Sources tell Variety that the Liberty Global and Discovery-backed super-indie — whose programming portfolio includes dramas “It’s a Sin” and “Fleabag,” as well as reality show “The Circle” and Oscar-nominated film “1917” — is in exclusive closed-door talks with NENT Studios U.K., which has been on the sales block since November.
It’s believed that All3Media is eyeing the Nordic Entertainment Group-backed company for a few key formats, as well as AVOD rights on its library, which spans around 13,500 hours of content. Key unscripted shows from NENT Studios U.K. include “Don’t Tell the Bride,” “The Farm” and “Catch Phrase.” On the scripted front, the outfit’s big success in recent years has been the BBC and ABC Australia co-commissioned drama “The Cry” (pictured), which is also sold as a format, as well as the long-running “Doc Martin.”
All3Media — whose subsidiaries span 50 production companies across the U.K., U.S., Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand — has been aggressive in pursuing new acquisitions in the last year, most recently investing in “Our Planet” producer Silverback Films — a smart move that has fast-tracked the company in the natural history space.
A NENT Studios U.K. purchase will further expand the group’s unscripted might, which includes some of Britain’s top factual and entertainment outfits, such as Studio Lambert and Raw. However, All3Media would also inherit a number of scripted titles in the works at NENT Studios U.K., including Channel 4 and Viaplay co-production “Close to Me,” Channel 5 drama “The Holiday,” as well as a slate of projects lined up with ambitious Mexican producer Dopamine.
NENT Group’s strategy in recent years for its U.K. footprint has been muddled. The company, which operates top Scandi streamer Viaplay, launched NENT Studios U.K. in September 2019, appointing Richard Halliwell, CEO of its separate distribution business DRG, to head the operation.
In April 2020, DRG was officially brought into the NENT Studios U.K. fold, with an eye on feeding the pipeline for Viaplay. However, the company made an about-face in November, revealing plans to sell off the U.K. business and focus its efforts instead on the European and U.S. expansion of Viaplay.
“Got Talent” and “My Brilliant Friend” distributor Fremantle showed early interest in NENT Studios U.K., along with a number of private equity firms; however, these discussions aren’t believed to have moved beyond exploratory talks.
DRG was formed in 2007 and performed steadily as a mid-sized distribution player for a number of years, particularly when it had an output deal with U.K. broadcaster Channel 4.
The company’s boldest market play was the 2018 launch of drama commissioning club Atrium TV, whose basic premise was to develop high-end scripted propositions that a group of international streaming and telco players — members included the likes of Spain’s Movistar Plus and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom — could invest in as joint commissions.
The strategy made a lot of sense in theory given the might of the streaming giants, but was ultimately nightmarish to carry out with so many different global partners and interests. The backing of a company with the scale of All3Media, however, would likely provide the resources and support to back such endeavors in the future.
It’s believed a deal for NENT Studios U.K. could be closed as early as this week or in the first half of April.
An All3Media spokesperson told Variety, “We do not comment on speculation.” NENT Studios U.K. declined to comment.