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BBCWW takes Lookout stake

BBC Worldwide (BBCWW) has marked a return to investing in UK indies by taking a significant stake in one of the production companies behind Ripper Street.

Ripper Street

The commercial arm of the UK pubcaster has acquired 35% of London-based Lookout Point, and will enter into a new distribution and coproduction agreement for a minimum of five years.

It marks a change in tack for BBCWW’s management team, which had paused its indie investment strategy.

The investment in Simon Vaughan’s company follows February’s revival of axed crime drama Ripper Street, with VoD streamer Amazon and UK indie Tiger Aspect Productions, and collaboration on Parade’s End.

Simon Vaughan

Vaughan set the company up to coproduce and finance international drama projects in 2009 having left transatlantic production outfit Alchemy, where he was partner and founder, as it wound down its UK arm.

BBCWW has previously taken stakes in UK prodcos including Big Talk Productions and Left Bank Pictures, which it subsequently sold for a profit to ITV and Sony Pictures Television respectively. It also took over Top Gear producer Bedder 6 two years ago.

Tim Davie

After a hiatus, the investment strategy is now back in play and comes after comments from BBCWW CEO Tim Davie to C21 in July that the firm was considering “further expansion” following its annual results.

BBCWW already has production hubs in India, France and Los Angeles but had previously been focusing on output and development arrangements with producers.

Earlier this summer it put money into King Bert Productions, the fledgling prodco set up by Jo Sergeant, formerly creative head of comedy at the BBC, and UK comedians Miranda Hart and David Walliams. Elsewhere it has first-look deals with firms including London-based Voltage TV and Lonesome Pine, the indie founded by former Lime Pictures CEO Lesley Douglas.

It has also struck partnerships with the likes of Tower Productions in Germany and MIR Reality in Russia and sold its stake in children’s producer Ragdoll Worldwide to DHX Media in Canada in September last year.

The commercial arm of the BBC has more than 40 other output and development arrangements with production outfits around the world, with further investments being sought.

Lookout Point is also bolstering its team with the addition of Saul Venit, BBCWW’s current director of commercial and legal affairs, set to join in November.

Venit will work to develop Lookout Point’s business proposition as it enters the next stage of its development, while Seb Shorr becomes head of business affairs.

As part of the deal, Helen Jackson, BBCWW’s chief content officer, will become a non-executive director of Lookout Point.

The investment comes amidst proposed changes to the BBC’s quota and in-house production set up, which could see the pubcaster making programmes for rival broadcaster’s for the first time.

BBCWW’s role in that is yet to be defined and any changes are not expected to be made until the BBC’s Royal Charter is renewed in 2017.

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