadmap to have that and it is something we’re on a very forward-footing on and planning those things,” Sposato said. “But as an entrepreneur, I’m very staged and deliberate in terms of which problems I solve at any one given time. I think the most important thing is to just make sure that we have the right formula and that we have our content strategy and the mix shift correct, in regards to proportionality and the different asset types. That is the first stage that we want to get absolutely correct and to create and to make sure that we’re storming, norming, performing, and get to the performing part. And then the second stage is tackling exactly those kinds of things, like an app that’s kind of OEM-ed in the various devices.”
Here is JoySauce Network’s initial slate of programming:
• #TeamTan In this JoySauce original event series, we watch Samantha Tan, a 22-year-old Asian Canadian racing star rising through the ranks of professional race car driving at warp speed. Follow her journey as she navigates the 2020 race season amidst a global pandemic. 6 episodes, 12 minutes each – new episodes every other Tuesday
• American Icon A single 20-minute special, where Sposato sits down with one of Asian America’s living legends, actor George Takei, for an interview that’s pure irreverent fun.
• #VeryAsian with Michelle Li Our friend and prominent Korean American newscaster Michelle Li has turned a racist event into a national phenomenon; and now JoySauce interviews with her, in a bite-sized series, on relevant Asian American issues like transracial adoption, reclaiming Asian names, and taking up liminal space. 6 episodes, 3 minutes each – new episodes every other Thursday
• Travels with Malika A travel show from travel expert Malika Lim Eubank that chronicles the cross-country journey of her and her small team, as they take to the road in a makeshift live-streaming RV to visit people and places on the edge of transition and to explore what it means to be American. 24 episodes, 20 minutes each – new episodes on Wednesdays
• Mixed Six In this JoySauce exclusive, six mixed heritage couples open up about their meet-cute moments, what it was like introducing their families, and the joys and complexities of growing up American and Asian. 3 episodes, 7 minutes each – new episodes first Monday of the month
• Socially Distanced Stand-Up During peak pandemic cabin fever, JoySauce pulled together a group of Asian American comedians for a riotously funny night of standup on Zoom. 6 episodes, 15 minutes each – new episodes on Mondays
• Bound for Glory An award-winning 36-minute pilot from first-time filmmaker John Wilcox and writer, actor, and producer Michael Naizu about finding cultural and professional identity in modern-day Hollywood. Though cell phone styles and fashion are noticeably outdated in the movie, everything else about it remains deeply relevant to today’s world.
• A Leading Man An episodic reconfiguration of director Steve J. Kung’s feature-length film, this series follows a handsome, talented, and ambitious Chinese American who is working to make his big break in Hollywood, while facing the challenge of how to exist as an actor of Asian heritage with his dignity intact.
• Bulge Bracket – Licensed A series that takes you into the high-intensity world of mergers, acquisitions, and IPOs, starring recent B-school graduate Cathy Lee (Jessika Van, CBS’s Rush Hour) as she begins her career at a prestigious New York investment bank. Similar in tone to HBO’s Silicon Valley, this ensemble dramedy finds humor in high-stress situations at the office, as it explores the costs of climbing the corporate ladder. 6 episodes, 35 minutes each – new episodes every other Thursday
• Bella’s Table A JoySauce original video podcast from Intrepid Indian American business owner Bella Sangar, as she interviews bad-ass female business owners and thought leaders on what it means to belong. 5 episodes, 45 minutes each – new episodes on Fridays
• Culturally Relevant Conversations In this exclusive curated collection, prolific culture critic David Chen shares some of his favorite interviews with Asian heritage visionaries from all walks of life, originally published as part of his Culturally Relevant podcast. 10 episodes, 20 minutes each – new episodes on Mondays
• Brown Boi Love Partners Robinick Fernandez and Jeric Smith take listeners along for a steamy podcast that follows the couple’s search for their next shared lover. Giggle along as the duo discuss sex with friends, pleasure advice from Mom… no topic is off limits here. 3 episodes, 40 minutes each – new episodes on Thursdays
• Until It Happened To Us During the heart of the pandemic, one journalist found herself in the terrifying position of watching the virus course through her family. Episodes one and two happen in real time, mid-2020–episode three follows up in the present. 3 episodes, approx. 20 minutes each – released at launch
Variety's Jennifer Maas contributed to this post.