Sacha Baron Cohen Launches Production Company With Backing From U.K.'s Channel 4
Spelthorne Community Television wants to "help break a new generation of risk-taking comedy talent."
U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 said Thursday it has agreed to take a minority stake in Spelthorne Community Television, a new production firm launched by Sacha Baron Cohen and former Objective Productions CEO Andrew Newman.
Channel 4 has been putting money into new companies via its growth fund. Financial details of the new deal weren't disclosed, but Channel 4 said the agreement included the "collective mandate to help break a new generation of risk-taking comedy talent."
Spelthorne Community Television is named after the Staines hometown of Baron Cohen's Ali G character. The company will specialize in creating scripted TV comedy and comedy entertainment content with a strong focus on innovation and new ideas. The company will support new and emerging comedy writers and performers with "bold ambition," they said.
Baron Cohen made his debut in 1998 on Channel 4’s The 11 O’clock Show where he worked with Newman as his producer. Da Ali G Show also aired on Channel 4 in Britain. Newman also wrote the Borat and Bruno movies with Baron Cohen.
Said Channel 4 CEO David Abraham: “I’m thrilled to see Sacha and Andrew return to their Channel 4 roots where their special creative talent for making distinctive comedy was first nurtured."
Said Baron Cohen: “After more than a decade away from Channel 4, it’s very exciting to come back home and back to the British TV industry that launched my career and those of many of my contemporaries; Ricky Gervais, John Oliver and those blokes who did The Inbetweeners. All have gone on to have great success internationally. A little too much success if I’m honest."
He added: “But this isn’t about people who are at the top of the pile and are coasting — this is a chance to help establish careers for ambitious people who have yet to make a mark in British television."
He also quipped: “Ultimately our aim with Spelthorne Community Television is to discover new talent, develop new shows, then test them on U.K. audiences before we remake them, starring me, for the much more important U.S. market.”
Channel 4’s $30.7 million (£20 million) growth fund has now backed nine independent production companies.