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Amazon and Netflix face new rival as France's TF1 launches London TV drama studio

JIM ARMITAGE
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France’s biggest commercial television company is launching a major English language drama production company in London to create a European alternative to US studio giants Netflix and Amazon.

TF1’s Newen division is investing in a major joint venture with veteran TV producer Gub Neal, famed for hits from The Fall and Cracker to Prime Suspect.

Ringside Studios, as the joint venture company is called, will create English language series and serials using talent from across Europe.

It will both create entirely original dramas, and remakes of existing foreign language series into English versions.

Neal has a track record of both formats, having been one of the most prolific creators of original dramas through his career, and more recently producing The Fall in English with Gillian Anderson, then a successful French remake with TF1.

Neal welcomd the huge investment in London’s drama production industry from Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Hulu and others, but said: “We don’t want to get into a situation where we are largely serving a US market.

“The Crown, Downton Abbey and so on are fine but we also share a lot of common history with Europe. It seems to me that at a time we are leaving Europe politically, we do not want to leave it culturally.”

It is Neal’s third major business venture. He founded Box TV, producer of shows including Martin Scorsese’s Bob Dylan biopic No Direction Home, before selling it to DCD Media. Then he set up Artists Studio, producer of The Fall, Combat Hospital and other shows which he sold to Endemol Shine.

Neal said: “We will be able to collaborate with teams from Belgium, Scandinavia, France, all over, to create an alternative to the US conglomerates.”

He said he already had a slate of shows in early stages. These include an adaptation of the hit French children’s fantasy novels featuring Oksa Pollock, dubbed by critics “Harry Potter’s French sister.”

Neal said: “There is a real appetite in Europe for premium English language content that used to be available but is now hard to acquire because so much of our talent is being bought up by the same US buyers.”

He said he anticipated some Ringside shows would be distributed through the US giants but that other broadcasters would also be able to buy them.

Newen is the venture’s majority owner, then Neal, Ringside will have a third co-owner in DoveTale Media, a financer and co-producer of shows.

Newen will be hoping the venture is more successful than its last attempt to crack the UK production market. In 2017 it put e50 million into a London investment fund but the move proved unsuccessful.