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NENT Studios UK to be sold to fuel Nordic streamer Viaplay’s growth plans

Richard Halliwell

Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT Group) is selling its UK-based development, production and distribution business, which was only launched last year.

NENT Studios UK consists of London-based distribution and financing business DRG, which was formally rebranded in April. Following the sale, NENT Group will retain the NENT Studios UK name.

The UK division, whose slate includes drama The Cry and recently announced Close To Me, is headed by former DRG CEO Richard Halliwell, who NENT said is involved in the sales process. ‘Expressions of interest’ have come from more than 20 UK and international businesses, the Nordic firm added.

The Cry

Studio strategy overhaul

NENT Studios UK was launched in September 2019 as part of NENT’s overhaul of its operations, which saw the company’s production interests – which comprise 32 companies across 17 countries – split into three units: NENT Studios Nordics & CEE; NENT Studios US; and NENT Studios UK.

The sale of the UK division is part of NENT’s recently revealed strategy to expand its Viaplay streaming service, which includes launching in Poland and the US in 2021 as well as significantly growing subscriber numbers in the Nordic region and internationally.

NENT is already looking for a buyer of its unscripted production interests, after the sales process was delayed earlier this year because of the pandemic.

NENT said its remaining studios operations would focus on delivering content for Viaplay, adding that a new owner for NENT Studios UK would mean it could continue to serve the global market. An exec to lead the US division is still yet to be announced.

Don’t Tell The Bride

NENT Studios UK

The decision to sell NENT Studios UK follows a busy summer for the division, which unveiled a deal with UK indie prodco Projector Pictures to develop TM Logan’s thriller The Holiday and has started production on Close To Me, which is being produced for Viaplay and the UK’s Channel 4.

The company also has 15 shows in paid development with broadcasters and an internal development slate of around 40 projects, with the expectation being that the UK business will continue to supply content to NENT Group.

NENT Studios UK also holds a catalogue of more than 13,500 hours of cross-genre content, including drama Doc Martin, factual show Yorkshire Vet and formats such as Don’t Tell The Bride.

Halliwell said: “Despite the ongoing challenges the industry is facing with Covid-19, we have entered into and remained in production on Close To Me and are about to greenlight a second series that has been developed and fully financed during the pandemic.

“Our strategy of sitting at the very heart of content development and creation has been more than validated this year, and as these shows deliver, our approach will prove beneficial both to our partners and our business.

“Our focus now is on finding a new owner or investment partner to support our high ambitions and exciting plans for growth. We have a bright future as we move into 2021 and will use this period of change as a fresh opportunity to reinforce our position as a robust, innovative and vital player in the international content landscape.”