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Former News Corp. Exec David Haslingden Sells Business to Blue Ant (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 5/24/2017 Stewart Clarke

Producer, distributor, and channel operator Blue Ant Media has bought Racat Group, the media firm set up by former Fox Networks Group president and Rupert Murdoch lieutenant David Haslingden. Under the cash-plus-equity deal, Haslingden will retain a significant stake in the enlarged Blue Ant.

The agreement gives Toronto-based Blue Ant natural-history producer NHNZ, Australian production company Northern Pictures, and Singapore’s Beach House Pictures. It also gets DirecTV joint-venture kids net ZooMoo and mobile-games business Runaway Play.

The deal has been a long time in the making, Michael MacMillan, Blue Ant CEO, told Variety. “It positions us more deeply in the international market and in content creation,” he said. “We have a significant new shareholder with David, and with Ward Platt and the executives in the Racat Group, we have significantly grown our senior executive team.”

Haslingden will sit on the Blue Ant board. He was president of Fox Networks Group, News Corp.’s international TV channels business. Before that he was global chief of National Geographic Channels. He exited in 2012.

“While the Racat businesses have achieved a lot in the last five years, there’s no doubt those achievements will be dwarfed by what we get done in the next five as part of Blue Ant Media,” he said.

Ward Platt, a former Fox and Nat Geo channels exec, will become CEO of kids and global networks at Blue Ant in September, overseeing its linear nets and streaming services everywhere except New Zealand and Canada. He will be based in L.A.

NHNZ is one of the best-known global wildlife producers and recently co-produced “Big Pacific” with PBS, Arte, CCTV, Discovery, ZDF, and Australia’s Channel 9. Kyle Murdoch will remain at the helm under the new ownership.

Beach House’s managing director, Jocelyn Little, and creative director, Donovan Chan, will remain at the helm of the Singapore-based production company, which produces for Discovery and Nat Geo. Similarly, Sue Clothier will stay in charge of Northern Pictures.

Blue Ant has a range of channels and streaming services that will benefit from a pipeline of factual programming, including the Smithsonian Channel and BBC Earth in Canada, HGTV in New Zealand, and the Love Nature SVOD service, which just launched on Amazon Channels as part of its U.K. rollout.

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