Canada’s Thunderbird Entertainment Group has established an international production division, to be headed up by industry vet Ed Sayer, and has inked a deal for its first U.K. factual partnership.
Based in the U.K., the company’s new division aims to establish partnerships with production companies to develop Thunderbird’s IP and grow in key international territories. In the role of executive VP of the new branch, Sayer will be in charge of expanding Thunderbird’s global production capacity, focusing especially on factual content and leveraging partnerships, joint ventures and acquisitions.
Sayer will report to Mark Miller, president of Thunderbird and founder of its factual division, Great Pacific Media, and work closely with Matthew Berkowitz, Thunderbird’s chief creative officer, who leads its global kids’ and family division, as well as its global scripted division.
Sayer most recently served as VP of production and development, factual, at Discovery Networks International. In that role, he was the commissioning editor for series that include Idris Elba: Fighter. Before that, Sayer was a commissioner and executive producer at National Geographic International.
“I am thrilled to join Thunderbird, and am committed to a new dynamic way of working in production with all of the incredible talent out there,” said Sayer. “The international production scene, including the U.K., is undergoing massive creative renewal, and every region has its own nuances, which is something to be embraced. Rather than building traditional startups in every territory, we’ve decided to launch a division that collaborates with talent, both in terms of companies and individuals, in a new and refreshing way—as a facilitator and partner.”
“International production is going to be a big part of Thunderbird’s future, and by establishing this key division, we are demonstrating our commitment to partnering with the very best producers in key genres,” said Miller. “We look forward to creating a mixture of IP and funding opportunities, and working with the incredible production talent that already exists in different markets around the globe.”
Berkowitz added, “Having a base in the U.K. will create additional opportunities in every step of the production process, from IP to editorial expertise, making it a win-win scenario for everyone involved. Ed Sayer is a world-class producer with an incredible list of accomplishments throughout his career, and our Thunderbird team looks forward to working with him as we expand our capacity to develop global content, both factual and scripted, that aims to connect with audiences around the world.”
Additionally, Thunderbird has entered into its first U.K . factual partnership with Endemol Shine Group’s Workerbee. Under the terms of the deal, Workerbee will be a co-producer on the ground in the U.K., pitching and producing Thunderbird projects for U.K. platforms.
Rick Murray, managing director of Workerbee, said, “We are delighted to be working with Thunderbird in this way. Our track record of making popular, often long-running, factual programming and experience in producing shows in the documentary, car and lifestyle space, makes us natural partners for Thunderbird. We can’t wait to work together on some fantastic formats.”