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ITV, WPP back new Avnet digital producer

UK broadcaster ITV and advertising giant WPP are the main investors in Indigenous Media, a digital production group from filmmakers Jon and Jake Avnet and Rodridgo Garcia.

For ITV, the launch comes less than a week after it invested in New York-based digital prodco Believe Entertainment Group, while WPP has had a major effect on the UK production scene recently by financing shows through its GroupM Entertainment arm in return for returns on back-end revenues and good advertising opportunities.

Jon Miller, former CEO of digital at News Corp., will be non-executive chairman, and an investor via Advancit Capital, which also includes Sumner Redstone’s daughter Shari and Jason Ostheimer as partners. Film producer Steven Tisch, The Simpsons writer Michael Price and Dr. Aaron Stern are also investors.

Culver City-owned Indigenous will focus on developing original programming for digital and emerging platforms worldwide, with scripted half-hour and hour-long series the main emphasis.

It will build on the online WIGS channel, which the Avnets and Garcia operate in the US with Fox as its marketing and distribution partner. It creates original female-skewed scripted programming for web platforms.

Jon Avnet is best known as producer of Oscar-winning film The Black Swan, while Garcia has directed several HBO series, including The SopranosSix Feet Under and In Treatment, and directed indies moves such as Nine Lives. Jake Avnet is executive producer on several WIGS drama, including the Julia Stiles-starring Blue.

ITV and WPP will contribute advertising and distribution weight to the venture, which Indigenous said would allow it to create shows that attract “brand sponsorships and global distribution on multiple platforms”.

“Shortly after the launch of WIGS, [GroupM CEO] Peter Tortorici approached us with his vision for the potential of scripted content on digital platforms. We agreed and now are working to scale this model with our new investors,” said Jon Avnet.

“We are thrilled about collaborating with Paul Buccieri and his ITV colleagues to create new opportunities for top-notch writers and directors to tell their stories in this exciting new world,” added Garcia.

Buccieri, ITV Studios Global Entertainment and ITV Studios US Group chairman, called Indigenous a “strategic fit” for ITV, which is fast-becoming a US super indie.

“As digital media continues to evolve and new models for content creation and distribution emerge and proliferate, the ability to create high value content in new and efficient ways will ever be more critical,” said Tortorici.

“Jon, Rodrigo and Jake have been first movers in executing at the highest levels of scripted content in this space and have the means, relationships and commitment to take their efforts to scale. We look forward to helping them get there.”

WIGS, meanwhile, will continue to operate in association with Fox, with Indigenous providing additional funding to the channel. “We’ve been impressed with Jon and Rodrigo’s ability to tell compelling stories and the intensity of consumer appetite for the series on FOX verticals, Hulu, and YouTube,” said Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, senior VP of multiplatform programming for FOX. “We are fired up to be supporting WIGS in its next phase of growth.”

Creative Artists Agency acted as an advisor to Indigenous on the transaction.