BBC Studios has signed a first-look deal with Ross and Amy McCarthy’s trio of unscripted companies that make up the Gobstopper Group.

The agreement will give BBC Studios priority access to the format slates of Gobstopper, Flying Saucer TV and the newly launched Mermaid Studios, the group’s latest subsidiary in Belfast announced today.

Gobstopper is responsible for hits like Just Tattoo of Us (MTV International) and Plastic Surgery Undressed (BBC Three), whilst Flying Saucer has most recently produced Jordan Banjo fronted format Lose Weight Like Me for Channel 4, which will form part of the first-look deal.

Mark Linsey, BBC Studios’ Chief Creative Officer, said: “We’re really excited to be working with Ross, Amy and the teams within the Gobstopper Group again. Their slates and development plans wowed us when we saw them; they’re brimming with quality, shot through with the uniqueness you come to expect of the Gobstopper brand. They’ll be a superb addition to our existing catalogue and we can’t wait to have them on board.”

Amy McCarthy, Chief Executive, Gobstopper Group, added “BBC Studios was a champion of Gobstopper when we first set up the business six years ago and their passion and excitement for our projects is clear when we talk to them. We know that the team share our ambition for the slate and will do everything they can to support and nurture them. As a creative, that’s all you could ever want from your distributor.”

Gobstopper Group launched Mermaid Studios in Belfast, helmed by a duo of Creative Directors. Paddy Mckenna the former head of development at Stellify who developed and produced Flinch for Netflix and Neil Dimmock, who joins Mermaid from BBC One’s Sunday Morning Live where he was the long serving Series Editor of the NI produced series.  Mermaid is the second company launched since Gobstopper exited Greenbird in early 2020.

On Mermaid’s launch, Paddy Mckenna, co-creative director of the new outfit said: “Belfast is an exciting place to be making content, as a city we’ve probably been somewhat overlooked in recent years compared to other nation’s hubs but that’s changing.  We’re delighted to get the backing and get running with the brief we’ve been given to create big, bold format ideas that will shake up the market.”

Neil Dimmock, co-creative director added “With my and Paddy’s track record, the support of Gobstopper’s back office and the tone of the shows the group is known for on big and small budgets, we can’t wait to get pitching.”

BBC Studios [as BBC Worldwide] was a co-investor in Gobstopper when it was first established in 2015 and acted as distribution partner until the business was sold to Keshet as part of a wider deal in 2018. In late 2020, Gobstopper announced that it had undertaken a management buyout to establish itself as ‘a true indie from its home in the North West’ and was looking for a distribution partner.

Gobstopper expects to invest in further new labels in 2021.

Jon Creamer