Sony Pictures Television investment in Whisper marks end of company’s relationship with Channel 4
The UK-based production company The Whisper Group will look to go global and develop more of its own sports IP after securing investment from Sony Pictures Television, its chief executive has said.
Sunil Patel, Whisper co-founder and CEO, confirmed to SVG Europe that Sony has taken an undisclosed percentage share in Whisper with immediate effect.
The deal means Channel 4’s Indie Growth Fund (IGF) involvement with Whisper, which comprises of award-winning live sports and non-scripted production company Whisper, Chapter 3 Graphics and East Media, has come to an end.
In 2015, the IGF took a minority stake in the burgeoning company, which proved to be the springboard that the company needed at that time.
On what the move means for Whisper going forward, Patel told SVG Europe: “We are absolutely delighted. We’ve found one of the best partners out there.
“This deal gives us a bigger global footprint. It opens up the world of Sony and the opportunity to stand out from the competition. With Sony’s entertainment and music division, and all the elements it brings, we can really stand out in the market. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of opportunities and we are over the moon about what it means for us,” he said.
This investment is in keeping with Sony Pictures Television’s wider strategy of diversifying the group’s production portfolio, which has included the launching of pop culture-focused creative label Human Media in 2018, and further broadening into children’s programming with the acquisition of Silvergate Media in December 2019.
“This is big news for Whisper,” said Patel. “Sport is at our heart and we’ll remain committed to immersive sports broadcasting, however, we have other ambitions which this move can help us to realise. We are keen to grow internationally and to develop formats that can help build an exciting IP catalogue.”
Expanding on the company’s ambitions outside of the sports arena, Patel went on: “We want to leverage the opportunities Sony is offering us to go global. We want to go more into IP formats, which will long term increase the value of our business, while organically growing our sports market. IP is an area we wat to turbocharge as it means we are creating content formats to distribute around the world.”
Co-founded by BAFTA-winning Patel, broadcaster Jake Humphrey and former F1 driver and current F1 commentator David Coulthard, The Whisper Group produces a raft of high level, ambitious sports entertainment shows, including coverage of NFL, the Paralympics, Formula One, SailGP, Women’s Super League, International Cricket and W Series, amongst others. It recently retained a Formula One production contract with Channel 4 and has a number of additional upcoming productions for 2020, which are yet to be announced.
Wayne Garvie, president, international production, Sony Pictures Television, said: “Whisper has become one of the most talked-about production companies in the UK. Very quickly, they have established themselves as an innovative leader in sports content. We are thrilled to be joining Sunil, David, Jake and the team in helping to take Whisper to the next level.”
Added Patel: “We’re grateful for the support of Wayne Garvie and his team at SPT. We look forward to working together to expand Whisper’s reach and exploring opportunities to develop new ideas around their existing assets.”
Co-founder at Whisper, Coulthard added: “The company’s progression from 2010, when we were established, to now has been remarkable and this significant agreement marks a new stage for Whisper and its continuing growth. The weight of experience and expertise at Sony Pictures Television can directly help us progress into new areas while continuing with our award-winning sports coverage, which is what attracted SPT to us in the first place.”
Channel 4 launched the Indie Growth Fund in 2014 to support the UK creative sector by taking minority stakes in SMEs to help them to grow their business to the next stage. As a not-for-profit public service broadcaster, all profits from the Fund’s ventures are invested back into helping to fund the delivery of Channel 4’s public service broadcasting purposes.
Sunil continued: “We would never be where we are today without the trust and belief that was placed in us by Channel 4. They have been a fantastic partner and we thank them for everything they have done with and for us over the last four and a half years.”
Alex Mahon, chief executive at Channel 4, said: “Since joining our Indie Growth Fund family in 2015, Whisper have taken their business from strength to strength, successfully transitioning into TV production and building an incredibly talented team. We’ve really enjoyed working with Sunil, David and Jake and wish them every success for the future as they continue to the next stage of their development with Sony.”
Imagine Capital acted on behalf of The Whisper Group during the transaction.