BBC Worldwide, the main commercial arm of the BBC, has agreed to take a 25% equity investment in Australian independent production company the Freehand Group. The move marks a significant step in BBC Worldwide’s Content & Production strategy to become a leading international content producer.
Under the terms of the deal, Freehand will have a first view option on all BBC and independent formats to which BBC Worldwide has rights, to see them produced in Australia and New Zealand. Freehand will also have all its formats distributed through BBC Worldwide's vast global distribution network.
The two companies will build on their recent successes in the market, and will explore new format production initiatives across a diverse range of genres including entertainment and factual entertainment. Freehand will work closely with BBC Worldwide’s UK-based Content & Production division and BBC Worldwide’s Sydney office to ensure that all opportunities are exploited.
BBC Worldwide will now distribute all new titles for which Freehand gains rights.
In 2006, BBC Worldwide announced its intention to expand into the international production sector on a global level, and has carried out extensive research into available opportunities within the Australian industry.
Colin Jarvis, Director of Formats, BBC Worldwide says: “The Australian and New Zealand market is a key territory for us with great relationships with all broadcasters. This alliance with Freehand expands our role from simple distribution to full production. Freehand offers the synergy we’re seeking of strong, creative output and allows BBC Worldwide to expand its global presence.”
John Gregory, CEO Freehand Group Pty Ltd, added “This is a great vote of confidence by BBC Worldwide in the Australian independent production sector. This will mean greater depth of production and access to the international marketplace for Freehand productions and formats.”
BBC Worldwide and Freehand collaborated successfully on the lifestyle show Honey We’re Killing the Kids for Australia’s Ten Network in 2006, and are currently producing Pett Productions’ animal entertainment format Celebrity Dog School, also for Ten.
BBC Worldwide is renowned for bringing innovative BBC formats to Australia and New Zealand, including Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing with the Stars) Just The Two of Us (It Takes Two) and The Weakest Link.
Freehand Groups’ successes also include The Great BBQ Challenge, the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, Missing Persons’ Unit and Joker Poker.
The remainder of the equity share in Freehand is retained by its three founders and shareholders: Chris O’ Mara, Peter Abbott and John Gregory.