Three breaking Aussie companies

Screentime, Roving, Jayco grow and prosper

Screentime taps big ratings

Screentime, an 11-year-old TV production shingle, is on a high right now, having produced 2008’s highest-rating skein, gangland drama “Underbelly.” It followed with this year’s “Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities,” which has been Australia’s top-ranked program most weeks since it debuted in February.

Screentime toppers Des Monaghan and Bob Campbell have also scored recently with miniseries “False Witness,” and series “Beyond the Darklands.”

In fact, the duo has made few missteps since they ankled top jobs at the Seven Network and launched the company with Kiwi chatshow “5.30 With Jude” and gameshow “Cliptomaniacs” for Oz feevee TV1.

“The amount of money they’re putting into development goes directly into the story department, and they’re getting the results,” says Geoff Brown, executive director of the Screen Producers’ Assn. of Australia.

Dino might

When recreational vehicle honcho Gerry Ryan invested $90,000 in a prototype animatronic dinosaur, there was little to indicate his gamble would mushroom into a $14 million production company and creature workshop.

Five years later the man behind Australia’s Jayco Caravans empire is overseeing an American tour of the arena production “Walking With Dinosaurs,” which has grown into one of Australia’s biggest cultural exports. It’s been seen by more than 2.5 million people worldwide.

Creature Production Co. is putting the finishing touches on a second “Dinosaurs” tour. It’s also developing a theatrical production of “King Kong.” In addition to this production activity, the Creature Technology Co., which grew out of “Dinosaurs'” development needs, has thrown open its doors for external business.

“All the dinosaurs have a base chassis and fabrication,” says Ryan, emphasizing the links between his two businesses. “And every year we come out with innovations.”

Stepping into the big time

Talkshow host Rove McManus and producer/former kids’ TV host Craig Campbell launched Roving Enterprises in 1999 as a vehicle to produce the chatfest “Rove.” Since then, the group has grown into a strong boutique producer with hits such as the local version of “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”

Now it’s about to meet its biggest challenge, stepping into the key 7 p.m. slot vacated last year by the axing of “Big Brother” on Network Ten.

The new show is “a daily take on news events, but not as you know it,” Campbell says. “And because it’s live, it means it can be reactive, which excites us all because live is what this company thrives on.” More details of the series are still under wraps, but Campbell says he is energized by the challenge of playing “in the big boys’ game.”