Sony Pictures TV Buys Majority Stake in 'Sex Education' Banner Eleven

Sex Education Still 2 - Publicity -H 2020
Courtesy of Netflix

'Sex Education'

Sony confirms the deal for the in-demand British banner behind one of Netflix's most-watched shows.

Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Television has acquired a majority stake in Eleven, the British production banner behind Netflix's global smash hit series Sex Education. 

The acquisition, unveiled on Wednesday morning London time, had been rumored for several months, with Sony understood to have beaten out a number of potential suitors for the company, founded in 2006 by Jamie Campbell and Joel Wilson. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed. 

The Laurie Nunn-created Sex Education has consistently been a top audience draw for Netflix since it launched in 2019, generating more than 40 million views in its first month alone. A third season is expected to start production soon. Eleven has also produced the BAFTA-nominated Glue and The Enfield Haunting. Upcoming commissions include political thriller White Stork for Netflix, starring Tom Hiddleston as a young politician set to become Prime Minister, and young adult horror series Red Rose for the BBC. 

"For some time, we have watched on as Jamie and Joel built one of the most exciting drama companies in the U.K.," said Wayne Garvie, president, international production at Sony Pictures Television. "Their ability to spot and develop new writing and acting talent and their eye for a unique and compelling idea make them an irresistible pairing. We are thrilled they see Sony as their ideal partner to grow Eleven and I know that our existing production companies in the U.K. and beyond are thrilled that they are going to join our merry little family. In the midst of the COVID crisis, this acquisition also demonstrates Sony’s underlying faith in the future success of British production and desire to keep on entertaining the world.”

The acquisition brings to an end the Channel 4 Indie Growth Fund’s involvement in Eleven. In 2014, the Channel 4 Growth Fund took a minority stake in Eleven, making it the first drama production company to benefit from the fund. Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon said she wished the company "every success for the future as they embark on the next stage of their journey."

In the 2010s, Sony Pictures Television was known for actively hunting for deals, buying stakes in various production firms, including Britain’s Left Bank Pictures (The Crown) and Blueprint Television, as well as Sweden’s Palladium Fiction, to expand its drama production footprint to meet the increased demand for high-quality drama around the world. 

When London-based Andrea Wong, who held dual roles as president of international production for Sony Pictures Television and president of international for Sony Pictures Entertainment, left the company in 2017, bankers said Sony’s deal appetite seemed to have subsided.

But as of late, Sony Pictures Television has again focused on diversifying its production portfolio. In December, it expanded further into children’s programming with a deal for London- and New York-based Silvergate Media. And in February, it pushed into sports and live entertainment production with a deal with Britain's Whisper Films. The Eleven investment marks the latest step in the firm's dealmaking. 

Sony Pictures Television now operates 24 wholly-owned or joint-venture production companies in 12 countries.

“Joining Wayne, Richard and the rest of Sony’s extraordinary team in the U.S. and U.K. is a hugely exciting step for us," said Eleven's Campbell and Wilson. "We are deeply proud of the world-class slate of scripted shows we have in development; and no one in the world is better positioned than Sony to help us convert it."

Tom Manwaring of Helion Partners advised the shareholders of Eleven on the transaction.