ITV has bought indie The Garden for the healthy sum of £18m, as an up front consideration. For ITV, the acquisition is part of its strategy to grow the content side of its business. For The Garden, it’s a chance to become a player on a world stage.
The Garden joint chief executives Magnus Temple and Nick Curwin have been acquired once before. They sold their first indie Firefly Productions to the Shine Group in 2007.
At Firefly, the company became known for its innovative fixed rig productions, pioneered with the Bafta-nominated The Family and the Bafta-winning One Born Every Minute. The Garden has continued using fixed rig to great effect with Channel 4 hit 24 Hours in A&E.
The pair started The Garden just three years ago, after completing their three-year earn-out with Shine. The indie has been a phenomenal success story. 24 Hours in A & E is a cornerstone of the channel 4 schedule, but it has also scored with traditional obdoc Inside Claridges for BBC Two and its format The Audience has sold world-wide.
Curwin is emphatic that The Garden isn’t going to change at home. But it has big ambitions to expand beyond the UK.
"The Garden had got to the point where if we wanted to fulfil longer term ambitions we needed a global partner, says Curwin. "In the UK we have no plans to grow significantly. We don’t want to change our values, it will be business as usual. We won’t be concentrating on ITV, our relationships with Channel 4 and the BBC are still incredibly important. But increasingly we want to play on an international stage and to have shows in production in different parts of the world. We can’t do that on our own, we need ITV Studios."
ITV Studios and The Garden already have a working relationship. "We’ve already got three arrangements with ITV Studios," says Curwin. "We have a first look exclusive distribution deal, a development deal with Kevin Lygo [managing director of ITV Studios], where we see him about once a month and discuss ideas that might work for ITV 1, and a deal from them to produce our format The Audience in different parts of the world. So we’re already close to them, we see Denise O’Donoghue [managing director of ITV Studios UK] and Kevin and the distribution team, the formats team and ITV producers and have got to know them quite well. It feels natural."
Not that Curwin and Temple took the decision to become part of a big group once again without a preamble. "We were incredibly picky about what we’ve done. We weren’t in a mad rush to do the wrong thing. Who we partnered with was very important and to get the right kind of deal so that we could continue to be The Garden."
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