Banijay UK Lets Staff Go From Producer Of Celeb Chef Mary Berry’s Shows As Sidney Street Founder Karen Ross Moves To Showrunner Role

EXCLUSIVE: The staff at British unscripted producer Sidney Street have exited, as company founder Karen Ross moves to a freelance showrunner role within Banijay UK.

Ross, who has led Sidney Street since founding it in 2017, will step down from her Managing Director role following a restructure that sees four permanent roles closing. Among those who have exited are Head of Production Martin Buckett.

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Going forwards, Ross will partner with other labels in the Banijay stable as a freelance showrunner to produce programming under Sidney Street, which will remain a creative label within Banijay UK. She will also work with external companies on other projects.

Sidney Street is known for BBC One returner The Farmers’ Country Showdown and programs fronted by former Bake Off host Mary Berry such as Love to Cook, Mary Berry Cook & Share and Mary Berry’s Simple Comforts. Company chief Ross is known for helming BBC cooking juggernaut MasterChef UK for 12 years while at Shine TV.

A rep for Banijay UK confirmed the news.

Sidney Street is not the first Banijay UK label in the news this week. Yesterday, UK TV trade Broadcast reported that RDF, the indie behind Only Connect, The Crystal Maze and Wife Swap, is shutting down after 30 years. This has put its 18-strong staff at risk of redundancy. Returning shows such as quirky BBC Two quiz Only Connect and ITV’s daily game show Tipping Point will move to new indies in the Banijay UK stable, with production staff remaining the same. A rep confirmed the story.

“The Sidney Street team has so much to be proud of,” said Ross. “It’s been an incredible opportunity to make wonderful shows with likeminded commissioners, exceptionally talented freelancers and a tiny, brilliant core team. I’m looking forward to concentrating on life as a creative and show runner, continuing to make programmes I love with people I admire across different production companies.”

RDF was launched by late indie production great David Frank, who, in 2010 sold the company to Zodiak, which was in turn merged with Banijay in 2015 to create an early version of the group that exists today. Banijay acquired another super-indie giant, Endemol Shine Group, in 2020.

Banijay UK’s unscripted labels include Dragonfly, DSP, Initial, Remarkable and Shine TV. It has been making changes to its group for more than 18 months, in light of economic pressures, the ongoing TV advertising market crisis and UK networks’ moves towards digital-first commissioning, while simultaneously acquiring several scripted indies and striking deals with talent.

Speaking at an RTS event earlier this week, Holland said mid-range factual shows costing £150,000 ($190,000) to £250,000 ($317,000) per hour have virtually “disappeared from the market,” but Banijay labels making premium unscripted are “smashing it out the park.”

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