Essential Media regains indie status after management buyout

Greg Quail.

Essential Media Group (EMG) CEO Greg Quail and North American president Jesse Fawcett have purchased the Essential companies from the collapsed Kew Media Group.

The deal gives Quail and Fawcett full control of the group’s US, Australian and New Zealand operations while Dave Cole, managing director of post house Two Dogs.TV, regains a minority stake.

“It’s been a very distracting time. We’re looking forward to getting back to business and making TV shows,” Quail told IF today.

EMG was formed by the merger of Australia’s Essential Media and Entertainment, Fawcett’s LA- based 11 Television, Quail Entertainment US and the North American joint venture Essential Quail Television (EQTV).

Jesse Fawcett.

Canada’s Kew Media bought EMG in 2018 for $32.8 million, $20 million in cash and the balance in shares.

The Toronto-based media conglomerate collapsed in February and FTI Consulting Canada was appointed to sell its assets to repay creditors.

All the directors including founder and chairman Peter Sussman and CEO Steven Silver, who jointly launched the company in 2017, resigned.

The purchase price for the management buy-out was not disclosed but is sure to be way less than the $20 million cash which Kew Media paid.

Quail, formerly EMG’s chief content officer/executive producer, replaced Chris Hilton as CEO in charge of operations spanning North America and Australasia last November amid a cost-cutting restructure.

“We joined Kew’s vision for a global full service production group because we wanted to be part of something bigger,” he says.

“I am gutted by the collapse of Kew, they’re good people and there is nothing to celebrate here, but we will take this moment to buy back, consolidate our resources and rebuild. With its solid production and development slate, there is a bright future for Essential Media.”

Quail has flagged a full review of EMG’s global operations in the coming weeks.

Fawcett, who acquired Canadian producer Big Timber Media from Kew in a separate transaction, said: “We have had a great run in North America supported by Kew and now we look forward to relaunching stronger than ever.”

In Australia led by general manager Brendan Dahill, Essential is delivering a dozen series in the space of 12 months including Griff’s Great Australian Rail Trip (ABC/ITV), Todd Sampson’s Body Hack 3.0 (Network 10), Road to Riches (A&E/Foxtel), Scott Pape’s Money Movement (LifeStyle/Foxtel), Gourmet Farmer (SBS), Beyond the Boundary (Seven Network), Silvia Colloca – Cook Like an Italian (SBS), Koala Rescue (Seven), Nature’s Fury (Nat Geo A/NZ), Sammy and Bella’s Kitchen Rescue (Network 10) and Anna Gare’s Cab Fare (Nine Network).

“We’ve had a new show on air in Australia every week since June 2019,” says Dahill. “Our capacity for high volume is a strength and in 2020 we are doubling down”.

In New Zealand, Essential’s partnership with Richard Fletcher’s Libertine Pictures is producing Griff’s Great Kiwi Road Trip (Sky), cricketers-playing-golf show This Could Go Anywhere (Sky), and Rhys Darby: Big in Japan (TVNZ).

Known for its slate of home programming for Discovery’s HGTV and DIY Channels including Texas Flip N Move, Mom and Me, Off The Grid, On the Beach and Brett Waterman’s Restored, EMG diversified in North America last year, delivering paranormal investigation series Ghost Loop to Travel Channel as well as developing a slate of live stunt programming for A&E.