Survival expert Bear Grylls has struck a deal to form a new TV production company with ambitions to make it the “ultimate home of adventure programming worldwide”.
Grylls, famous for presenting a string of survivalist TV shows including The Island, Born Survivor and Running Wild, is launching The Natural Studios with Delbert Shoopman, who has been the executive producer on many of the adventurer’s most famous shows.
The pair have struck a deal to launch the new venture, which is billed as the “global go-to adventure TV and film production studio”, backed by French global TV production and distribution firm Banijay. TV production companies owned by Banijay are responsible for shows including Survivor, SAS: Who Dares Wins, The Crystal Maze, The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds, Wife Swap and Keeping up with the Kardashians.
Grylls and Shoopman, who will maintain full strategic control of The Natural Studios, also intend to explore branching out beyond adventure shows to scripted programming such as dramas.
Grylls said: “At its heart, this is about building the ultimate home of adventure programming worldwide. The Natural Studios will be providing a home for the best adventure talent to help them create shows with us that inspire and move people to go for it in their lives and never give up.”
The move by Grylls comes at a time of intense competition for top talent and “crown jewel” content, as traditional broadcasters and streaming players such as Netflix and Amazon fight to offer the best TV experience to attract subscribers and viewers.
In recent weeks. Peter Morgan, the creator of flagship Netflix show The Crown, struck a lucrative TV and film deal with the streaming service, and Fleabag creator and actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge struck an exclusive deal with Amazon Prime Video a day after winning a raft of Emmy awards. The rights to hit series Seinfeld, the US version of The Office, Friends and the Big Bang Theory have been snapped up for hundreds of millions of dollars by Netflix, NBCUniversal’s new streaming service Peacock and HBO Max respectively.
“In a crowded marketplace, with many new players, only strong talent can cut through as the face of adventure globally, Bear does just this,” said Marco Bassetti, the chief executive of Banijay Group. “Both he and Del bring an incredibly strong portfolio and track record in this space and fit harmoniously with our existing catalogue of world-class adventure entertainment brands.”
Grylls’ current hit shows will be made by his production company and existing TV and production partners, while the rights and distribution of all newly developed programmes will be held by The Natural Studios and Banijay.
Shows starring Grylls, whose adventures have included a hike in the Alaskan wilderness with Barack Obama, have been watched by more than two billion people worldwide.
Grylls is now worth millions of pounds. His brand covers clothing and equipment, he has authored more than 85 books, co-owns outdoor fitness company Be Military Fit and there is even a Bear Gryll’s Adventure theme park. At 35, he was appointed the youngest ever chief scout. The deal with Banijay was brokered by ACF investment bank.
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