London-based distribution business DRG, owned by Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT Group), has rebranded as NENT Studios U.K. as part of a wider reorganization of the business to focus on premium drama.
Variety understands a rebranding of the distributor has been in the cards for some time as it becomes more integrated under NENT Group.
NENT Studios U.K., which covers both scripted and non-scripted development, production and distribution, will invest in the U.K. and globally to channel content into NENT Group-backed streaming service Viaplay. On the distribution side, the business will continue to work out of DRG’s central London offices, and keep up relationships with its roster of producers.
Under the new arrangement, DRG CEO Richard Halliwell — who also served as managing director of NENT Studios U.K. — has been named CEO of the U.K. business. He takes over from Jakob Mejlhede Andersen, who left in February and recently joined Middle Eastern streamer Shahid.
Formed in 2007 as a traditional distribution business, DRG evolved to tackle program origination and development as well as financing, talent and production. Its catalogue covers more than 13,000 hours of programming and 150 formats. One of its most prominent titles is ITV drama “Doc Martin,” which has sold into more than 100 territories with seven international remakes.
More broadly, NENT Studios — which comprises 32 content creation, production and distribution companies in 17 countries — is being reorganized to focus on scripted drama production across both TV and film, as well as distribution. The drive informs NENT Group’s focus on Viaplay, which is to launch around 30 originals this year and is targeting an annual 40-title slate from 2021.
NENT Group has revealed discussions are ongoing with various partners to invest in its scripted drama pipeline, which it says comprises 45% of NENT Studios sales.
The new scripted production business will comprise NENT Studios’ Nordic production companies Brain Academy Nordics, Nice Drama and EPIQ; its Budapest-based CEE production company Paprika; NENT Studios’ U.K. operations, including London-based DRG and NENT Group’s joint venture with FilmNation Entertainment; its U.S. based scripted production company Brain Academy U.S.; and NENT Group’s investment in Los Angeles-based studio Picturestart. The organization will be focused on developing a comprehensive slate of new formats and selling existing ones internationally.
The business has also restarted the sale of non-scripted, branded entertainment and events business, which was previously suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NENT has said it has received “encouraging levels of interest.”
Anders Jensen, president and CEO of NENT Group President, said: “The high subscriber intake and viewing levels we have seen at Viaplay, and the clear demand for high quality scripted drama from both Viaplay and other media companies around the world, have emphasized the importance of the reorganization of NENT Studios.
“Viaplay and others want to invest more in scripted drama, so this is where we are focusing our resources. The international expansion of Viaplay will only increase this demand further. We are holding discussions with potential partners regarding investing in our scripted operations so that we can increase our output further. And we have now recommenced the process to sell the other parts of NENT Studios — these are attractive and successful businesses, for which we have already received encouraging levels of interest, but have very limited synergy with our streaming strategy and ambitions. Our focus is on Viaplay and the opportunity to produce more original shows that are popular with viewers in the Nordics and around the world,” continued Jensen.
Commenting on the rebranding of DRG, Halliwell said: “NENT Group has a long-term commitment to the U.K., which is a truly global content centre. Bringing DRG fully into NENT Studios U.K. will create fantastic new opportunities, both for the team and for our current and future partners. I am delighted to be at the helm of this ambitious new local studio, which has the strategic vision, resources, talent and creative verve to deliver a raft of stand-out scripted and unscripted content to the international marketplace. We have a number of exciting projects in advanced development and anticipate being able to announce our first scripted commission in the next few weeks.”