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No drama, but Essential Media to thrive with full slate

Co-founder Chris Hilton on future of pro-co after Ian Collie’s departure

Chris Hilton

The Tuesday announcement last week that one of the partners of Essential Media and Entertainment, Ian Collie, was quitting the business was big news for not only Essential Media, but for FremantleMedia which has a majority stake in Collie’s new production company, Easy Tiger Productions.

MORE: Essential Media sells drama division, Ian Collie departs for new venture

“It is a good thing financially for Essential Media,” said co-founder and CEO Chris Hilton of the news FremantleMedia has bought Essential’s scripted division. “It allows Essential to continue to prosper and build our Australian business and the North American scripted and unscripted business.”

Hilton and Collie will go their separate ways after working together for 20 years. “This is a chance for Ian to do his own thing with the resources that will help launch his business,” Hilton told Mediaweek.

There were three founding partners of Essential Media and Entertainment – Chris Hilton, Ian Collie and Sonja Armstrong – and the business will continue under the control of Hilton and Armstrong.

The US Essential Media business is structured differently with a US partner and then that company has a joint venture, Essential Quail, with Sydney-based producer Greg Quail. There is also a Canadian business with different partners.

“The Essential model has been to JV and co-develop projects,” said Hilton. “That is the formula we have applied before and that is what we will keep doing as well. We expect we might have some new JVs we will be able to talk about soon.”

It is expected that Essential Media won’t rush back into the drama space, but will review how best to proceed in scripted over time.

Although drama projects under Collie and the scripted team accounted for substantial growth at Essential, Hilton noted all other parts of the business contributed significantly too.

“The decision for us to sell the Essential Media drama IP was a little bit opportunistic. FremantleMedia were interested, the money was good, and Ian liked the people at FremantleMedia. It made sense for him to spread his wings and do his own thing.”

Mediaweek profiled Collie in a recent edition, which is available here.

Hilton remembered how Collie first started working with him as head of business affairs 20 years ago. “He rose through the business until he became a superstar producer.”

Without the dramas, there remain plenty of big projects still to come from Essential Media including Unchartered with Sam Neill for Foxtel and Prime New Zealand, a second season of Body Hack with Todd Sampson for Network Ten and a space extravaganza The Living Universe for ABC and a number of overseas broadcasters.

Returning food programming for SBS includes Gourmet Farmer with Matthew Evans and the new Shane Delia’s Recipe For Life.

This is an excerpt of the full article, which appears in the latest issue of Mediaweek magazine. 

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