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The deal, signed July 1, between French and German media giants Mediawan and Leonine to acquire a majority stake in Britain’s Drama Republic — the Emmy-nominated producer of The Honourable Woman, The Irregulars, and Black Earth Rising, not to mention the global hit Doctor Foster — has quietly created a new European television powerhouse.
Last year, Mediawan, which counts pan-European shingle Lagardère Studios and labels such as Call My Agent! producer Mon Voisin Productions among its subsidiaries, joined forces with Leonine, forming a joint venture with the fast-growing German film and TV group whose assets include Dark producer Wiedemann & Berg, and the libraries of former indie film giants Universum and Tele München. Together, they are already among the biggest independent producer/distributor in Europe. But the addition of Drama Republic – Mediawan and Leonine paid an undisclosed sum for a 51 percent stake in the London-based group – puts the new studio firmly on Hollywood’s radar.
Set up by industry veterans Greg Brenman (Peaky Blinders, Ripper Street) and Roanna Benn (Prisoner’s Wives) in 2013, who run the company as joint CEOs together with chief creative officer Jude Liknaitzky, Drama Republic is home to some of the most acclaimed and successful television dramas of the past decade. Successful collaborations with the best in British writing talent, including Hugo Blick (The Honourable Woman), David Nicholls (Us), Tom Bidwell (The Irregulars, My Mad Fat Diary) and Mike Bartlett (Doctor Foster, King Charles III), have helped the boutique operation build a reputation for top-notch fiction that can travel. Bartlett’s Doctor Foster is among the world’s most successful international series, sold to more than 100 territories with numerous local-language spin-offs, including versions in France, Germany, India and South Korea.
Along the way, Drama Republic has successfully teamed up both with local broadcasters – with the BBC on Doctor Foster and the Tom Hollander/Saskia Reeves starrer Us (2020), as well as with global streamers on projects including The Irregulars and Black Earth Rising (Netflix), Charly Clive’s sex addict sitcom Pure (HBO Max) and the upcoming Western series The English, starring Emily Blunt, currently shooting in Spain and which the company is making together with Amazon and the BBC.
“We honestly had a lot of options about where we wanted to go with the company,” Brenman tells THR. “What we were really struck by with Mediawan and Leonine was the creative synergy. We really admired the work they were doing [and] they were genuinely excited about both our past shows and our shows in development. We felt they were the right partners who would really support and back all our ambitions for the future, for the kind of shows that we like making.”
Brenman acknowledges that in the current marketplace, with television series budgets “going sky-high,” it has become impossible to finance many shows out of a single territory. By linking up with a pan-European studio, Drama Republic hopes to broaden its options. “Obviously with a big-budget show you can do a deal with a global streamer,” he says. “But if you can finance your project out of a couple of territories, whether that’s the U.K. and America or the U.K. and several European territories, it can be commercially beneficial, since you still have the rest of the globe to sell to once you finance your show.”
Access to Mediawan and Leonine’s catalog of European originals was also a deciding factor in the deal, notes Benn, although Drama Republic missed out on adapting Call My Agent! Mediawan’s hit comedy series about the French film industry, which features cameos from both French and Hollywood A-listers, is being given a British remake courtesy of Bron Studios and Headline Pictures.
“European IP seems to be getting better and better and much more visible because foreign-language stuff is coming to our screens more and more, whether it’s Call My Agent! or Lupin or all the Spanish shows,” says Benn. “To have so many companies [within the Mediawan/Leonine group] with so many ideas and shows and to be able to adapt them into English, or work with the people behind them, is a really exciting possibility.”
Quips Liknaitzky: “The idea that we’ll be working with German, French, Spanish and Italian talent, is just really exciting. We would all like to reverse Brexit. And if we can do it like this, in our own little way, it will be worth it.”
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