Jules Burns on leaving Granada and setting up All3Media

Coincidentally Steve, David and I all left Granada in 2002. At slightly different times, but by the end of 2002 we’d all left.


Steve was insistent that we should start an independent production company, which neither David nor I thought was a particularly good idea. We were in our mid-50s and we thought now is not the time to start a new business. But in 2002 if you remember, the broadcasting act brought about the change in the ownership of copyright. Steve recognised that this was a real opportunity, because if the independent producer could at last keep the copyright to the programme, they had something that could be backed. They had an asset, basically. Recognising that we were too old to actually really do a start-up, we went off in search of some production company. We wanted to try and buy a bunch of production companies to be our starting point. We did a deal with Chrysalis to buy their seven production companies from them. We got a private equity backing from a company called Bridgepoint, who are fantastic. That’s how we started All3Media. So we finally left Granada at the end of 2002, and we started All3Media in September 2003.

So you’re still in television, a television business?

Yes. We started with seven production companies, and then the private equity people taught us how to buy and sell companies. Because of course that’s what they do all the time. We grew All3Media by buying up production companies.

So the landscape in which All3Media worked and works is obviously totally different from then. How would you describe that change? It’s obviously much more competitive now than in Granada’s heyday. Much more commercial, and it’s more international.

Yes, much more. Do you mean the difference between the beginning of All3Media, because over the period of All3Media the market change has changed dramatically anyway.

Yes. In what way?

Well, over the period?

All3Media’s time.

Well, when All3Media started, the independent was a protected species. The broadcasting act had just disallowed the broadcasters from keeping the copyright. They could only take a licence in the programming. All3Media was the first independent group to start rolling up companies. We were about nine months ahead of everybody else. We managed to get out of our starting list of six, we managed to buy four of our targets. Many of whom David had known as the head of entertainment to the BBC. But we were a protected species, so the broadcasters were behaving by and large. What then happened was the broadcasters started to reduce their prices, saying if we don’t own the copyright we’re not going to pay the full cost of the programme. Which forced the independent sector to become more international. Which is fine. It was difficult, but it was fine. Gradually over my time in All3Media, and I left in 2014 so I can’t tell you about the last three, four years, but over my time the respect for the terms of trade began to wane. Broadcasters were able to start taking shares of profit streams and things like that. So business became less profitable. Then I suppose the biggest change, which we’re in the middle on now, is that most of the big commissions are now made by people who will not let you keep any rights at all. They’re not subject to terms of trade. Netflix, Amazon, those people. Sky in themselves, they’re not subject to terms of trade. So the independent sector is now struggling to retain rights again. So again we were lucky, we were in the heyday of the independent sector.


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