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FremantleMedia Buys Drama Arm of Essential Media, Producer of ‘Rake’

FremantleMedia has snapped up the drama division of Essential Media and Entertainment, one of the largest indie producers in Australia. The company’s scripted unit makes Australian series including “Doctor Doctor,” “The Principal,” “Jack Irish,” and “Rake,” the legal drama that was remade for Fox in the U.S. with Greg Kinnear.

Essential’s head of scripted, Ian Collie, will exit the company as part of the deal and set up a re-branded, Australia-based drama business under the Easy Tiger banner, which will be majority-owned by FremantleMedia.

The deal has been some time in the making and hands FremantleMedia Essential’s current dramas and its development slate. The second season of “Doctor Doctor” is being edited; Season 2 of “Jack Irish” is about to enter production; and Season 5 of “Rake” is heading into pre-production.

Collie is one of the co-founders of Essential, alongside Chris Hilton and Sonja Armstrong. “We’ve had other offers but this suited Ian and was a good deal,” Hilton told Variety. “We will continue to do factual and grow in the U.S. and Canada where we are developing and producing. We wish Ian the very best in the new venture.”

Essential works in drama, film, factual, and lifestyle. Its Australian unscripted slate includes “Uncharted With Sam Neill,” for Foxtel and Prime in New Zealand, and “The Living Universe,” for ABC in Australia, Arte in France, and UKTV in the U.K. It has scripted and factual programming internationally through its international joint ventures Essential Media USA, EQTV and Essential Media Canada.

FremantleMedia has been busy investing in TV production companies as consolidation continues in the sector. Its international portfolio includes Abot Hameiri in Israel, Simon Andreae’s Naked Entertainment and Laurence Bowen’s Dancing Ledge in the U.K., Wildside in Italy, and SallyAnn Salsano’s 495 Productions in the U.S.

In Australia it has offices in Sydney and Melbourne. At MIPCOM next month it will launch upcoming Australian drama “Picnic at Hanging Rock” internationally. It also sells “Wentworth” and “Neighbours” globally.

Sarah Doole, director of global drama said: “Ian and his team have been responsible for a number of ambitious titles with global success, and their upcoming slate includes a range of storylines on the forefront of originality that will perfectly complement the series coming from FremantleMedia’s growing family of prime-time drama producers.”

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