Sony buys Playmaker Media

02 December, 2014 by Don Groves

Sony Pictures Television has bought Playmaker Media, arguably Australia’s hottest indie drama producer with four shows commissioned by free-to-air networks.

Former Fox Television Studios production executives David Maher and David Taylor, who founded Playmaker in 2009, will remain at the helm under a 5-year deal.


Earlier this year it’s believed Playmaker attracted the attention of other multi-nationals including Shine, but no deal eventuated.

Interviewed last week, Taylor told IF, “When people kick the tyres we will always have a chat.” Today he said, “We have been talking to Sony for a while. We liked what they had to say and it’s a good opportunity.”

One asset is that future Playmaker Media productions will be routed via SPT’s global distribution machine.

Historically the producers have dealt with DCD Rights, All3 Media International, ZDF Enterprises and ITV Studios Global Entertainment after a first-look deal with Fremantle Media Enterprises elapsed. “Having one point of call for international for the shows we create will be an advantage,” Taylor said.

The SPT takeover follows NBCUniversal International Television Production acquiring full ownership of Matchbox Pictures in January, having held a majority stake since 2011.

"It makes a lot of sense for drama companies like Playmaker and Matchbox to do these deals," one indie producer tells IF. "It effectively makes them vertically integrated into a distributor and studio, and for the studio they get access to formats for the US market and elsewhere."

Essential Media & Entertainment has had approaches from international buyers. CEO Chris Hilton says, "We have a great team in place which has allowed us to grow our group across all key genres, scripted and non-scripted, as well as internationally into the US and Canada. Given our size, we do get the odd tyre kicking query. Our current strategy is to continue to focus on making great shows and building strong franchises with the international market in mind."

Hoodlum Entertainment has also attracted interest from potential suitors. "We are a relatively small company and we do have people enquiring about purchasing or other opportunities," says Hoodlum's Tracey Robertson,  who is in the US working on the 10-episode remake of Secrets & Lies for the ABC network.

"Our plan is to focus on making great content and building brands with the international market in mind. We have the most amazing team in place which has enabled us to grow our company across the drama and digital space internationally, across the UK and the US."

The fourth series of Playmaker’s House Husbands will debut on Nine next year. Nine’s Love Child was the most watched Australian drama series this year and a second series is in the can.

Conspiracy thriller The Code performed well enough on ABC this year to have been renewed for a further six episodes.

Hiding, an 8-part series which follows a Gold Coast family that is forced into witness protection and must build a new life in a strange city, knowing that any contact with friends or relatives could lead a killer to their door, will premiere on ABC next year.

All four shows were created by writers-producers who were nurtured by the Screen Australia-funded showrunner development initiative dubbed Scribe.

That three-year program was a potent catalyst for the careers of Drew Proffitt (who co-created House Husbands with Ellie Beaumont), Matt Ford (Hiding), Shelley Birse (The Code) and Sarah Lambert (Love Child), and is continuing, self-funded by Playmaker.

The producers held back the format rights on Love Child, which will now be handled by SPT.

Maher and Taylor will report to Andrea Wong, SPT president, international production, and Wayne Garvie, chief creative officer.

Wong said, "Playmaker is having fantastic success creating the next generation of distinctive, high quality Australian television drama. They are a great addition to our international production group and we look forward to working with David and David to continue to build their award-winning company.”