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Germany’s ZDF Makes U.K. Move, Buys Into ‘Black Ops’ Producer (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 6/5/2017 Stewart Clarke
© Provided by Variety

German broadcaster ZDF has bought a stake in World Media Rights, the British-based production company behind “Black Ops” and “Myth Hunters.”

The deal is the first-ever equity U.K. investment for ZDF Enterprises, the pubcaster’s commercial arm, which is seeking to broaden the range of programming it brings to market, particularly English-language content. ZDF Enterprises has already distributed several World Media Rights titles, including “Evolution of Evil,” and president and CEO Alexander Corridass said the deal for a 32.5% share of the London-based company was a logical next step.

“This closer relationship will enable us to jointly produce and market even more outstanding productions for the U.K., Germany, and the entire world in the future,” Corridass said.

For World Media Rights, the agreement “means we can expand development and sales,” CEO Alan Griffiths told Variety, adding that the company will be able to add new staff  and double the number of hours produced within three years.

It has already brought in one new executive, David McNab, who becomes creative director. He is the former boss of Wide Eyed Entertainment whose programming credits include “The Planets” for BBC Two and “Great American Manhunt” for National Geographic.

At the moment, World Media Rights has a first-look distribution deal in place with ITV Studios in the U.K. Once that deal, which is about halfway through its course, lapses, ZDF Enterprises will handle all international sales for World Media Rights’ programming.

The production company is known for making documentaries with large reconstruction elements. “Black Ops,” for example, uses drama to recreate iconic special forces missions. It airs on Discovery’s American Heroes Channel in the U.S. and UKTV in Britain.

Griffiths added that several markets including the U.S. were increasingly keen on the kind of drama-infused factual programming that World Media Rights makes. “The market is switching around an awful lot, and some people are shifting away from drama because it is so expensive,” he said. “What we do is just the other side of drama but costs considerably less.”

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