Studiocanal Ramps Up TV Series Biz

RED's drama series include 'Queer as Folk,' 'Last Tango in Halifax'

LONDON — Studiocanal, the production arm of French pay TV giant Canal Plus, has ramped up its TV series business with the acquisition of a majority stake in leading British shingle RED Production Company.

RED, which is led by founder Nicola Shindler and Andrew Critchley, has established a reputation for drama series that are both popular and critically acclaimed, such as “Queer as Folk,” “Scott & Bailey” and the double BAFTA-winning “Last Tango in Halifax.”

RED works with some of Britain’s leading TV writers, including Russell T. Davies (“Queer as Folk”), Paul Abbott (“Hit and Miss”), Sally Wainwright (“Last Tango in Halifax”) and Tony Marchant (“Leaving”). It was named by Broadcast magazine as this year’s top U.K. independent TV production company.

Studiocanal, which is primarily known for its feature film output, acquired a majority stake last year in German-based television producer Tandem, whose shows include miniseries “The Pillars of the Earth” and NBC crime series “Crossing Lines.” Studiocanal’s investment in RED represents a step up in its television production ambitions.

Olivier Courson, chairman and CEO of Studiocanal, told Variety that the acquisition was part of the company’s strategic expansion of the television side of its business, and further acquisitions or strategic partnerships in the TV sector are in the cards.

“Globally, for Studiocanal, we would like in three years to have six or seven international TV series in production a year,” he said. “RED should be part of that, with Tandem, and potentially other content providers, whether we have stakes in their companies or partnerships, and so on. My goal is to develop this TV business unit with very talented producers like Nicola, and to build our slate.

“For the time being, our core business is the production and distribution of feature films, but I would like the TV series business to represent about 20% of our revenue in the coming years. That’s quite ambitious. Also, the goal is to have a significant number of returning series.”

Courson added that another objective for Studiocanal was to supply original TV content to Canal Plus.

“One goal we have is to create synergies with Canal Plus. Original programming is a key priority for them,” he said. “The idea is to be part of that and to be a provider of original content in English for Canal Plus and then to be involved in the international distribution of their original content. RED could be part of that too.”

Speaking about Studiocanal’s ambition for the U.K. TV production business, he said, “We are very active on the feature film side in the U.K., and we would like to do the same on the TV series side and develop international TV series out of the U.K. with U.K. talent.”

Courson explained that one reason that he was attracted to RED was that it produced series for all the main free TV and pay TV operators in the U.K., and he would want that to continue. “We really want RED to maintain strong relationships and partnerships with all the U.K. broadcasters,” he said.

He said that the aim was for RED to expand its slate of TV series for the international market, such as Chloe Sevigny-starring hitman drama “Hit and Miss,” which aired on DirecTV in the U.S. “The idea is to help RED to produce international TV series on top of what they are doing right now,” he said.

Courson said that the Studiocanal library, which is the largest in the world outside the U.S., would be a source for fresh material for RED for remakes and adaptations, and that Shindler had already started to look for opportunities there. “The idea is for RED to use this huge reservoir of properties,” he said.

Further acquisitions and partnerships by Studiocanal in the TV sector may follow, and production companies in Scandinavia and France were of particular interest. “We are still open to other opportunities,” he said.

Shindler said: “When I first set up RED in the late 1990s I wanted to work with the best writers in the industry to produce the very best drama content. This is still my priority and the day to day running of the company will be unchanged.

“The significant investment from Studiocanal gives us at RED the opportunity to meet our growing ambitions without compromising the core values of the company. I am looking forward to working with Studiocanal on producing ambitious, daring and engaging content — both in the U.K. and internationally — as well as accessing their extensive library of film content.”

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