Former Nine Entertainment boss Hugh Marks is planning to challenge some of Australia’s leading production companies as he searches for investors to help him create a local film and television studio.
Industry sources familiar with the plans, who spoke anonymously because the project is in its early stages, said Mr Marks was working with former Endemol Shine Australia boss Carl Fennessy. The pair are looking for a third strategic investor to establish the business by next year.
Mr Marks declined to comment.
Former Nine boss Hugh Marks is building a television production company.Credit:James Brickwood
The creation of the studio would be the first major move by Mr Marks since his exit from Nine, the owner of this masthead, earlier this year. Mr Marks resigned from the television, radio, publishing, streaming and real-estate company one year ago after he went public about his relationship with former direct report and NRL chief commercial officer Alexi Baker.
Media sources familiar with his non-compete agreement said he is prevented from running a television company and online classifieds businesses. However, he is not prevented from running a film and television studio.
People familiar with the plans said Mr Marks and Mr Fennessy were trying to create a studio that would not only produce content, but sell it to international markets in the same way that Hollywood powerhouses such as Disney operate. The pair would provide the infrastructure for production partners as well as the capability to sell formats to local and international markets.
The creation of a studio comes at a time when international companies such as Disney and ViacomCBS are taking back content and running direct-to-consumer streaming services. This move has put the local television and streaming market under pressure, as they were previously reliant on large output deals with Hollywood studios to deliver engaging content to viewers.
However, the plans are in the early stages and there is no guarantee it will go ahead unless Mr Marks and Mr Fennessy can secure a third local or international partner.
The pair have already tried to poach talent that is key to Nine’s programming success. Multiple industry sources said they have tried to hire Tara McWilliams, the brains behind popular Nine program Married at First Sight as its head of content.
Married at First Sight is the best performing reality television program on Australian screens. At a time when television audiences are moving online, it still manages to attract more than one million viewers each night. Ms McWilliams has been the executive producer of the program for years and is considered key to its success.
Mr Marks has a background in production as the former CEO of Southern Star and talent management firm RGM Artists (Southern Star was eventually bought by Endemol Shine). He also has a long-standing relationship with Mr Fennessy, who led Endemol with his brother Mark Fennessy until last September. Endemol is the production company behind shows such as Married at First Sight, Masterchef Australia and Big Brother until last September.
Mr Fennessy was also one of four candidates considered for the role of Nine CEO after Mr Marks’ exit. Many media executives believe Mr Fennessy was Mr Marks’ top pick to be his successor.
The creation of a studio comes months after Mr Marks finished consulting to Tennis Australia. Mr Marks had a relationship with Tennis Australia through his role securing the broadcast rights for Nine. As a consultant, he assisted the sports administrator with its international broadcast deals for the Australian Open tournament and building out its digital offering.
Mr Marks is not the only former media executive to venture into production. Former Ten boss Paul Anderson announced in July he had joined Northern Rivers-based production house Byron Studios as its chief executive.
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