The UK’s ITV has agreed to acquire a majority interest of 79.5% in Hostile Planet and Tiny World producer Plimsoll Productions for approximately £103.5M ($126M), giving the company an enterprise value of £131M ($159.7M).
The stake is being acquired from private equity group LDC, which made a multi-million dollar minority share investment in Plimsoll in 2019.
Plimsoll, founded by Grant Mansfield — a former ITV factual boss — in Bristol in 2013, is the world’s largest independent producer of natural history programs and focuses on making premium factual. The BAFTA, Emmy and Oscar-winning firm has produced hundreds of hours of content, which has traveled to nearly 200 countries.
Among its credits are Tiny World and Giant World for AppleTV+; Hostile Planet and Supernatural Planet for Disney; Night On Earth and Animal for Netflix; and the upcoming series A Year On Planet Earth for new parent ITV, Tencent in China, Fox Nation in the U.S. and ARD Group in Germany.
ITV Studios is distributing A Year On Planet Earth, a 6×60 series that draws on spellbinding and dramatic stories from all corners of the world. In the UK, it’s narrated by Stephen Fry.
Plimsoll is also expanding across the premium unscripted space with growing documentary and factual entertainment departments producing for major networks and platforms including BBC, ABC, Channel 4, CNN, History and Hulu.
The acquisition is a major move for ITV and its strategy of expanding its international content business, further diversifying ITV Studios’ production base and will enable ITV to take advantage of the strong demand for content across natural history and factual genres. While it has strong scripted and unscripted production companies across the globe, natural history was previously considered a gap in its portfolio.
Plimsoll’s team includes Chief Creative Officer Martha Holmes; Creative Director Tom Hugh-Jones, Head of Factual Entertainment Karen Plumb and former ITV factual chief Richard Klein. Before launching Plimsoll, Mansfield was head of production company Zodiak in the U.S., Managing Director of RDF and the Commissioner of Factual for ITV.
Following the transaction Mansfield, together with his senior management and creatives, will continue to manage the business and play a key role in program development. They will work alongside ITV Studios Managing Director Julian Bellamy, UK Director of Unscripted Angela Jain and their team.
Meanwhile, Plimsoll’s distribution arm Magnify Media will work alongside ITV Studios. ITV said it would initially focus on continuing the momentum of the respective operations as their teams get to know each other and assess how best they work together.
Mansfield said: “The significant opportunities in the international premium unscripted market make this the perfect time for Plimsoll to join ITV Studios. There is a quite special strategic and cultural fit that will enable us to achieve our, now shared, creative and commercial ambitions for Plimsoll. We’re excited to be part of ITV Studios’ expanding global force in content and delighted that, from today, this powerful new partnership is officially active.”
ITV CEO Carolyn McCall added: “Growing ITV Studios with an exciting pipeline of premium programs is core to our strategy as we further diversify the business by genre, by geography, by customer and grow ahead of the market. Through Plimsoll Productions, as a Studio, we can continue to capitalize on the growing demand for natural history and factual programming and I am really pleased to welcome Grant and the team.”
The price tag includes £85.5M payable to the existing shareholders and the repayment of Plimsoll’s financial net debt at completion, expected to be approximately £17.6M.
The outstanding 20.5% of Plimsoll shares will be held by Mansfield and other members of the management team and other investors of Plimsoll. There are call and put arrangements in place that will give ITV the option of acquiring the outstanding 20.5%.
The deal comes days after Deadline revealed another growing UK factual producer, Curve Media, has appointed a capital advisor to assess its options for investment.