Juliet Denison Gay on Hungry Bear Media Ethos

Juliet Denison Gay, creative director of Hungry Bear Media, tells TV Formats about the company’s ethos and its new venture Hungry Jay Media.

Presenter Jay Blades, known for such shows as The Repair Shop, teamed up with Hungry Bear Media to launch Hungry Jay Media. The aim of the new venture is to develop and produce formats with its founder both on-screen and behind the camera and focus on bringing in fresh production talent.

“Many years ago, Dan [Baldwin, co-owner and managing director of Hungry Bear Media] and I met Jay Blades, and we immediately developed a strong connection,” says Denison Gay.

“Hungry Bear Media is an established company with a long track record of working with on-screen talent such as Michael McIntyre, Ant and Dec, Romesh Ranganathan, Claudia Winkleman, Alan Carr and Brendan O’Carroll, so when Jay wanted to establish his own production company, he approached us as a potential partner.”

Blades was keen to establish a production company that not only developed exciting TV formats but also had a mission to improve diversity and representation in TV and to give more people from underrepresented backgrounds an opportunity to succeed in the industry—values that are shared by Hungry Bear Media, Denison Gay says. “It presented Hungry Bear Media with a really exciting possibility, and so Hungry Jay Media was created!”

She adds that Hungry Jay Media is passionate about “brilliant fact-ent formats with real purpose,” pointing to Jay Blades: No Place Like Home as an example. The three-part docuseries for Channel 5 aired in May 2022 and saw Blades return to the streets where he grew up to get a deeper understanding of how the history of the area has influenced who he is today. “Rooted in social history with fascinating, relatable stories, the series bears all the hallmarks of the content that Hungry Jay is passionate about, and we’re delighted that it’s now been recommissioned as a six-part series by Channel 5, following a different celebrity in every episode,” Denison Gay notes.

As for what makes a Hungry Jay Media format easily adaptable for international iterations, she puts it down to the fact that “great storytelling is universal and will always travel well. What Hungry Jay is focused on is developing formats that let us tell stories with real heart and purpose—stories that tell us something about the communities that they come from. A good format lets us package and present these stories to audiences all over the word, but the story is always the key.”

In May, Hungry Jay Media scored a one-year first-look development deal with BBC Studios. The agreement gives BBC Studios priority access to Hungry Jay’s slate, with a focus on factual-entertainment formats for the U.K. market that can travel around the world.

“We always thought that BBC Studios would be a great fit for Hungry Jay Media,” says Denison Gay. “Dan and I have worked with them for many years because BBC Studios distributes some of Hungry Bear Media’s formats, and we have always had a good relationship with them. For us, it’s about the people, and the team at BBC Studios shares our values as well as our ambition to create purposeful content and reach underserved audiences. BBC Studios support us with their expertise in local markets and by helping us bring the right people on board, which is invaluable as we steer our development.”

Developing new talent is at the heart of Hungry Jay Media’s values as a business, according to Denison Gay: “How and who creates our content is as important to us as what we create. We’re passionate about diversity and take a hands-on approach to developing talent.”

For example, through its Hungry Runners initiative, the company employs people from underrepresented backgrounds to give individuals experience in a production environment to help them start a career in the sector. “Likewise, we are the first production company to partner with the unscripted development scheme Share My Telly Job,which aims to upskill producers to series producers. Finding ways to support the talent out there is key to our business,” Denison Gay says.

She adds that the team feels passionate about “taking real action; this is not a painting-by-numbers exercise. Hungry Jay Media is dedicated to being a diverse and inclusive organization that inspires talent from all backgrounds into the sector, and it is clear with Jay as managing director, there is a level of trust that our commitment to creating opportunities and supporting emerging talent is authentic. Jay wants people to know that his background hasn’t held him back from making it in TV, and he wants to be a role model to others.”

The first commission, Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51, being a hit on BBC One helped to set the tone for the kind of work Hungry Jay Media wants to develop, says Denison Gay. “We’re excited about our latest commission, Jay Blades: No Place Like Home for Channel 5, which is currently in development, and of course, just like any production company, we are busy developing ideas we hope will be a hit both in the U.K. and globally.”