Banjo Television, a new indie founded by former BBC Studios executive Mike Smith and presenter David Olusoga, will launch in October with support from Channel 5’s in-house production division, Elephant House Studios.
Based in dedicated office space within the Elephant House Studios building in Camden, Banjo will target commissions from across the UK broadcast industry and internationally.
It will specialise in high-end history programming, with Olusoga presenting and producing, and Smith executive producing, including ideas based on future books authored by Olusoga under his recently signed deal with Pan MacMillan. Banjo Television will also focus on religion, travel and adventure programmes.
The deal involves Elephant House Studios providing financial, strategic and operational support to the new company. In return, Channel 5 has an option to take a minority stake in Banjo Television, which will remain a qualifying independent production company.
The launch of Banjo is the first time Elephant House Studios has provided backing for an independent production company and demonstrates its ambition to partner with the brightest and most respected creative talents both on and off-screen.
Joe McLusky, VP, Elephant House Studios commented: “Our ambition is to create a centre of excellence across a wide range of genres within Elephant House. We’re delighted to partner with two such highly respected talents; we’ll work closely with David and Mike, offering them the creative platform, capital support and resources to successfully nurture and grow their business. Whilst Banjo is open for business across the industry, Elephant House Studios’ immediate creative focus remains delivering returnable series for Channel 5.”
Olusoga credits include History of Now Story of the Noughties and drama-doc The Slavery Business. His most recent series included the BAFTA-winning Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners; The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire and Black and British: A Forgotten History.
Smith has a track record in producing high end arts, religion, travel and adventure programming. Smith worked with Olusoga to executive produce The Ottomans: Europe’s Muslim Emperors for BBC Two. He conceived and was executive producer of Simon Reeves Sacred Rivers for BBC Two. His other travel series have included The Silk Road with Sam Willis; Blood and Gold: The Story of Spain; Vienna: Empire, Dynasty and Dream with Simon Sebag Montefiore. His recent commissions include Earth’s Sacred Wonders, The Secret Life of Sue Townsend and The Marvellous World of Roald Dahl.
Smith commented: “We are delighted to be the first UK indie to be backed by Viacom. They have gone the extra mile to back our shared vision and the culture we want to create. The team at Elephant House have the business and production expertise to give us the infrastructure to hit the ground running.”
Olusoga said: “I’m energised by the prospect of building on our joint track-record for on-screen innovation. We want to make programmes that infuse specialist factual TV with greater emotion and authenticity and create formats that are immersive and inclusive but also rooted in the here and now."
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