Channel 4 takes stakes in four indies

UK broadcaster Channel 4 has taken minority stakes in four UK indies, with CEO promising the deals are “just the start”.

David AbrahamChannel 4 has taken shareholdings in Arrow Media (Ultimate Airport: Dubai), Lightbox (Signal to Noise), Popkorn (Football Behind Bars) and True North (Junior Vets).

This comes after Channel 4 launched its £20 million (US$33.2 million) Growth Fund earlier this year and appointed Laura Franses to oversee it.

Channel 4 CEO David Abraham (pictured) first mooted the initiative last year as part of a plan to invest in truly independent small- and medium-sized indies and expand their operations.

Each investment was “carefully considered to evaluate whether there was a clear growth opportunity and its value to the wider UK creative industry,” the broadcaster noted. Commercial returns from the investment will go into new original programming and further indie deals.

Arrow was born out of Darlow Smithson Productions, which was sold to Endemol in 2009. DSP co-founder John Smithson later exited and launched Arrow with Tom Brisley and Iain Pelling. It creates shows such as National Geographic Channels International’s Ultimate Airport: Dubai and Channel 4/Nat Geo’s Live From Space season.

“This investment allows us to retain our independence, keep our full indie status, and retain the creative and commercial freedom to continue to grow the business as we want to,” said Pelling, the company’s managing director.

The firm is planning to expand its senior team following the deal, which international law firm Osborne Clarke advised on.

Lightbox launched in December last year as venture between Man on Wire producer Simon Chinn and his cousin Jonathan Chinn. It has secured programming commissions with Xbox, Esquire Channel in the US, VH1, ESPN and a factual-bases drama miniseries for the BBC.

Factual producer Popkorn’s credits include Football Behind Bars for Sky 1 HD, Living With My Stalker for Channel 4 and a three part follow up to Channel 5 doc series My Violent Child, which is currently in production.

“This investment in Popkorn is a massive vote of confidence in the content we produce and will now enable us to embark upon the next chapter in our evolution as a creative company,” said Popkorn’s creative director Colin Moxon.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire-based True North works across factual genres and counts Junior Vets for CBBC, The Valleys for MTV and Animal SOS for BBC Daytime among its credits.

“This is a significant moment for Channel 4 as we help support talented creative companies with our Growth Fund investments,” said Abraham.

“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to invest in four diverse British independent producers and I hope both Channel 4 and the wider industry will benefit from their future success. This is just the start and we will be announcing more deals over the course of the next year.”

Channel 4 added it will not seek to influence the output of companies it invests in through the Growth Fund, and will allow them to “work with the broadest range of suppliers”.