ITV picks up Gurney stake in bid to boost studio arm

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Broadcaster ITV is snapping up a majority stake in an American reality television producer for nearly £25m to boost its studio arm.

ITV is buying a 61.5 per cent shareholding in Gurney Productions, which makes shows including hit US cable series Duck Dynasty featuring a family business making hunters’ duck calls.

The deal also gives ITV the option to buy the remaining 38.5 per cent stake in Gurney – founded in 1995 by Scott and Deirdre Gurney – in the future.

ITV said the move marks another step towards building its international content business.

Chief executive Adam Crozier said: “Growing ITV Studios is a key part of our strategy to rebalance the group.

“Our studios business is already showing strong organic growth and the acquisition of Gurney is an important step forward as we continue to expand our international production capability.

“We see the US as a key creative market and having a sizeable presence there is central to the expansion of our global content business.”

Gurney also produces Auction Hunters, American Digger and Haunted Collector.

ITV Studios America, which is headed by Paul Buccieri, has been growing revenues at around 200 per cent for the last two years, according to the group. Production output includes Gordon Ramsay vehicle Hell’s Kitchen and The Bill Cunningham Show.

Mr Crozier has made overseas growth a key part of his revival plan for the group since joining as chief executive in 2010, with its production arm in particular seen as central to its recovery and reduced reliance on volatile advertising markets.

ITV shares have surged over the past year on early signs of success, with its last trading update revealing that ITV Studios should make profits of more than £100m this year thanks to ratings winners such as I’m a Celebrity.

Mr Crozier has been pushing the production business hard as a weak UK economy dampens demand for TV advertising.

“The great thing about having such strong organic growth is we don’t feel that we have to chase revenues,” he said at a media conference in Spain last month.

He added that ITV Studios’ revenue capacity “is only 30 or 40 percent of what it could be”.