EXCLUSIVE: The shape of Blue Ant Media‘s combined studios and rights business is coming together.
Following the Canada’s Drag Race producer’s acquisition of Canadian compatriot MarbleMedia in August, the as-yet-unnamed production and distribution business has set out its leadership teams under Co-Presidents Mark Bishop and Matthew Hornburg, we can reveal.
Bishop and Hornburg previously led MarbleMedia, which has production and sales operations in Canada and the UK. Merging their business with Michael MacMillan’s Blue Ant has created Canada’s latest major content business, the name of which will soon be unveiled.
Here’s a rundown of the new structure: Hornburg’s unscripted development will see Jennifer Harkness (The Inigo Philbrick Story, working title) taking the factual entertainment development reins from Blue Ant’s LA office. Over in Toronto, Kelsey Espensen (Best in Miniature) will lead unscripted entertainment and Steve Gamester (Inside the Statue Wars) heads specialist factual development.
On the scripted development side, which Bishop leads, Carrie Paupst Shaughnessy (Davey & Jonesie’s Locker) Melissa Williamson (Sitting Pretty) and will lead scripted drama & comedy, with Paupst Shaughnessy focused on production and Williamson on development. They’ll focus on creating a primetime slate, while AJ Trauth (Armadillo Avalanche) is named head of an expanded kids, family and young adult division based out of LA. Josh Bowen (Doomlands) will lead the business’ animation studio in Toronto, overseeing a planned expansion.
Donna Luke will lead the production and post-production group, reporting to Matthew Hornburg, while Paul Kilback (Northwood Survival) will continue to oversee factual series. He’ll work closely with Luke and Hornburg. Aileen Gardner (I Have Nothing) will lead and support production for unscripted, specialist factual and factual entertainment. Stefanie Haist (Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe) will lead and support unscripted entertainment productions.
Across the Pond in London, Diane Rankin is leading commercial strategy and content financing for the studio’s distribution and production businesses alongside Ben Barrett, who oversees content financing and partnerships for the unscripted genre. Rankin was previously MarbleMedia’s Executive VP of Rights, while Barrett has been with Blue Ant since the Canadian company bought his UK sales house Drive Media Rights in June last year.
Lilla Hurst, who co-founded Drive with Barrett, will continue to lead the merged distribution team’s global acquisitions and content strategy. Blue Ant execs Bryan Gabourie and Gerbrig Blanksma will lead all sales activities from originals, pre-sales, content licensing, co-productions and strategic partnerships from the company’s New York and London offices, respectively.
An unspecified number of staff are to exit as a result of the merger. “Like in any deal where two companies come together, there have been impacts, but the current team is now well-positioned for success and ready to take on bigger projects as we work to expand our business in 2024,” said a Blue Ant spokesperson.
The operation houses MarbleMedia and Blue Ant Media’s Blue Ant Studios, Saloon Media and Look Mom! Productions, distribution companies Blue Ant International and Distribution360 and shows such as Drag Race, Doomlands, Blown Away and Casey Anthony: Where the Truth Lies. Blue Ant’s Singapore-based Beach House Pictures will remain separate.
Separately, former Blue Ant International EVP Solange Attwood exited recently to launch her own business. That head of international sales remains an open role within the merged studio structure and will be announced in 2024, we understand.
That role, overseeing the merged global sales team, will be responsible for maximizing revenue from Blue Ant’s catalogue of unscripted, scripted, natural history, kids & family and animation content and sales activities and working with colleagues on corporate distribution strategy.
“In an era where creativity meets excellence, we proudly unveil Blue Ant Media’s dynamic new studio and rights executive team — a visionary ensemble dedicated to crafting compelling narratives for global partners and pushing creative boundaries,” said Bishop and Matthew Hornburg in a statement to Deadline. “Together, they bring a tapestry of expertise, innovation and passion, poised to elevate our super-charged studio to unprecedented heights.”
Outside of the new studios business, Blue Ant also houses a global channels and media division. This contains the likes of Love Nature, Cottage Life, Smithsonian Channel Canada, BBC Earth Canada, HauntTV, Homeful, Drag Race Universe, Total Crime, HistoryTime and Love Pets.