Roast, agency tie-up in WMR pot

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LONDON -- Content rights fund World Media Rights has appointed former Granada international entertainment and formats boss Kevin Roast to the post of director of content, and is planning a tie-up with a U.S. talent agency "very shortly," chairman Andrew Neil said Monday.

Announcing the group's debut acquisition, an $18 million deal to acquire U.K.-based history and factual producer Nugus Martin, Neil said the group plans to make further acquisitions announcements shortly and is in advanced talks about a partnership with an undisclosed U.S. talent agency.

"The one we have in mind has such great contacts with (U.S.) independent producers and networks that they will open doors for us in North America. They are used to selling talent to networks," Neil said.

WMR was launched 18 months ago with the stated intention of buying content rights from U.K.-based independent producers and repackaging them for the burgeoning international market for broadband, 3G, mobile and digital platforms. The fund is expected to be worth as much as £50 million ($100 million) when secondary financing is closed.

Roast, a former Granada formats executive who was instrumental in selling "Boot Camp" to Fox in the late '90s and launching international formats of such U.K. hits as "Tarrant on TV," will bring a legacy of program sales and formats experience to WMR.

"What I liked about the idea is that it is a clean start. There is a real opportunity to grow organically in a very focused way," Roast said. "Andrew (Neil) and (WMR co-founder) Alan Griffiths were really focused on content and rights and from my experience that is really the key."

The acquisition of Nugus Martin, creator of such factual historical series as "Churchill's Bodyguard" and "World War One in Color," will give WMR control of 800 hours of programming and 3,000 hours of archival footage.

WMR is paying £5 million ($10 million) upfront with the remainder subject to undisclosed earnings targets over the next few years.
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