EXCLUSIVE: All3Media CEO Jane Turton has told Deadline that the production group’s surprise deal to acquire Emmy-winning Our Planet producer Silverback Films gives it immediate access to a small, but elite pool of blue-chip natural history program makers.
Turton said All3Media has been courting Silverback founders Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey for years and was “proud” to get the under-the-radar acquisition over the line this week. Although she said All3Media was not looking at “filling gaps” in its portfolio, she admitted that the acquisition takes the company into a new and revered field of content production.
“It’s the right time — there is an enormous appetite for very high-quality natural history and there are very few people who can produce it. There is a huge scarcity factor,” said Turton, who has run All3Media since 2015. “We were keen [to buy Silverback] way back when. I was never quite sure whether they would willing to do something like this. We are more than chuffed that we’ve got there. It’s very special. We haven’t got anything in natural history in the group.”
Silverback was founded in 2012 after Fothergill and Scholey forged their wildlife production skills at the BBC’s world-famous Natural History Unit. The Bristol-based company is behind ambitious shows including Netflix’s David Attenborough-fronted Our Planet and the Meghan Markle-narrated Disney+ film Elephant. Upcoming projects include A Perfect Planet, a BBC/Discovery co-production that fuses natural history and science to explore the unique systems that allow planet Earth to thrive.
Turton declined to comment on the terms of the deal, but it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that Silverback would have been valued at tens of millions of dollars. The producer’s revenue grew 74% to £16.4M ($22M) last year, while it cut its pre-tax loss by 77% to £113,000. Turton added that Silverback’s pipeline is in “great shape,” with natural history’s long lead times protecting it somewhat during the pandemic.
A useful comparator for the Silverback deal could be UK natural history producer, Plimsoll Productions, which secured a minority investment from LDC last year in an agreement that valued the company at $100M. That gives you some idea of how in-demand the genre is, even though Turton argued that Plimsoll is a “very different beast and different type of program maker.” Plimsoll’s revenue stood at £37M last year, while its pre-tax profit was £7.4M. This makes it more than double the size of Silverback.
Turton acknowledged, however, that there has been an explosion in demand for high-end documentaries, with the genre becoming increasingly important for streamers and broadcasters where once drama dominated. She said there is “much greater demand than we’ve ever seen for docs” and natural history “sits at the very top in terms of quality.”
More generally, Turton said Discovery and Liberty Global-owned All3Media is now in recovery mode after the chastening, pandemic-induced production shutdown earlier this year. “As long as programs are back in production — which they are — we are looking towards a fairly swift recovery,” the CEO said, although she admitted that there will remain uncertainty until a vaccine is in universal circulation.
All3Media comprises 28 production companies around the world and is responsible for shows including Fleabag, Gold Rush, Call The Midwife, and Undercover Boss.
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