Seven West Media sells UK production company

‘My Kitchen Rules’ UK.

Seven West Media has sold its share of 7Wonder, the UK production co-venture which makes My Kitchen Rules and factual, children’s and arts programming for British broadcasters.

The Banijay Group has bought SWM’s stake in the company founded in 2014 by Alexandra Fraser, Liza Abbott and Simon Ellse, who will continue to run the business. Fraser is the chief creative officer, Abbott is CEO and Ellse is the chief financial officer.

Banijay Rights will distribute the firm’s content of more than 160 hours of non-scripted programming.

News of the deal comes as SWM has continued on its cost-cutting drive by announcing it will form a joint venture with Nine Entertainment Co. in Sydney for the play-out operations of both companies.

As a result about 150 staff at Seven’s Broadcast Centre in Melbourne have been told most of their jobs will be outsourced by 2019.

At its half-yearly results SWM revealed plans to cut costs by $125 million over the next two years, of which at least $25 million would be carved out of the TV business.

Therese Hegarty, Seven Network’s director of content distribution and rights, tells IF the 7Wonder sale does not indicate a shift away from international production.

“This was an opportunity. It was a good deal for 7Wonder and it made a lot of financial sense for Seven,” she said. “We remain focused on content creation and are very active around the world,” she added, pointing to Seven’s acquisition this week of 70 per cent of Auckland-based Great Southern Television (GST) and its co-ventures 7Beyond in Los Angeles and Slim in the UK. Founded in 2002 by Philip Smith, GST makes series such as The Lion Man, The Cult, Hillary and Coast New Zealand.

Recent 7Wonder commissions include two seasons of My Kitchen Rules, which screened at 4 pm on weekdays on Channel 4; BBC2’s Back to the Land with Kate Humble, which champions the UK’s most inspirational rural entrepreneurs; Tate Britain’s Great British Walks for Sky Arts; Prejudice and Pride: The People’s History of LGBT Britain for BBC4; and the CBeebies preschool reality series Do You Know?

Based in London and Birmingham, 7Wonder will work with fellow Banijay UK producers RDF and IWC Media, exploring opportunities for co-productions in the UK and around the globe.

Fraser said: “We are absolutely delighted to be joining Banijay. With RDF and IWC, Banijay already enjoys a strong reputation for delivering high-quality factual programming in the UK, which we hope to build on, but we’re tremendously excited, too, by the international opportunities that will now open up to us.”