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Blue Ant buys Racat Group

Canada’s Blue Ant Media has acquired David Haslingden’s Racat Group, in a deal that includes kidcaster ZooMoo Networks, Australia’s Northern Pictures and NHNZ of New Zealand.

David Haslingden

Also included in the acquisition are Beach House Pictures of Singapore and mobile game developer and publisher Runaway Play in New Zealand.

The move gives Blue Ant, which operates television channels, production and a distribution business out of Toronto, a presence in Singapore, Dunedin in New Zealand, Sydney, Beijing and Taipei.

Haslingden, an Australian, was president and chief operating officer at the Fox Networks Group after spending a decade as CEO of Fox International Channels and National Geographic Channels Worldwide prior to setting up Racat in 2012.

Haslingden, who will remain based Sydney, has become a significant shareholder and member of Blue Ant Media’s board of directors as a result of the deal and will be a key member of the team devising the company’s  international growth strategy.

From September, Blue Ant will appoint former National Geographic and Fox International Channels exec Ward Platt as CEO of Kids and Global Networks. He will be responsible for Blue Ant’s global linear and streaming strategy outside Canada and New Zealand. Based in LA, Platt will join Blue Ant’s exec management team and will report to Raja Khanna, CEO of TV and digital.

“Blue Ant Media is an ambitious company, well positioned to significantly grow its content production, distribution and channel businesses internationally, notably in Asia Pacific, which is why this acquisition is so important for our business,” said Michael MacMillan, co-founder and CEO of Blue Ant Media.

Haslingden added: “Our editorial focuses, product lines and territorial presences make us a perfect fit. While the Racat  businesses have achieved a lot in the last five years, there’s no doubt those achievements will be dwarfed by what we get done in the next five as part of Blue Ant Media.”

The move brings New Zealand prodco NHNZ under the Blue Ant banner, which fits well with the company’s focus on blue-chip natural history programming through its Love Nature strand of production and channels.

NHNZ has been in operation for 40 years and recently produced Big Pacific with coproduction partners PBS, CCTV, ZDF Enterprises, Discovery International, Channel 9 and Arte. The business will continue to be led by MD Kyle Murdoch.

Beach House Pictures is one of Asia’s largest indie producers, with offices in Beijing and Taipei. It is the company behind the Asian version of the Top Model franchise and also worked on Wild City, narrated by natural history legend Sir David Attenborough, for Channel News Asia.

The company launched in 2005 and was co-founded by MD Jocelyn Little and creative director Donovan Chan. Little and Chan will continue to lead the company and have a material stake in Beach House Pictures.

Northern Pictures, based in Sydney, has a factual division producing for local broadcasters such as ABC as well as PBS in the US and Arte in Europe. The company’s founder and MD, Sue Clothier, is recognised as one of Australia’s leading factual producers and she will continue to head the firm.

ZooMoo Networks is an interactive, children’s nature broadcaster with TV channels available in over 20 territories including Mexico, Latin America, Singapore, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Maldives, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand.

ZooMoo Networks is a joint venture with DirectTV Latin America, an AT&T company, which holds a 30% stake in the company.

Founded in 2010, Runaway Play is an independent mobile game developer and publisher, based in Dunedin, that builds games inspired by wildlife and nature.

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