Newen, a leading French production and distribution group owned by TF1, is expanding to the U.K. with the launch of production company Ringside Studios, in collaboration with “The Fall” producer Gub Neal and DoveTale Media.
Ringside Studios will develop premium English and international dramas that may be distributed by Newen. The new banner is majority-owned by Newen, with both Neal and DoveTale Media owning stakes in the business.
A leading U.K. producer, Neal’s credits also include “The Last Enemy” as well as the Emmy-winning “Prime Suspect.” Neal was previously controller of drama at Granada TV, as well as head of drama at Channel 4, where he commissioned shows such as “Queer as Folk” and the BAFTA-winning mini-series “Shackleton.”
DoveTale Media, meanwhile, was launched by Revolution Films founder Andrew Eaton (“The Crown”) and “The Fall” executive producer Justin Thomson, as well as Tracey Scoffield and David Tanner from Rainmark Films in 2018. Through his production banner Artists Studio, Neal previously collaborated with DoveTale Media and Leonis on “Insoupconnable,” the hit French adaptation of “The Fall” which aired on TF1.
The new venture reflects Newen’s ambitions to expand its presence across the English-speaking world, following the acquisition of Reel One (“Ties That Bind”), the prominent Canadian production and licensing company with strong ties to the North American and global markets.
The launch of Ringside Studios also fits into Newen’s strategy to ramp up its scripted drama business at a time when the demand for content from traditional TV channels and streamers is skyrocketing, along with competition from other deep-pocketed European production groups, such as Canal Plus Group’s Studiocanal, as well as Banijay, which will soon acquire Endemol Shine.
An increasingly global player, Newen already owns French production banners such as Capa Drama (“Versailles”) and Telfrance, Nimbus in Denmark, Tuvalu and Pupkin in the Netherlands, De Mensen in Belgium, as well as the animation company BlueSpirit and Reel One in Canada.
The U.K. market, however, has proven a challenging one to crack for Newen, which launched a €50 million ($54 million) investment fund focused on acquiring British drama back in 2017 with few results to show for it. At the time, Newen had a small office in the U.K. focusing mainly on distribution rather than production.
“It’s crucial, when entering a competitive market like the U.K., to have a big-name producer like Gub (Neal) who is trusted, popular and completely plugged into the local talent pool,” said Romain Bessi, the managing director of Newen.
“The highly-regarded British fiction market is an important part of our growth strategy and it is essential that we develop a presence there,” he added.
“Neal will be able to aggregate some top-notch English-speaking talent to form an ambitious creative ecosystem,” said the executive, who joined the company in July 2018 after a long and prolific tenure at Studiocanal where he played a key role in spearheading the expansion of Studiocanal’s TV business across Europe, especially in the U.K. with the acquisition of stakes in Benedict Cumberbatch’s production company Sunny March TV and Urban Myth Films, and in Spain with Bambu Producciones.
Gub Neal, who will be creative director of Ringside Studios, said: “The ability to attract top English talent with such strong European backing is a wonderful prospect.”
“Never has there been a more exciting or timely opportunity to join forces with leading European media hub Newen, and work with Newen’s teams in building a new drama powerhouse in London.”
Edward Barlow, commercial and artistic manager, also joins Ringside Studios and will work with Gub Neal on creative projects. The new banner will soon staff up with U.K. authors, showrunners and producers who will work alongside Neal.
Ringside Studios already has several projects in the pipeline, notably an adaptation of “Oksa Pollock,” a popular series of six fantasy children’s novels that has been sold in 30 countries with nearly two million readers, according to Newen. The series adapted from “Oska Pollock” will be co-produced by Jean-Benoit Gillig at Leonis.
The company also recently hired Rodolphe Buet, the former president of international distribution and marketing at Studiocanal, as head of distribution. Buet was tapped to help Newen grow its international business.