Sunday 1 August 2021 10:00 pm

UK to gain new £700m film and TV studio amid streaming goldrush

The UK is set to gain yet another major film and TV studio complex after private equity giant Blackstone unveiled plans to build a major new hub near London.

Funds managed by Blackstone Real Estate Partners and LA-based Hudson Pacific Properties have acquired a 91-acre site in Hertfordshire, 17 miles north of central London, for £120m.

The project, which will receive an expected total investment of £700m, will be the companies’ first expansion of their Sunset Studios platform outside the US.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “This investment is excellent news for the UK’s film and TV industry, pumping hundreds of millions of pounds into the local economy and creating thousands of jobs for the people of Hertfordshire.

“This will be a hub for both UK and international productions, showcasing home-grown talent on the global stage.”

The planned development, which is subject to planning permission, will transform the site into one of the world’s largest film and TV studio campuses.

The project is expected to create more than 4,500 jobs and contribute more than £300m per year to the local economy.

It is the latest in a flurry of studio projects in and around London as developers race to transform the capital into the new Hollywood amid booming demand from broadcasters and streaming platforms.

Netflix alone doubled its UK content budget to $1bn last year, while a string of other platforms such as Amazon Prime, Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus are pumping billions into new productions.

Plans to transform the former London headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses into a huge new studio complex were unveiled just last week, while other major projects are underway in Dagenham, Kent, Reading and Elstree.

The new Sunset Studios will be an expansion of the existing joint venture between Blackstone and Hudson Pacific, which owns and operates offices and studios.

The two companies co-own a media portfolio that totals 3.5m square feet including 35 active sound stages and on-site creative offices, as well as development rights.

Sunset Studios in Hollywood has hosted some of the biggest hits for film and TV, including When Harry Met Sally, La La Land and Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

James Seppala, head of Blackstone Real Estate Europe, said: “We are excited to expand our partnership with Hudson Pacific into the UK, and intend to deliver a world-class studio facility that will help ensure that the UK continues to be a premier destination for content production globally.

“This is a continuation of our thematic investment focus and long-term conviction in media, entertainment and content creation.”