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Liberty Global Dives Into Production, With ‘Narcos’ Executive at Helm of New Business

Variety logo Variety 7/17/2017 Stewart Clarke
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Cable giant Liberty Global has moved into production and distribution with the launch of Platform One Media, a new entity backed by private equity firm TPG and helmed by former Gaumont Television and DreamWorks executive Katie O’Connell Marsh.

“Everyone wants to get into original content to further engage consumers and scale their businesses,” Marsh told Variety. “It is good timing for Platform One as the [drama] market is robust, and there is a great opportunity in original content.”

The new studio will service Liberty Global’s platforms, including Virgin Media in the U.K. and Unitymedia in Germany, as well as third parties. “We will have the international footprint of a studio, but with a curated, boutique approach, and that’s a combination that’s rare,” O’Connell Marsh said. “We’re not limited by the needs of Liberty Global. Not everything will make sense for them, but that does give us a lever to pull.”

O’Connell Marsh has put together a seasoned team that includes her former Gaumont colleague Erik Pack, who will run Platform One’s distribution business from London, and Courtney Conte, a former BBC Worldwide Productions exec who will be COO. Elisa Ellis, formerly of DreamWorks, will be chief creative officer. Neil Strum is head of business affairs, and former ABC Studios exec Julia Franz will be a consultant. Conte and Strum have both worked at L.A.-based production company Slingshot Global Media, which, along with its development projects, is being absorbed by Platform One.

Liberty Global already has stakes in, or partnerships with, numerous content businesses, such as Discovery, Lionsgate, and Starz. It also backs producer and distributor All3Media.

But Platform One will have its own production and sales operations. The cable giant said last year it was moving into original production, and at least some of these projects are likely to go through Platform One. The first of these originals is expected to be unveiled within weeks.

Bruce Mann, chief programming officer at Liberty Global, said Platform One hands the cable company a well-capitalized, strategic asset. “It also gives us the opportunity to work with world-class talent creating high-quality scripted programming, which could potentially feature on Liberty Global’s pay-TV platforms in Europe,” he said.

O’Connell Marsh noted that the Platform One team is familiar with the international market, meaning it has the ability to look beyond the U.S. as a production base. “The market is global and Liberty Global has an international footprint, so we have the opportunity to seed projects where they make the most sense,” she said.

O’Connell Marsh boss will continue as an executive producer on “Narcos,” the series she placed with Netflix while working at Gaumont.

TPG will fund its investment through Evolution Media, an investment partnership with CAA and Participant Media. “TPG Growth has a history of identifying and building companies, such as STX Entertainment, that can redefine their categories,” said Bill McGlashan, founder and managing partner of TPG Growth and co-founder and CEO of The Rise Fund.

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