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Viacom Backs U.K. Indie Producer Banjo Television

Viacom has backed start-up U.K. production company Banjo Television, which will be launched by former BBC Studios executive Mike Smith and British TV presenter David Olusoga in October.

The backing for the producer comes through Elephant House, which is the production division of Viacom-owned broadcaster Channel 5. The new company, which will specialize in high-end factual and history content, will work out of Elephant House’s studio space in Camden, London.

The deal sees Viacom provide infrastructure, studio space and support to Banjo, and Channel 5 has an option to take a minority stake in the business.

Smith and Olusoga worked on BBC Two history series “The Ottomans: Europe’s Muslim Emperors.” “We are delighted to be the first U.K. indie to be backed by Viacom,” said Smith. “The team at Elephant House have the business and production expertise to give us the infrastructure to hit the ground running.”

British-Nigerian author, historian and presenter Olusoga added: “We want to make programs that infuse specialist factual TV with greater emotion and authenticity and create formats that are immersive and inclusive but also rooted in the here and now.”  

The Banjo deal marks the first time Elephant House has backed an independent. “Whilst Banjo is open for business across the industry, Elephant House Studios’ immediate creative focus remains delivering returnable series for Channel 5,” said company VP Joe McLusky.

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