Veteran U.K. TV Executives Launch Sugar Films to "Mainstream Diversity"

Courtesy of Sugar Films
Lucy Pilkington, Narinder Minhas and Pat Younge of Sugar Films

Former Travel Channel boss and BBC exec Pat Younge and his two partners want to create TV and digital content and "redefine the notion of diversity in our industry as being modern, mainstream and value creating."

Veteran U.K. TV executives Pat Younge, who moved to the U.S. in 2005 to run the Travel Channel for more than four years, Narinder Minhas and Lucy Pilkington have launched Sugar Films, which will produce TV and digital content and offer creative solutions.

The co-founders own equal stakes in the company, which is also looking for possible funding deals. As managing director, Younge will oversee Sugar Films Lab and the company’s operations. His partners will have the title of creative directors, leading the development of new content and formats across a range of platforms. The three founders' credits include Here and Now (BBC One), Man v Food (Travel Channel), You Have Been Warned (Discovery Networks International) and Make Me a Muslim (Channel 4).

The goal of the former BBC and Channel 4 executives is to "create bold, entertaining and provocative programming for young, mainstream and diverse audiences" and "mainstream diversity." They are targeting original returnable formats, "impactful documentaries and innovative specialist factual series" for both U.K. and international networks and online platforms.

Yonge cited the success of Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland as proof that there was mass appeal in shows offering real diversity.

Based in London and Cardiff, the company encompasses production arm Sugar Films and digital arm Sugar Films Lab. The latter will focus on sourcing new ideas and concepts from emerging creative talent. It will run a quarterly competition to create a bridge between the media industry and new talent.

The Lab will develop and showcase different voices and content pieces, with an eye towards further developing some for networks, OTT providers, advertisers and the like.

"The proliferation of broadcasters and platforms seeking quality content makes this the right time for us to launch Sugar Films," said Sugar Films co-founder and managing director Younge. "Our industry track records, commercial experience and creative vision enable us to build a global media power-house, which will redefine the notion of diversity in our industry as being modern, mainstream and value creating.”

Said Pilkington: "There’s never been a better time to mainstream diversity. We know that bold, provocative and challenging programs can draw huge audiences."

Minhas added: "Creatively, we’ll be playful; having fun with form, making unusual connections, left-field castings and blurring boundaries to find the spaces between genres to create new and exciting hybrid shows."

Younge previously was chief creative officer of BBC Productions, a role in which he led 3,000 in-house program makers in comedy, drama, entertainment and factual. He also led the Travel Channel, which was sold to Scripps Networks Interactive in 2009.

Minhas was previously director of programs at Diverse Productions. Earlier in his career, he was a journalist at the BBC and also worked at Channel 4 as a commissioning editor.

Pilkington has worked as a commissioning editor for a range of networks, including Channel 4. Most recently at BBC Worldwide, she adapted Come Dine With Me and Stargazing for international markets.

The three have known each other, but are now joining forces to fill what they see as a market need. "What brought us together this time is that there has never been a better time to be a content creator," Younge told THR. "And with the proliferation of platforms, we are breaking down the stranglehold of the tastemakers."

Plus, there was a chance to go beyond diversity initiatives in the industry. "There are senior experienced content creators, producers and broadcasters," Younge said.

He explained that Sugar Films would take a different approach. "Often, diversity is having a black person in a documentary or a producer on the credits. Sure, that adds. But all three of us are married to white people, so diversity is part of our lives. But diversity is much, much more. It's about class, it's about gender, disability, sexuality. And it's not marginal and small. It's mainstream and vibrant."

Twitter: @georgszalai