BBC Studios Australia acquires Werner Film Productions

Jo Werner and Kylie Washington.

Independent company Werner Film Productions, responsible for Surviving Summer and The Newsreader, will be brought under BBC Studios Productions Australia as part of a new deal designed to grow the distributor’s investment in the Australian market.

Werner Film director Joanna Werner and managing director Stuart Menzies will retain their positions, with their business to operate alongside BBC Studios’ local production arm as an independent label.

The announcement comes more than five years after the commercial arm of the BBC set up shop in Australia and New Zealand with its first commission Stargazing Live 2 for the ABC. It has since worked on unscripted formats such as The Great Australian Bake Off for Foxtel, game show The 1% Club for Seven, and obs-doc The Matchmakers for SBS, as well as partnering with Bunya Productions for the upcoming comedy The Office Australia and Red Planet Pictures for a spin-off of British–French crime comedy-drama Death in Paradise, titled Return to Paradise, currently filming.

The company wholly owns seven independent production labels and has invested in a further seven indies, with the Werner deal being the second of its kind outside the UK, following its acquisition of Scandanavian company STV last year.

General manager and Creative Director Kylie Washington told IF Werner Film Productions’ had long delivered on the “high-quality content BBC Studios likes to back” and held a “fantastic reputation in the international market”.

“BBC studios never rush into anything without really making sure that it’s for all the right reasons,” she said.

“Certainly, with Werner, we felt that was reiterated as we got to know each other more and more and discovered that we really could be working together and see a great future there together.”

Werner Film Productions is in production on the third season of The Newsreader, which has been licenced to more than 80 territories. The company has previously produced two seasons of young adult series Surviving Summer for Netflix, and is also known for Logie-winning ABC children’s series Crazy Fun Park, and Dance Academy.

Werner, who started the company in 2008, told IF the deal “felt like the right fit”.

“It’s been an independent company for 16 years and we want to continue to grow and make bigger productions, and, ideally more productions, so to have that support is really important for that growth strategy,” she said.

She added the deal, which has been in the works for the past 12 months, had come at a fantastic time for Australian content in the global marketplace.

“We’ve really seen our projects be successful internationally and we’re looking forward to doing more of those and working with the best talent in Australia to support them from development through to production in realising their creative vision.”

While the two companies will work alongside each other for the time being, Werner said they were in discussions about developing a project together.