Norwich-based TV company steps in to buy EPIC studios from Norfolk County Council
A Norwich-based TV production company has pledged to breathe new life into Norwich's EPIC studios after striking a deal to buy it from Norfolk County Council.
More than �4m of public cash been ploughed into the project since it was set up in 2007 after County Hall and the East of England Development Agency stepped in to set up a creative industries 'hub' when ITV closed its Anglia TV studio in Magdalen Street.
But despite incubating 20 business and creating more than 70 jobs as well as helping a further 35 people secure work, EPIC struggled to stand on its own two feet, and with the council cutting back on its spending a deal has been struck to sell it to Norwich-based Extreme Video, which is owned by businessman Jonathan Thursby.
Neither side were willing to disclose the sale figure citing commercial confidentiality, but the EDP understands that the deal was worth around �150,000, while the contract also contains clauses barring an immediate sell-off of assets by protecting existing tenants and equipment for at least five years.
Mr Thursby, whose clients include BBC's Top Gear programme, the World Rally Championships, the BTCC British Touring Car Championships, and Sport Relief, said plans included not only pitching for more UK TV production work, but also looking at streaming programmes including music and comedy online across the world.
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He also said that while not involved in any bid, the studios could be a natural home for the government's proposed local TV station for Norwich, and he was keen to maximise local training opportunities and form ties with academic colleges.
'Norfolk County Council has developed a fantastic facility and I am planning to build on the existing strengths of the centre and the tenants within and really take the facility to the next level,' he said. 'There is massive potential for delivering productions from EPIC and I've already got production work that my company is involved with that can be produced from here, as well as targeting other production contacts I have across the country and marketing the facility to them.
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'This is a great opportunity to further build on the strong reputation Norwich has for its broadcast and digital media expertise.'
Council leader Derrick Murphy said sale was the right thing to do as it preserved EPIC as a creative centre while also bringing in greater commercial expertise.
'We've kept it going in difficult economic times and we want to keep the creative industries going,' Mr Murphy said. 'I don't think councils ought to run television studios, but given what happened when Anglia pulled out, we have done a very good job of keeping it going.'
Ann Steward, Norfolk County Council's Cabinet member for Economic Development, said: 'Extreme Video knows the broadcast industry inside out. They have some very high profile clients and I know they are confident that they will be able to draw business to the studios.