Fremantle has bought a majority stake in natural history producer Wildstar Films, continuing the company’s recent buying spree of largely European production companies.
The Bertelsmann-owned super-indie has struck a strategic partnership with Wildstar, and has acquired a 51% stake in the company. Wildstar is best known for high-profile natural history productions such as the Meghan Markle-narrated “Elephant” for Disneynature and “America the Beautiful” for Disney+.
The deal is the second big investment for Fremantle in the space of a week. Earlier this month, the company acquired a majority stake in David Glover and Mark Raphael’s factual powerhouse 72 Films, the producers behind “9/11: One Day in America,” “The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty” and “All or Nothing: Arsenal.”
With Fremantle backing, Bristol-based Wildstar plans to build on recent growth and exploit the demand for premium factual and specialist factual content from international broadcasters and streaming platforms.
Led by co-founders Mark Linfield and Vanessa Berlowitz, whose credits include “Planet Earth,” “Frozen Planet” and feature-length films for Disney Studios, Wildstar produces premium factual content for global streamers and broadcasters.
Recent series launches include “Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory” and “America’s National Parks” for Disney+ and National Geographic.
The company is currently in production on two feature-length films for Disneynature and a number of premium series for Disney+ and National Geographic including “Queens” and “Sentient” with Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures.
Wildstar recently hired former BBC Natural History Unit head of development Doug Mackay-Hope as senior VP of development and production, and multi-award-winning editor Nigel Buck as executive editor.
Wildstar Films’ Linfield and Berlowitz said: “Fremantle is a fantastic fit as a partner — we share a similar culture and the same ambition of working with the best talent on and off screen to make genre-defining shows; we’re also really excited that their international teams will help us grow Wildstar and reach more viewers around the world.”
Simon Andreae, CEO of Fremantle U.K., added: “Within four short years, Mark, Vanessa and their team have built Wildstar from a brand new start up to one of the fastest growing, most dynamic, and most imaginative brands in natural history. They bring creative excellence, technical innovation and a true sense of joy to all that they touch. We are thrilled to welcome them to the Fremantle family and to join them in the next exciting step on their journey.”
Mandy Chang, head of global documentaries at Fremantle, said: “Wildstar Films is an extraordinary company with strong core values, who take huge pride in their work, which delights, and importantly, inspires millions of people to think differently about natural history and being better citizens to our planet. We all value independence, and creativity, and look forward to providing them with the right level of support at an exciting time at Fremantle, as we scale-up our global non-scripted capabilities.”
Fremantle’s investment in 72 Films follows acquisitions over the past 12 months that include U.K. production company Dancing Ledge (“The Responder”), scripted Italian production company Lux Vide (“Devils,” “Leonardo”), international development and production company Fabel (“Bosch”), Australian-American television production company Eureka Productions (“Parental Guidance”) and U.K. unscripted production company Label1 (“Hospital”), 12 production labels in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark from Nordic Entertainment Group (This is Nice Group), and most recently, Irish production company Element Pictures (“Normal People”).
Last August, RTL Group announced its aim to increase Fremantle’s full-year revenue target to €3 billion by 2025. In a recent interview with Variety at Mipcom, Fremantle boss Mullin said the company is “on track” to hit its eye-watering targets.
(Pictured, L-R: Vanessa Berlowitz, Mark Linfield, Mandy Change, Simon Andreae)