News round-up: Sky Studios invests in Longboat Pictures; Travel Channel orders eerie doc series from Karga Seven; Love Nature lands on Xumo in US and more…

Julie Anne Robinson

Sky Studios invests in UK prodco Longboat Pictures

Comcast-owned Sky Studios has acquired a minority stake in Longboat Pictures, a new London-based indie prodco specialising in TV drama.

Longboat was founded last year by LA-based director-producer Julie Anne Robinson and former ITV commissioner Victoria Fea.

Under the deal, Sky Studios’ investment will help to accelerate Longboat’s growth and support it as it strengthens and expands its creative team.

Victoria Fea

Longboat will work closely with Sky Studios to develop content for distribution on the Sky platforms, and other networks.

Sky Studios CEO Gary Davey said: “Longboat Pictures has a wealth of expertise and experience in the drama field, both in the UK and US. We’re excited to be joining forces with them in this new partnership and bringing viewers world-class, engaging shows.” 

Travel Channel explores the paranormal with new Karga Seven commission

Discovery-owned Travel Channel has commissioned a new horror-tinged adventure travel series Buried Worlds With Don Wildman, from Red Arrow Studios-owned prodco Karga Seven Pictures.

The eight-part series (7 x 60-minutes and 1 x 120-minutes) will premiere on 8 June and follows the titular host as he travels to remote

Buried Worlds With Don Wildman

regions of countries including Peru, Haiti and Bulgaria in search of the paranormal and supernatural. Wildman uncovers stories of “lingering ghosts, devilish demons, vampires and witches burned at the stake.”

Buried Worlds is a quest that flips the switch on the paranormal and the supernatural, and sheds new light on the dark origin of legends and myths,” says Wildman. “And I investigate those legends and myths first-hand, traveling to their sources in some very surprising places.”

Love Nature lands in US on Xumo

Blue Ant Media-owned Canadian wildlife and nature brand Love Nature has launched in the US today on AVOD service Xumo.

Programming highlights available for viewers include Blue Ant’s own 6 x 30-minute series Animal Senses, revealing the incredible abilities possessed by some creatures; Blink Films’ 5 x 60-minute series Arabian Inferno, which explores how animals have adapted to survive in the barren Arabian Peninsula and the 4 x 60-minute Deadly Australians, from Wildbear Productions, which takes a close look at some of the country’s most dangerous animals.

Adding the brand is an extension of Blue Ant’s existing relationship with Xumo, which already includes its recently launched gaming channel, Arcade Cloud, and children’s nature channel, ZooMoo, on the platform.

The US is one of 90 countries in which Love Nature is now available as a linear or online platform, with the brand also found on pay-TV services such as Sky, Virgin and Starhub, as well as streaming outlets like The Roku Channel, Apple Plus and Pluto TV.

“Our partnership with Xumo is significant as it marks our entry into the US linear channel market with the Love Nature brand,” says Ward Platt, CEO of kids and global networks at Blue Ant Media. “We’re committed to bringing our compelling original series and documentaries to wildlife and nature fans everywhere. Partnering with a premium AVOD service like XUMO helps us achieve this goal and speaks to the strength of storytelling our content provides.”

Paul Merton’s Comic Heroes

Spun Gold explores comedy history for UK’s C5

UK broadcaster Channel 5 has commissioned a one-off documentary about the history of Britain’s greatest comedians, from local prodco Spun Gold TV.

Distributed by All3Media International, Paul Merton’s Comic Heroes (1 x 120-minutes) follows the titular comedian and Have I Got News For You regular as he explores the motivation’s and successes of some of Britain’s most popular comics.

Delving into archive footage, Merton visits the stories of comedy greats from Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy to Victoria Wood and Jo Brand.

Merton says: “It’s a pleasure to bring some of the best comedians of the past 100 years out of retirement and into your homes for a fantastic fun-filled festival of laughter.”

Daniela Neuman, MD of Spun Gold TV, added: “Paul will reunite viewers will some of their favourite comedians and clips, as well as uncovering hidden treasures in a programme which will be lots of fun and bring us joy – the perfect commission for these difficult times.”

The Turner Twins

Natural Studios signs up Turner Twins

Adventure prodco The Natural Studios and Banijay Group-owned RDF Television have a number of projects in development for UK and US broadcasters, following a partnership with British adventurers Hugo and Ross Turner.

The siblings and explorers – better known as ‘The Turner Twins’ – have undertaken numerous world-first expeditions in aid of medical and scientific research and now Natural Studios aims to “place the thrill-seeking modern British adventurers in a range of precarious outdoor survival scenarios for audiences to enjoy.”

The Natural Studios production house is run by co-CEOs, adventurer Bear Grylls and producer/writer Delbert Shoopman, as a joint venture with Banijay Group, with the aim of creating “the world’s greatest adventure programming”.

Shoopman said: “It’s amazing to discover raw talent like the twins. With a proven track-record in pushing the boundaries of exploration and an impressive on-screen presence, they were always destined for television. Development is already in the works and while we, like everyone, are adapting to the new protocols around production, we are confident, that with RDF, we can bring an entertaining, high-adrenaline offering to market with universal appeal.”

