Despite 12 months of unprecedented disruption, factual producer and distributor Parade Media Group has achieved its best year to date, according to founder and former Endemol Shine executive Matthew Ashcroft.
The London-based firm, which launched in 2015, added £1m to its gross revenues and managed to get two series greenlit “because we were able to meet broadcaster’s demands to deliver a premium producer under Covid restrictions, in their specified timeframe,” says Ashcroft.
These included history series The Buildings That Fought Hitler, produced by Hello Mary for UKTV’s Yesterday and Australia’s SBS, and The Royals Revealed, made by Back2back Productions for Channel 5 and Australia’s Network 10.
It continues an upward trajectory for Parade, which has grown its catalogue to more than 2,800 hours of programming and also has offices in Sydney, Singapore and Miami.
“I believe you can only truly scale up if you’ve got experts deep within the region,” says Australia-born Ashcroft. “We approach the business differently, blending local expects around the world with the expertise that has been built in the company.”
This global expertise includes Mark Caulton, former programming head at Kiwi commercial broadcaster MediaWorks, who joined as Parade’s chief content officer in 2019, and long-serving BBC Studios executive Heike Renner, who is vice-president of distribution. Last year, the company appointed former Keo Films chief and Pact chair Debbie Manners to its board, which is helping grow its domestic presence.
“Debbie is introducing us to all the players in the UK, where we have been making our biggest swings in the last 12 months,” Ashcroft adds, noting that around 85% of Parade’s content is sourced from Australia.
An equity partnership deal in Asia forged with US lifestyle network Outdoor Channel in 2019 sees more than 200 hours of Parade content licensed every year, extending its international footprint.
“It gives us a direct-to-consumer broadcast outlet in Asia,” says Ashcroft. “We’ve essentially created an outlet to which our producers can sell their content, by effectively buying into a broadcaster. It means we now have broadcast expertise, to the extent that we’re launching FAST (free ad-supported TV) channels in Australia through 7plus and New Zealand via TVNZ On Demand.
“It all speaks to how we’re constantly looking at ways to create opportunities for our producers to monetise their content.”
Another key investment, spurred by the pandemic, has been in a virtual meeting platform that was initially developed for US studio Paramount.
“It’s as close as we can get to a real-life meeting and I can engage with buyers as if we’re sitting across from each other in Cannes,” Ashcroft says. “It has been essential when taking people though our catalogue and sharing clips with them.”
In terms of Ashcroft’s further ambitions for Parade going forward, he says the priorities are “investing in premium factual content while staying true to our lifestyle roots”, a genre where he Parade is able to “make a real difference to producers.”
“The last five years has seen us gain a reputation as a go-to company for lifestyle content because we have these dedicated distribution channels that a lot of other companies overlook,” he concludes.