Renowned Films, the Critical Content-owned UK production company behind Bravo’s forthcoming reality series Backyard Envy, has hired a number of senior executives as it steps up its next stage of growth including a major focus on the U.S.
The company, which was set up by Max Welch, Duane Jones and Tim Withers in 2012, has hired former Channel 4 exec Mark Raeburn as Chief Operating Officer and Lizzie Wingham as Senior Development Executive.
Raeburn was previously Head of Content Finance at C4, where he financially managed the Channel 4 annual content budget of £700m (US$958M), while Wingham was Deputy Editor of youth-skewing network BBC Three, and has worked on series including Married at First Sight and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. Raeburn has been tasked with overseeing the operational activity of the business including strategy, legal and human resources, while Wingham has been hired to “amplify” its development and expand its push into formatted fact-entertainment and factual.
This comes after Renowned Films scored Backyard Envy (w/t) for NBC Universal’s Bravo, which follows Manscapers, New York City’s most exclusive exterior design and landscaping firm. The show will follow James DeSantis, Garrett Magee, and Melissa Brasier – “Two Wills and a Grace” as they transform barren outdoor spaces into lush, jaw-dropping oases. The show is produced in association with RuPaul Drag Race producer World of Wonder.
Welch tells Deadline that the company hopes to use the commission as a starting point to score more U.S. orders from cable networks and digital platforms. It already has a long development slate of non-scripted formats and youth-skewing factual series and the trio are planning their next trip to the States, both L.A. and New York, over the next couple of weeks. They are based in Critical Content’s office on North San Vicente Blvd, by the Pacific Design Center.
Renowned had initially scored a high-end documentary series at MTV in the U.S. before it was scrapped after the Viacom-owned broadcaster’s 2016 executive shake-up, which lead to the departure of MTV President Sean Atkins and EVP, Original Content Michael Klein.
However, despite the disappointment, Renowned was able to use its work in the U.S. to score a landmark investment deal with Tom Forman’s rebranded Relativity Television. Critical acquired a stake in Renowned in October 2017, buying out the investment previously made by Channel 4’s Growth Fund. At the time, Forman called Renowned an “ambitious, forward-thinking” company that had its fingers on the “cultural pulse” and was able to “seamlessly move” between TV, digital, and branded, and from high budget to low.
In addition to its U.S. expansion, Renowned has been busy building up its slate in the UK. Its initial commissions included Women Who Kill Lions for Channel 4, which is on Netflix in the U.S., and BBC doc NYPD: Biggest Gang In New York? (Copwatchers) has been followed by What’s Changed, a three-part digital series for BBC Three to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, Generation Grime, a feature documentary for Sky featuring musicians including Dizzee Rascal, Wretch 32 and Wiley, and C4’s The Peng Life.
The latter, which was initially ordered as a one-off doc before being supercharged into four episodes, follows YouTube sensation Elijah Quashie, who was known as The Chicken Connoisseur for his food reviews, as he travels across the globe turning his unique critique to the finest, most extravagant, weirdest and most wonderful bargain foods, drinks, cars, events and jewellery the planet has to offer.
C4 seems to like the trio, having also put a format – titled Trust Me, I’m The Mistress – into funded development. The idea follows couples that have experienced infidelity and the lover to take part in a relationship bootcamp.
It is also looking at whether it can make a follow-up to Top Dad, its spin-off of Top Boy, which saw star Ashley Walters, who has seven children, on a journey to meet fathers from all walks of life. Given that the drama is now being rebooted by Netflix, exec produced by rapper Drake, it could well lead to its first SVOD order.
Elsewhere, it is also the UK home for formats from Critical Content, which is best known for series such as CBS’ The Case of JonBenet Ramsey and MTV’s Catfish. Plenty of Forman’s formats, such as Fox’s renovation series Home Free, Mischa Barton’s car format Joyride, The Great Food Truck Race or social experiment Indecent Proposal could well fit in Britain.