Guess My Age

Can’t Stop Media goes indie again

UK formats specialist Can’t Stop Media is being relaunched as an independent company, five years after its acquisition by Vivendi Entertainment, following a new deal with Vivendi and French broadcaster Canal+.

As part of the agreement, Can’t Stop Media will become the international distributor for all existing formats controlled by Vivendi Entertainment, including quiz and entertainment shows Guess My Age, Couple Or Not and The Secret Song.

The deal also grants Canal+ a two-year first-look deal on all the new projects developed by Can’t Stop Media, which will distribute all new shows created under this deal.

Headed up by Matthieu Porte, Arnaud Renard and Damien Porte, Can’t Stop Media was originally launched in 2011 by Matthieu Porte after he stepped down as senior VP of entertainment at Zodiak.

“I would like to thank the Canal+ and Vivendi teams for the amazing last 5 years,” he said. Together, we achieved fantastic results in creating hit formats such as Guess My Age or Facing The Classroom. As entrepreneurs, we’re excited to fly on our own in order to catch all the markets opportunities, while keeping a strong business relationship with Canal+.”

UK webinars to address BAME concerns amid Covid-19 crisis

UK networking resource The TV Collective (TVC) has partnered with local broadcasters Channel 4, the BBC and ITV, along with British Film Institute (BFI), to launch a series of online events to address the challenges faced by BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) industry professionals during the Covid-19 crisis.

The virtual sessions begin on 12 May and will run until July, taking the form of live talks and Q&As, which are free to join and led by experts from “across TV, digital media and the creative industries”.

The first session is being led by indie founder and former ITV exec Remy Blumenfield, with BBC3’s Nasfim Haque, Channel 4’s Vivienne Molokwu and Bafta-winning producer Kwadjo Dajan all confirmed as future speakers.

Attendees will be able to gain access via TVC’s Facebook page or Instagram Live for the opportunity to gain career advice or put forward ant concerns.

It’s a hugely challenging time for everyone working in these industries right now, especially as we adapt to this new normal” says Simone Pennant, founder of TVC. “While some are adjusting to the new landscape and the opportunities it presents,most BAME workers I speak to, tell me they felt disenfranchised before but now feel more vulnerable than ever.

“We’re using our platform and network to pull together, to unpick the challenges faced by many BAME workers in our industry, whilst providing a safe space for them to ask frank questions from their perspective.  My hope is to use this ‘pause’ to discuss how we can make the industry more inclusive and progressive as we go forward.”

India’s Wild Karnataka

Wildlife docs go global in ITV Studios deals

Broadcasters across the world have picked up natural history one-offs India’s Wild Karnataka and Wild Tokyo, following an array of deals with distributor ITV Studios.

BBC America acquired both documentaries for its dedicated natural history strand Wonderstruck, while Bilibili and Huanxi Media in China and TVNZ in New Zealand also took both titles.

India’s Wild Karnataka, which is narrated by the respected natural historian David Attenborough, and produced by Icon Films and Mudskipper, has also sold to France 5, ServusTV in Germany, SVT in Sweden, VRT in Belgium, DR in Denmark, ETV in Estonia, KBS in Korea, Discovery in India, PTS in Taiwan. SBS broadcast the Australian premiere, with BBC Earth taking pay premiere later this year.

The hour-long special, which took four years to produce, captures the dazzling behaviours and extraordinary diversity of wildlife in the Indian state of Karnataka.

Wild Tokyo, meanwhile, was narrated by actor Toby Jones (The Hunger Games) and produced by Oxford Scientific Films in partnership with Japanese pubcaster NHK. The 1 x 60-minute film reveals the surprising array of wildlife that lives inside the Japanese capital city. It has also been sold to Discovery for Pan Asia, Seven in Australia, WDR in Germany, DR in Denmark and BBC Earth in Africa.

Ruth Berry, MD of global distribution at ITV Studios, said, “Both of these exquisite productions are prime examples of our invigorated commitment to wildlife programming and, alongside other shows on our growing slate of blue-chip content, such as the award-winning Magical Land Of Oz which recently secured great ratings when it was rerun in the UK, we are now one of the major destinations for clients looking for stunning natural history programming.”

Little Fires Everywhere

Amazon gets exclusive Europe, LatAm, Canada and Oz rights to ‘Little Fires Everywhere’

Amazon Prime Video has secured exclusive rights to show drama miniseries Little Fires Everywhere in Europe, Latin America, Canada and Australia.

The eight-part series stars and is executive produced Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies) and Kerry Washington (Scandal) via their respective prodcos Hello Sunshine and Simpson Street, as well as ABC Signature Studios, a part of Disney Television Studios. Hello Sunshine and ABC Signature served as studio co-production partners on the project.

Little Fires Everywhere is based upon the 2017 best-selling novel of the same name by Celeste Ng (who serves as producer) and follows the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and an enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

Produced for Hulu in the US, the series is distributed globally by Disney’s direct-to-consumer & international segment. It will be exclusively available on Amazon Prime Video worldwide excluding the US, India, Middle East, Africa, Russia and China.

“In a joint statement, Witherspoon and Washington said, “We, at Hello Sunshine and Simpson Street, are thrilled that Amazon will be the primary international home for Little Fires Everywhere. Jen Salke and the Amazon team have shared our passion for this spectacular story from the very beginning, making it the perfect home for audiences worldwide.”

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