EXCLUSIVE: Acquiring French media giant Newen Studios has expanded its UK footprint with the purchase of a majority stake in Rise Films, the Oscar-winning producer of Netflix’s Icarus and Everything that breathesDeadline can reveal.
The deal closed very recently, but Rise had been on Newen’s radar for a while, according to the TF1-backed studio’s Director of International Philippe Levasseur, and the acquisition of an undisclosed majority stake brings to the number of UK labels Newen has an interest i, up to 10 .
Deadline understands that several buyers were interested in acquiring Rise, which has grown over 16 years to become one of the UK’s most respected premium documentary producers.
The company was behind Netflix Icarus about doping scandals in sports, which won an Oscar in 2018 together with Oscar nominees The Invisible War HBO Max George Carlin’s American Dream from Judd Apatow and environmental image Everything that breathes which became the first film to win the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Cannes L’Œil d’or and has since been acquired in a global deal by HBO and HBO Max.
Rise is also pushing into drama, developing a scripted series about the Rupert Murdoch UK tabloid scandal with the BBC, and runs the comedy subsidiary Rise Comedy, led by Plebs director Sam Leifer. This brand will continue to operate independently.
Levasseur praised the outfit for being part of a “small community” of premium European high-end doc producers and praised Leifer’s entrepreneurial approach to filmmaking, highlighting Everything that breathes.
“They took a risk on a subject, the environment, which has been covered hundreds of times, which the broadcasters say is not attractive,” he added. “Rise didn’t have a client when they started shooting, but was confident in the story and the team. This model is risky but very inspiring.”
Leifer described joining the Newen Group as an “easy decision.”
“We are excited to work with their talented team as we build together,” he added. “I am so grateful to my wonderful colleagues at Rise for their hard work and creativity. It is a privilege to work with them”.
Rise said all of its permanent employees directly benefited from the transaction.
Newen is keen for its wealth of European production companies to link up, and Rise is already working on a development project with Newen’s Danish label Real Lava, the company run by Oscar nominees The cave producer Sigrid Dyekjaer, who launched late last year.
With non-English language content, Levasseur stressed that “English is still the most important global content language in other markets,” comes a week after Deadline revealed that distribution arm Newen Connect had signed its first-ever UK and North American sales representative.
The acquisition will also help connect Newen with the UK’s diverse talent base, Levasseur added.
“We value diversity very much and streamers are putting pressure on us to make different shows. While we struggle in mainland Europe to attract diverse talent, the UK is helping in this regard,” he explained.
Decreased exec Gub Neal’s Newen-backed Ringside Studios targets “the best LGBTQ+ and diverse talent,” Levasseur said, and Ringside has a minority stake in Joi Productions, the black and queer-led UK indie run by Blue history director Joy Gharoro-Akpojoto. Gharoro-Akpojoto is currently producing BBC drama Champion, while Neal’s Ringside is behind the French high-end Apple TV+ thriller Connection starring Eva Green and Vincent Cassel.
Next up for Newen is a period of “soft integration” for Rise, but Levasseur said the firm is “always interested in new [acquisition] possibilities” and think of the natural history space.
“Natural history is a very interesting market that is sustainable and family-friendly, but has many barriers to entry,” he added. “We are interested in companies in that genre and will be pragmatic, but there is still a lot to do with all these talented producers who have joined us recently.”
Rise was advised on the deal by Wiggin and Hasham Khan of ABP Advisory.