ITV Studios Buying Hostile Planet Producer Plimsoll Productions, Deal Closing This Week (EXCLUSIVE)

ITV Studios is buying British natural history producer Plimsoll Productions, Variety can reveal.

While the acquisition isn’t a done deal just yet, sources indicate that it’s expected to close in the next two days. The deal, which sees ITV Studios take a majority stake in Grant Mansfield’s company, is a major coup for the “Love Island” super-indie, which has long been missing a strong natural history player in its entertainment and drama-skewing portfolio. 

Founded by RDF Media and Zodiak USA veteran Mansfield, Plimsoll was founded in 2013 and specializes in wildlife and natural history programming across its outposts in Bristol, Cardiff and Los Angeles. The company has been regarded as one of Britain’s foremost independent natural history producers outside the BBC’s Natural History Unit.

Its credits include “Animal” for Netflix (pictured), “Hostile Planet” and the forthcoming “Great Migrations” for National Geographic and “Tiny World” for Apple TV+ as well as factual entertainment programs such as “Handmade: Britain’s Best Woodworker” for Channel 4 and “My Unique B&B” for BBC Two.

Discussions around a sale have been taking place with potential suitors for some time, but Variety heard from sources at the start of the year that ITV Studios was among the top bidders for the business. It’s understood that close to 20 parties were at one point bidding for Plimsoll.

The deal will see Plimsoll part ways with the private equity arm of Lloyd Banking Group (LBG), which took an unspecified minority stake in the company — valued at around £80 million ($100 million) — back in August 2019. The pact allowed Plimsoll to turbocharge its natural history and documentary output and further expand Stateside, where many natural history producers have been chasing deals with deep-pocketed streamers in recent years.

And certainly, that strategy paid off for Mansfield, who expanded his client base from U.K. terrestrial players like ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to the likes of Netflix and Apple TV Plus.

But with ITV Studios, a company like Plimsoll will be nurtured and scaled up. The super-indie has labels around the world and produces everything from “Snowpiercer” (through Tomorrow Studios) to “Come Dine With Me” (MultiStory Media), but its natural history offerings have been few and far between with recent entries including its collaboration with Plimsoll, “A Year on Planet Earth,” as well as “India’s Wild Karnataka” and “Wild Tokyo.”

Magnify Media has been distributing Plimsoll programming, but ITV Studios’ extensive distribution team will undoubtedly take on those duties going forward.

ITV Studios and Plimsoll declined to comment on this story.

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