Penske Media Buys ATX TV Festival

Local celebration of the small screen joins portfolio including SXSW

Emily Gipson and Caitlin McFarland, co-founders of ATX TV Festival. The celebration of the small screen has been sold to Penske Media (Photo by John Anderson)

ATX TV Festival, nicknamed the TV camp for grownups, has hit the big time: the Austin celebration of all things small screen has been acquired by Penske Media, co-owners of South By Southwest.

Founded in in 2012 as a fan-first celebration of TV by Emily Gipson and Caitlin McFarland, it was scheduled during the summer lull for new programs: the timing meant the organizers could invite TV professionals in the off-season for a long weekend of fun, BBQ, and all things TV. Over the years it has expanded to become a destination for TV executives and a launch pad for new shows, as well as a place for reunions. The 2022 event, for example, included a first look at the CW's Old West smash Walker: Independence and a 20 year reunion for medical comedy Scrubs.

Through P-MRC, a joint venture with Beverly Hills-based MRC Media & Info, Penske Media already owns a large stake in SXSW. In the acquisition, announced Monday by Penske-owned outlets including Variety and Deadline, the media company added its second Austin festival to a portfolio of live events including Las Vegas music festival Life Is Beautiful and LA3C, a cultural celebration scheduled to hold its inaugural event this coming December.

Under the undisclosed terms of sale, Gipson and McFarland stay on as co-presidents, while Director of Operations Laura Kincaid and Director of Programming Jennifer Morgan will also remain in place.

In a statement, Penske Media CEO and Founder praised Gipson and McFarland's achievements in building the festival, saying that they have created "an incredible community and world class programming over the years, and we look forward to helping them expand their footprint for an even bigger audience in the future.”  

Explaining the sale, McFarland wrote, "We have always had our eyes on creating year-round programming and engagement, but the pandemic marked an inflection point for us all. We realized that we needed to expand to digital content and grow beyond a yearly festival to service our business and our audience. Our partners needed more opportunities to reach audiences and our audience needed one another - but we, ATX TV, also needed more resources to achieve our very big goals. We are so proud of all we have done with our team, but we are ready for our next chapter of growth and are thrilled to have Penske Media as partners to help us achieve it together."

“It’s hard to believe the first festival was ten years ago,” said Gipson. “At that time, we had no idea what it would become, but our vision has always remained the same: to create an inclusive destination for industry and consumer audiences to come together as one community to celebrate TV. Over the past decade, we have focused on creating curated content and producing high quality experiences that have allowed audiences to discover, discuss, debate, collaborate, interact, and enjoy all things television. Now with the support of Jay and Penske Media, we know the possibilities are endless of how we can grow our vision together.”

The programming for the next ATX Television Festival (scheduled for June 1-4, 2023) is already shaping up, with legendary sit com director and Cheers cocreator James Burrows receiving the festival's Achievement in Television eXcellence award, and a reunion for SHOWTIME's Homeland. Badges are on sale now at

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