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Ex-ViacomCBS International duo launch UK unscripted production company

Rebecca Knight (left) and Claire McArdle

Former ViacomCBS International executives Claire McArdle and Rebecca Knight have joined forces to launch a UK unscripted production company called Collective Media Group.

Collective Media Group will develop, produce and distribute premium factual content, from high-end series to popular entertainment, with a particular focus on storytelling around some of sport’s most iconic moments. McArdle and Knight are its co-CEOs.

In addition to creating new IP, the firm will work with sports rights holders, such as The Legends Tour, a professional golf tour for women aged 45 and older in the US, to bring their stories to international screens.

Prior to founding Collective Media Group, McArdle was MD and chief creative officer of Otro, a content studio that works with football stars including David Beckham and Lionel Messi.

Before that, she was VP of ViacomCBS-owned Comedy Central International Studios, while she also previously worked as a commissioning editor for education and 4iP at Channel 4 and as an exec producer at All3Media-owned Maverick Television.

Meanwhile, Knight was previously VP of international production and business affairs for ViacomCBS networks MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount, where she produced and negotiated across all genres of programming.

Collective Media Group’s senior team is rounded out by Matt Wilkinson, who has been appointed creative director of entertainment and formats; Karen Willis, director of development; and Richard Smith, executive producer of development.

Wilkinson previously worked as an executive producer and showrunner on entertainment formats such as I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, A League of Their Own, The X Factor and Soccer Aid.

Willis joins from Whizz Kid, where she was director of development. She previously held head of development roles at Pioneer Productions and Zig Zag Productions.

Starting his career at MTV, Smith has produced and exec produced entertainment and reality shows including The Paul O’Grady Show, Big Broth and Made in Chelsea.

McArdle said: “There is a huge opportunity in today’s landscape for talent- and access-driven content, and we are fortunate to have access to some outstanding stories from across the world. While sport-related stories will be the beating heart of Collective Media Group, we recognise the huge potential in the wider marketplace.

“Our aim is to convert our deep talent and access relationships into meaningful and long-lasting IP that can be exploited across multiple platforms.”

Knight added: “Each member of the team – from Claire and myself through to our producers – brings with them a unique set of talent relationships, organisational access and buyer contacts.

“It means we are already talking to all major players in the streaming and broadcast landscape and have a range of projects at development and contracting stages.”

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