U.K.’s Channel 4 Acquires Stakes in Four Indie Production Companies

LONDON — U.K. public broadcaster Channel 4 has acquired minority stakes in four independent production companies — Arrow Media, Lightbox, Popkorn and True North.

The investments have been made from its £20 million ($33.2 million) Growth Fund, which it launched earlier this year with the stated aim of nurturing the independent sector. Its investments, which are overseen by head of fund Laura Franses, are focused on companies with the potential for growth.

Franses said: “We had a difficult task to narrow the investments down, but are thrilled to have found companies that are both creatively and commercially dynamic, and fit together to form an exciting portfolio of investments.”

Channel 4’s chief executive David Abraham said: “This is a significant moment for Channel 4 as we help support talented creative companies with our Growth Fund investments.”

He added: “I hope both Channel 4 and the wider industry will benefit from their future success.”

Abraham said Channel 4 would be announcing more deals over the course of the next year.

Lightbox, which focuses on creating non-fiction programming for the small screen, was founded by producer Simon Chinn, who won Academy Awards for feature documentaries “Searching for Sugar Man” and “Man on Wire,” and his cousin Jonathan Chinn, who produced the Emmy Award winning documentary series “American High” (FOX/PBS), and was the showrunner on “30 Days (FX),” which earned the U.S. Television Academy’s Honors Award.

In less than a year, Lightbox has built an extensive slate of projects in development and production in the U.K. and U.S., including “Signal to Noise” (X-Box); a political documentary series for NBC Universal’s Esquire Channel; a digitally based format “Screen Love” (Vh1 pilot); a film for ESPN’s “30 for 30”; and a factual-based drama miniseries for the BBC.

Arrow Media, which was founded by Tom Brisley, John Smithson and Iain Pelling, specializes in creating innovative factual and factual entertainment content. Its shows include “Ultimate Airport: Dubai” (National Geographic Channels International), “Jumbo: The Plane That Changed the World” (BBC Two, Smithsonian Channel, Discovery Canada), the “Live From Space” season (Channel 4/National Geographic Channels); “Dogs: Their Secret Lives” (Channel 4); and it is working with Investigation Discovery in the U.S. on an innovative crime series.

Pelling said: “This investment allows us to retain our independence, keep our full indie status, and retain the creative and commercial freedom to continue to grow the business as we want to.”

Popkorn, which specializes in producing factual documentaries and digital branded content, was founded by documentary film specialists Rory Wheeler and Colin Moxon, who is from an advertising background.

Popkorn’s credits include “Football Behind Bars” (Sky One), “Living With My Stalker” (Channel 4), “Killers Behind Bars” (Channel 5), and “Ria: Diary of Teenage Transsexual” (Channel 4). They are in production with a three-part follow up to “My Violent Child” (Channel 5).

Popkorn’s digital division creates original content for brands such as LG Electronics, Pret A Manger, Johnson and Johnson and Kingfisher.

True North’s team includes co-founders and creative directors Jess Fowle and Andrew Sheldon, and managing director Marc Allen. Across their documentaries, factual and factual entertainment content portfolio, they’ve worked with a wide range of broadcasters on returning series including “Junior Vets” (CBBC), “The Valleys” (MTV), “Building the Dream” (More 4), “Animal SOS” (BBC Daytime) and “Closing Time” (Channel 5).

Sheldon said: “Television is a mercurial business, and having a world-class broadcaster as a stakeholder will be an enormous advantage as we grow the company nationally and internationally in such a rapidly changing environment.”

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