Channel 4 Backs Sacha Baron Cohen’s New TV Indie


LONDON: Channel 4 has purchased an equity stake in Spelthorne Community Television, a new U.K.-based indie set up by Ali G partners Sacha Baron Cohen and former Objective Productions' chief executive Andrew Newman.

Spelthorne Community Television, named after Ali G’s Staines hometown, will specialize in scripted TV comedy and comedy entertainment content, with a strong focus on innovation and new ideas. Through this company, the pair will support new and emerging comedy writers and performers.

Baron Cohen’s credits include Da Ali G Show, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and Brüno. Newman wrote with Baron Cohen on the Borat and Brüno movies.

Baron Cohen said: “After more than a decade away from Channel 4, it’s very exciting to come back home and back to the British TV industry that launched my career and those of many of my contemporaries; Ricky Gervais, John Oliver and those blokes who did The Inbetweeners. All have gone on to have great success internationally. A little too much success if I’m honest.

“But this isn’t about people who are at the top of the pile and are coasting—this is a chance to help establish careers for ambitious people who have yet to make a mark in British television—I include amongst these, Andrew Newman, who, let’s face it, hasn't done a lot since he worked with me on The 11 O’Clock Show nearly 20 years ago.

“Ultimately our aim with Spelthorne Community Television is to discover new talent, develop new shows, then test them on U.K. audiences before we remake them, starring me, for the much more important U.S. market.”

David Abraham, the chief executive at Channel 4, commented: “I’m thrilled to see Sacha and Andrew return to their Channel 4 roots where their special creative talent for making distinctive comedy was first nurtured. Spelthorne Community Television share the Growth Fund’s ambition to support innovative talent and we’re looking forward to working with them as they develop a business which invests in the next generation of unforgettable comedy shows and characters.”

Newman said: “Just as Channel 4 backed Sacha’s edgy comic vision with Ali G, I hope that through the backing of the Growth Fund our new company will be able to do the same for other people with fresh ideas. Over the past six years I’ve had great fun producing ground breaking and innovative shows but setting up this business with Sacha is a brand new creative opportunity. We want to make top quality television across the board and with so many emerging platforms, now seems like a brilliant time to do it.”