Exclusive: Fremantle & private equity firms eye NENT Studios UK

The Cry

Private equity firms and global producer Fremantle are understood to be among a slew of potential buyers interested in acquiring NENT Studios UK, the London-based distributor, producer and financier behind The Cry.

NENT’s UK-based arm – essentially a rebranded version of the company formerly known as DRG – was put on the block yesterday by its Nordic owners, which is in the process of expanding the reach of its streamer Viaplay.

Around 20 companies have expressed interest in the company and TBI understands that around six are private equity companies – some of which have no UK interests at present – while Fremantle is also believed to be exploring a potential acquisition. NENT Studios UK said it was not in a position to comment, while Fremantle declined to comment.

Richard Halliwell

Eyebrow raiser

The decision to sell NENT’s UK arm – which is led by CEO and former DRG chief Richard Halliwell – has surprised some industry insiders, who have told TBI that the firm was assumed to be a key content supplier for NENT’s streamer Viaplay.

NENT has already revealed plans to roll the SVOD out across Europe and into the US, but instead of using the UK company’s production and distribution clout, it will lean on a funding round of $400m to fuel the strategy.

Many streamers and almost all of the US studios have been focused on vertically integrating their operations over recent years to ensure their production interests can supply their own DTC services with a guaranteed pipeline of product.

However, that strategy seems not to be on the cards for Viaplay. TBI understands that plans to offload the UK division had been in the works for around six months by NENT, which is already looking for a buyer of its unscripted production interests. That process was delayed earlier this year because of the pandemic.

The sale comes just over a year since NENT Studios UK was launched as part of the Nordic group’s overhaul of its operations, which saw its production interests – which comprise 32 companies across 17 countries – split into three units: NENT Studios Nordics & CEE; NENT Studios US; and NENT Studios UK.

Following the sale of the UK division, NENT said its remaining studios operations would focus on delivering content for Viaplay. An exec to lead the US division is still yet to be announced.

Doc Martin

Return to DRG?

The potential sale follows a busy few months for the UK-based division of NENT Studios, which recently linked up with Mexican producer Dopamine to co-finance, develop and produce English-language scripted content.

The company also unveiled a deal with UK indie Projector Pictures to develop TM Logan’s thriller The Holiday and has started production on Close To Me, which is being produced for Viaplay and the UK’s Channel 4.

NENT Studios UK – whose name will be retained by NENT Group following the sale – also has 15 shows in paid development with broadcasters and an internal development slate of around 40 projects, in addition to a catalogue of more than 13,500 hours of cross-genre content, including drama Doc Martin, factual show Yorkshire Vet and formats such as Don’t Tell The Bride.

TBI understands the sale will allow the new-look company to further expand its operations, particularly with regards to unscripted content and formats, areas that DRG had previously been well known.

 

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