Chris Hilton departs Essential Media after Australia/New Zealand restructure
Essential Media co-founder and CEO Chris Hilton has quit following a restructure and cost cutting program at the group’s Australian and New Zealand business.
Greg Quail, formerly the firm’s chief content officer/executive producer, has replaced Hilton as CEO in charge of operations spanning North America and Australasia.
There have been six redundancies in the Sydney office including Sadhana Jethanandani, head of production, Australia/ NZ, head of marketing Denise Anderson, two legal and two admin staff.
Brendan Dahill, who joined as general manager for Australia/NZ last October continues in that post. So do head of non-scripted David Alrich, VP scripted Michelle Hardy and Sam Griffin, who joined recently as head of documentaries and specialist factual.
The restructure was flagged last week by the group’s Canadian parent Kew Media, which blamed the under-performance of Essential’s Australian business for an overall 5.3 per cent drop in the group’s revenue in the third quarter.
Kew Media pointed to the loss of Essential’s long running US production Texas Flip n’ Move, which was a victim of Discovery re-branding its DIY channel as Magnolia Network.
The US revenues had subsidised the Australian company which recently has been unable to secure commissions for marquee shows, so the axing of the lifestyle series prompted Kew Media to embark on the cost cutting and restructuring program here.
The Toronto-based conglomerate acquired Essential Quail Media, which was a JV between Essential Media and Entertainment and Quail Television, in April last year for $32.8 million, $20 million in cash and the balance in shares.
Reached in New Orleans today, Quail described the restructuring as necessary but said: “We continue to be a highly robust production company with productions and offices in LA, Dallas-Fort Worth, Vancouver, Sydney and Auckland.”
The Australian slate includes Todd Sampson’s Body Hack for Network 10; Scott Papes’ financial education series Money Movement for Foxtel; Silvia Colocca’s Cook Like an Italian and Gourmet Farmer for SBS; and a six-part documentary about the weather for National Geographic.
Beyond the Boundary, a two-part, inside look at the Australian women cricket team’s successful 2019 Ashes campaign in England against reigning 50-over world champions England, directed and produced by Cassie Charlton, premieres on the Seven Network on November 28.
In New Zealand the firm is producing The Longest Drive for Prime NZ and a blue-chip travel series starring Flight of the Conchords‘ Rhys Darby for TVNZ.
Jesse Fawcett continues as president of North American operations, where Essential has partnered with A&E to produce the live stunt series The Impossible: Live.
Also in production in the US are Restored for DIY Channel and Ghost Loop for Travel Channel, while pre-production has started on a 13-part real estate series for HGTV; the firm is also delivering two pilots for HGTV.
Before joining Essential Media, Sadhana was line producer for Beyond Productions’ MythBusters, managing crews and production teams across multiple locations including the US, the UK and Australia.
Hilton co-founded Essential with Ian Collie and Sonja Armstrong in 2005. Essential sold its scripted division including Doctor Doctor, Rake and Jack Irish to Fremantle in 2017 when Collie departed to form Easy Tiger Productions, majority-owned by Fremantle.