Fremantle snaps up Wildstar Films as acquisition frenzy hits new heights

America The Beautiful

Fremantle’s acquisition spree has continued with the company acquiring a 51% stake in America The Beautiful producer, Wildstar Films.

The deal, which comes less than a week since the RTL Group-owned company bought fellow UK prodco 72 Films, is the latest attempt by Fremantle to further expand into premiume factual and unscripted.

Wildstar is led by co-founders Mark Linfield and Vanessa Berlowitz, who previously worked on shows including Planet Earth and Frozen Planet, before founding the Bristol-based prodco in 2018.

Organic growth

It has since expanded rapidly, landing commissions for shows such as Epic Adventures With Bertie Gregory, America’s National Parks and aforementioned America The Beautiful for Disney+ and sibling National Geographic.

LR: Mark Linfield, Vanessa Berlowitz, Mandy Chang, Simon Andreae,

The company is also in production on two feature-length films for Disney, alongside further series for Disney+ and Nat Geom, including Queens and Sentient, the latter being produced with Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures.

The company has also expanded its exec ranks, this summer hiring Doug Mackay-Hope, the former head of development at the BBC Natural History Unit, to become SVP of development & production, and landing editor Nigel Buck as executive editor.

Linfield and Berlowitz said the deal would enable further growth for Wildstar and “reach more viewers around the world”.

Simon Andreae, Fremantle UK’s CEO, said: “Within four short years Mark, Vanessa and their team have built Wildstar from a brand new start up to one of the fastest growing, most dynamic, and most imaginative brands in Natural History.

“They bring creative excellence, technical innovation, and true sense of joy to all that they touch. We are thrilled to welcome them to the Fremantle family and to join them in the next exciting step on their journey.”

Mandy Chang, the former BBC Storyville boss who was hired in 2021 to become head of global documentaries at Fremantle, added: “Wildstar Films is an extraordinary company with strong core values, who take huge pride in their work, which delights, and importantly, inspires millions of people to think differently about natural history and being better citizens to our planet.

“We all value independence, and creativity, and look forward to providing them with the right level of support at an exciting time at Fremantle, as we scale-up our global non-scripted capabilities.”

Acquisition frenzy

The deal is the latest in a flurry of activity to have emerged over recent weeks, as M&A across Europe reaches new peaks.

Earlier today, France’s Newen Studios revealed it had picked up Vanessa Djian’s firm Dai-Dai Films, while the past week has also seen BBC Studios acquire Inside The Factory outfit Voltage TV and Banijay taking a majority stake in Our Boys prodco MoviePlus Productions in Israel.

Fremantle’s acquisition spree, meanwhile, is putting it on course to achieve a €3bn ($3bn) annual revenue target by 2025, which was set by parent RTL Group last year.

Aside from last week’s deal for 72 Films, the company has also recently taken stakes in UK-based Element Pictures (Normal People), Dancing Ledge (The Responder), Italian scripted production company Lux Vide (Devils, Leonardo), Fabel (Bosch) and Australian-American firm Eureka Productions (Parental Guidance).

Other deals include UK unscripted production company Label1 (Hospital, Five Guys a Week, Soldier), as well as 12 production labels in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark from Nordic Entertainment Group (This is Nice Group).

Fremantle CEO Jennifer Mullin also recently admitted that acquisitions in Latin America and India were now on the cards.

There has been considerable unscripted focus, too. Fremantle launched UFA Documentary in Germany, set up a production arm in Spain with the head of non-fiction at Movistar+, Fernando Jerez, and partnered with Anonymous Content on beauty queent pageant show, Mrs. America.

It has also been linked with buying ITV Studios, which parent ITV is reportedly looking at selling.

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