Viacom is backing the launch of new UK indie prodco, Banjo Productions, which is founded by former BBC Studios exec Mike Smith and BBC presenter David Olusoga.
The deal represents the first instance of Viacom backing a UK-based indie.
Banjo will specialize in history programming, with Olusoga serving as presenter and producer, and Smith set to executive produce. The prodco will also focus on religion, travel and adventure programs.
Viacom’s support comes to Banjo via Elephant House Studios, the in-house production division of UK commercial net Channel 5.
The UK net wields the option to take a minority stake in Banjo, but the prodco will remain independent.
“We are delighted to be the first UK indie to be backed by Viacom,” said Smith, in a statement. “They have gone the extra mile to back our shared vision and the culture we want to create. The team at Elephant House have the business and production expertise to give us the infrastructure to hit the ground running.”
Olusoga’s production credits include The Slavery Business, BAFTA Award-winning Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners, The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire and Black and British: A Forgotten History.
Smith previously worked on docuseries The Ottomans: Europe’s Muslim Emperors with Olusoga. Other credits include The Silk Road with Sam Willis, Blood and Gold: The Story of Spain and Vienna: Empire, Dynasty.
“I’m energized by the prospect of building on our joint track-record for on-screen innovation,” said Olusoga. “We want to make programs that infuse specialist factual TV with greater emotion and authenticity and create formats that are immersive and inclusive but also rooted in the here and now.”
“We’re delighted to partner with two such highly respected talents; we’ll work closely with David and Mike, offering them the creative platform, capital support and resources to successfully nurture and grow their business,” said Joe McLusky, VP Elephant House Studios.