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WPP’s GroupM Makes Bid for Programming with Launch of Motion Content Group

Variety logo Variety 5/17/2017 Brian Steinberg
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WPP, the British advertising giant, has quietly invested in some of the most interesting content developers on the landscape, including Imagine Entertainment, The Weinstein Company and Media Rights Capital. Now the owner of ad agencies like Young & Rubicam and JWT wants to ramp up its efforts

The company’s GroupM, known for helping marketers allocate advertising dollars into media, has launched a new content investment and rights management company known as Motion Content Group. The new unit “will invest and partner with the world’s leading talent, producers and distributors to fund, develop, produce and distribute premium content.” Motion also supports WPP’s content investments, which also include MediaPro and All Def Digital, a venture of the entrepreneur Richard Simmons.

“With new content companies such as Netflix and Amazon growing rapidly, the competition for premium content is heating up across the globe,” said Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, in a statement. ” WPP is investing in Motion Content Group to strengthen our content creation and distribution capabilities, to help meet evolving viewer needs, and to help advertisers continue to reach consumers in high quality content environments.”

Richard Foster (above, pictured), will serve as CEO of Motion Content Group, which will have headquarters in both London and Los Angeles.  Foster had been CEO of GroupM Entertainment, and the new Motion will incorporate GroupM Entertainment’s team and resources, as well as programs it has partnered to develop and produce. Some of the productions under Motion’s aegis include “The Pinkertons,” syndicated in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., the British documentary series “Mutiny,” and the Canadian series “X-Company.”

“We will help meet the market demand for premium content. I think we all recognize that viewer expectations are rising all the time, not only in quality of TV production, but in how it is consumed,” said Foster, in an interview. “That puts pressure on the economics of television – not just TV in the U.S., but around the world.”

WPP has long maintained content ambitions. In 2003, its Mindshare North America unit struck a deal with ABC that called for the two sides to create scripted dramas and comedies together. And in 2015, Sorrell told Variety that he saw an opportunity in the fact that more consumers were able to gain access to high-quality video content via mobile devices. “What’s interesting about video in a high-penetration market like Brazil or an India or an Italy — the amount of live video is becoming more and more interesting. I think it’s the connection for video that is absorbing a lot of attention. When you think about Netflix and its productions and then what Bezos might do with Amazon and what Apple might do in terms of content or what Google might do, what Facebook might do, it’s starting to look very interesting,” he said.

Foster said his company “has been active in about 20 to 25 markets around the world, investing our own money,” with the U.K. the company’s largest market. Formation of the new unit will “give us some focus and some drive,” he said. “We’ve got more coming.”

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